BIKO INTERVIEW: Finding success in relative anonymity
1 weeks ago, 06:39
Carol Atemi Oyungu says, “I’ve been told that I’m a diva. People will call you a diva because you want your things done in a specific way, in your own way. What most people will be happy with is for you to take any mediocrity without a protest. If you don’t then you are a diva.”
Atemi doesn’t call herself a performing artist, she calls herself an entertainment professional and runs her company called Diva Inc.
She’s melancholic, she sings like a bird in love, she’s vivacious and often unapologetic. For the fifth year running now, she and other artistes, have been creating a Christmas feeling through ‘Tis The Season (which she directs), an annual Christmas concert happening next week. She calls it a “Christmas concert with a Kenyan theme.”
She met JACKSON BIKO at Kesh Kesh Cafe for tea.
What are you struggling with this moment in your life?
[Pause] I'm struggling with expressing my worth - or the worth of Kenyan music - to the market. I’m struggling with telling people to listen to the songs you put out and explain to the market that we have come of age and they should come and watch what we do because it’s special. I’m struggling with people like you, Biko, who only like Kidum. [Chuckle] I understand that when people say things on the internet like ‘I wish there were good Kenyan musicians.’ I'm a good Kenyan musician. As artistes we love our fans we just want them to love us back, to love our music back. Come to our gig and you will change your mind.
So there are a lot of insecurities around artistry, I take it?
Oh my goodness! Yes! Lots of insecurities because you're not selling tea, you're selling you. So when people say they don't want the tea, we hear them saying ‘‘I don't want you.’’ So it's painful. One of the biggest problems with our market is that our infrastructure for music management isn't as well put together as the Nigerians and the Tanzanians.
So being an artists like you is much about business as it is about art?
That’s right. You've heard the thing that people say if you get a job you love you'll never work, it's a lie! You'll work every day. It's just that you'll be like ‘‘oh my God I love it, let me wake up and do it.’’ It requires not only creating but selling what you have created.
Does it get easier though? I mean you've been doing it for how many years?
Well, as a solo act for 10 years, not entirely, it doesn’t. That thing of more money, more problem is true. A success is a wonderful thing, but a failure is easy because with a failure you will say, okay this didn't work, let's try something else. But a success means you now have to top it. But what if that feels like the best plan you had? What will you do next because you sure can’t do the same thing ...
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