You will hear people call her ‘Miss Kitunguu’ after her first hit single Kitunguu. A young woman with a lot of fire and spunk in her Kalahi is not your average musician. From her days in State House High School with a group called Gifted Five (G5) to her grooming in Sauti Academy one can clearly see that this was not an accident but a path that was carefully charted to this point in time. I caught up with her and this is how it went down.
1.What is your first memory of performing infront of people?
It was my first performance at Sauti Academy.It was the scariest thing ever, nerve racking. I was even stiff but I pulled through and sang really well.
2.As an artist did you struggle with different names before arriving at Kalahi?
Not at all. I had decided ever since I was in high school to use my Luhya name, Kalahi which means good/nice. It’s unique and I am staying true to my roots.
3.Walk us through the process of Kitunguu from conceiving the idea to actually getting it played on radio.
I was having a practice session, trying to compose a song for my end term Sauti Academy concert with my good friend Afisa in the park one afternoon. I remember it being such a struggle. I was blank.No melody, no lyrics and Afisa had this progression he had come up with that he kept looping, playing over and over. There’s also this word “kitunguu” which I always used to use alot (long story) that he also kept singing with some melody and I just sat there. I remember I even stood up, took a short walk and came back, then boom, I just started filling it up.
He sang Kitunguu and I had a response for that, he sang it again and I had another response for that. That was how the hook was made. I have written and re-written the verses like 3 times. The final re-write was with the coolest producer, Fancy Fingers from my best band, Sauti Sol. Recording with him was interesting. He just kept saying “Nope, I dont feel it, change it.” He would leave me in the studio, tell me he is giving me 10 minutes to come up with something and I was just like how is that even possible? Anyway, 10 minutes pass, be sure he was there ready to listen to what I had composed, then he’d say “well, almost” and leave again. Thank you Fancy Fingers for being hard on me. Recording this song took a while, because the boys travel a lot, so I had to wait for the days they would be in the country. Patience pays I guess, I loved the outcome.
4. How did you get airplay on radio?
I basically shared it with radio presenters hoping to get airplay . It was actually launched on Kiss 100 by Kalekye Mumo,who also happens to be a good friend of mine. 1Fm also embraced it but Homeboyz takes the cup. Huge thanks to Patricia Kihoro.
5.How did it feel hearing your song on the radio for the very first time(where were you , what were you doing,go all out on this one)
I was on my bed,I had just uploaded the links on Mdundo and Youtube then boom, I hear my name on Kiss 100. I jumped up called my people telling them it’s playing. I couldn’t believe it. I was overwhelmed, overjoyed, over everything. I remember my really close pal being with me every step of the way. She was the one who calmed me down that morning because I was so nervous. Then when all was done, she sent me that ‘ I’m so proud of you’ message, you know those ones that just make you cry. I couldn’t believe I had done it. I was indeed proud of myself.
Oh and ofcourse Mum told the whole world.
6.You have a very interesting look. How did you decide on your overall image as Kalahi? (were you not afraid that your head would look weird if your hair was cut?)
I’ll take interesting as a compliment, thank you. I really do not like looking like anyone. I like to be unique and most of the times I strive towards achieving that. This applies to my dresscode on stage and when attending an event or just on a normal day. Simple, chic but unique is my style. However much we hate it, people will always judge you first from how you look.
About the hair I had mentally prepared myself for a long time but I was still scared. I had just gotten to that point where I needed to transform and shaving my hair was the first thought that came to mind. I actually went all out, I shaved it and dyed it, all on the same day. I remember feeling like everyone was staring at me and wondering why I had red, short, natural hair. And by everyone I mean random people in town. Lol.
(Disclaimer:Her hair is back to black now incase you are squinting and searching for the red 🙂
7. How important do you think it is for an artist to have the skill of songwriting as opposed to having someone else doing it for you?
It is very important because you are able to express yourself better than someone else would, and you get more rights to the song. It is hard to compose, that’s where other song writers come in.You need to work with a song writer who understands you 100% and who is able to convey the message you are trying to pass through the lyrics he or she writes.
8.Do you plan to learn an instrument sometime in the future?
I am learning the guitar, I have been for a while now. I have always loved its sound and anyone who plays it, okay maybe not everyone. I just need to work on my consistency. I am always inspired and mesmerized by women who play instruments.
9. At this present moment whose song is stuck on replay in your head?
Death of a Bachelor, Panic! At The Disco.
10.Your band Iklektik band (inclusive of your BGVs) is exactly that eclectic,how did you meet them?
I met them individually, through a friend and another friend and another. Back then they were not Iklektik, they were individual artists doing their on thing. They eventually formed a band which has so much chemistry. When I was ready to work with a band, I talked to Humphrey the band leader and the rest is present. Happening now.
I love my band, they are not too serious. I am a goofy, fun, cheeky person, so serious is not for me. Imagine playing with people who have no happy expression whatsoever. Sad, misery I tell you.
11.What can we expect from you for the year 2016?
I will surprise you.
12.How would you like Kalahi to be remembered long after you are gone?
That girl who followed her dream, pursued her destiny and never gave up and positively impacted someone through her music. I write a lot about love, my experiences, yes, yes cliche, but there’s always a message and my style is not the normal feel good R’n’B, its almost always witty and fun. Yes it’s a sad song, but you don’t necessarily have to cry because of it, and yes, I will explore more, write about sand, colours, the trees etc etc.
13.Famous last words?
Toroka ye ni Kitunguu, kimbia! Hepa! Usiteseke!
Download Kitunguu Here
Watch the Lyric video Here