Joe Mutoriah on Finding Peace in Music

I have always had a positive outlook on Kenyan music.  My playlist most of the time is Kenyan. It is not about being patriotic or buy Kenya build Kenya, it is because I genuinely believe Kenyan music is awesome with the likes of Mutoriah.

One person I have come to love is Joe Mutoriah. He broke out from last year’s #IMadeKenyaChallenge where every producer was coming up beats that are Kenyan. His beat was a song Maasai Power Trap which is really a fusion of Maasai and addition of trap music. His view on culture, power and the Kenyan mainstream media are fascinating and just make you rethink your view on upcoming artists and producers alike and question whether they are the next big thing.

You grew up in a musical family, I’m saying this because your dad taught you how to play the piano, how did it shape your career? 

Yes, I did. My dad was the very first person to shape me in music. He encouraged me and created a suitable environment for learning. If I didn’t get that push then, I probably wouldn’t have gone through with it. He also always said he’d like to give me a skill that I can use to sustain and take care of self which subconsciously made me concentrate on doing better.

 Do you constantly have conversations on your career and the trajectory it’ll take with your dad

Yes, and he gives suggestions. He’s the one who suggested (so many years ago) that I should release my own music. Of which I’m doing as from next Month. I’m doing an album launch on 22nd June at Sands Club, Adlife Plaza.

What’s your favourite memory as a child?

I wanted to become a pilot when I grow up so dad pulled some strings and we went to the airport, got into an empty plane. The cockpit was just majestic. As you can see I’ll probably not become a pilot in this lifeline (laughs), but it was a nice.

I have noticed you use one hashtag so many times, #WeDon’tNeedMoneyToBeRich. Does money change the dynamic or make people different?

Yes, it does, if they have a wrong perspective. It’s an initiative I’ll push soon. Its main objective is to change the mentality (mostly of the less privileged) towards money. We can only give our all in whichever field of work if we’re not thinking about the pay, do it with a passion. There are so many things I’d like to talk about it but we can have a different interview for the same.

The hashtag came about 5yrs ago when I got my first job and earned Ksh 5,000 per month. To me, it was not enough and I really wanted to do better. Then I found out that a lady from church (who my mom had given a place to live) was earning 2k per month, had to look out for herself and two kids, which she did It made me realize perspective shapes your approach towards money.

 During an interview with the Sauce for Capital Fm, you said we as Kenyans do not embrace that much of our culture in our music. Do you think producers and artists miss the picture when they do this?

Sometimes they do. But I can’t blame them. Blinky said we’re all winging it, which is an accurate statement. You can only do experimental projects if you don’t care about what they’ll give back financially and that takes a lot of courage. So the popular ones have settled for commercial music which helps to pay bills so I can’t blame them.

 Still, on the issue of culture and music do you think Kenyan producers play it safe and like going with what they think Kenyans are familiar with instead of switching it up?

Well, the popular ones for sure. There are so many experimental and edgy producers. In less than 5yrs, there’ll be a shift in the industry. And more people will embrace the culture. So I’m happy.

You went to Sauti Academy; do you think upcoming artists and producers alike need to understand the basics of the business before coming into the business?

Yes, most definitely. Sauti Academy shaped me very much in terms of doing music as a career. The business world is very different from the creative’s world. Talent is only 10% of the career, 90% is how you do business.

 I like your lunchtime refix, what’s your take on the evolution of the Kenyan sound over time?

Thank you. It will happen over time. Lucas (Ogopa DJs) and Clemoh had something going on back in the day. The new generation of producers will have some iconic figures, stay on the outlook.

Being young and in the music industry, how is it working with some of the oldest and finest minds in the country?

It’s very mind-blowing. They have already figured out the process and have answered so many questions I ask myself a lot. So I can use their experience and knowledge without having to make the same mistakes they did. I’m truly humbled to be in that position.

I was listening to a conversation you had with Shelmith Maureen of Jazz Symphonic and your thoughts on Kenyan media more so mainstream caught my ear. You said that we need to change perception first and not starting the conversation with ‘they are not playing Kenyan music’. Do you think musicians and stakeholders in the industry unnecessarily bash Kenyan Media?

Wow, you have done your research! Big up! Yes, colonization sadly left most of us with very little self-love. But little by little, in this world of information people, are changing. And the unnecessary cold war will come to a stop. We’re almost there. We all need each other for it to work.

 What are you learning new personally now that you just turned 23?

There are two most important days in a lifetime. The day you were born, and the day you realize why. I couldn’t be happier, 23 answered the 2nd question.

You are big on reading and research, what else are you currently feeding your mind with?

Visuals by Spike Lee! He is one of the greatest. God bless Spike Lee.

 Does music give you peace of mind?

It does! I can’t imagine my life without it. I honestly think I’d go crazy. My mind is always on turbo mode and music tames it for sure.




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