Fresh from a wild rager in Jinja, Uganda, Collins Irungu popularly known as Ayrosh talks to Cynthia Mukanzi about his new release Shuga Mami, and other elements shaping his career
Shuga Mami has been doing well on the airwaves. What’s the story behind the song?
It’s a love song about people who make you happy and add sugar and spice to your life, especially ladies. Guys think of sugar mummies as sponsors, but the single is not about that. It’s about sweethearts. I hope people will love the song and dedicate it to their loved ones.
How long did it take to craft the song?
I wrote Shuga Mami as I do with all of my music. It took about three to four months to create. It is a collaboration with Waithaka Entertainment, a US-based producer who I met through a mutual friend.
When did you get into music?
Four-five years ago. It was at this time I seriously started learning to play the guitar and write music. I was in college.
How many songs do you have so far?
I have recorded many songs, but I have only released three and a few other collaborations. My first song was Wendo, which I released last year, then Nihaku early this year and now, Shuga Mami.
I’m working on more content that I will be dropping in due time. Shuga Mami is part of an EP, which is an experimental set with four songs slated for release by December. After that, I’ll work on singles and an album.
Describe your sound?
My music is a fusion that isn’t necessarily bound to a single genre. It can be folk, Afro pop or whatever else I want it to be. For instance, Shuga Mami has an Afro pop vibe. I do not tie myself down to a particular genre.
You are exploring a unique sound style that the current local young generation in music hasn’t greatly embraced. Do you get scared that people may not open up to it?
I do get that fear a lot of times and I think most creatives experience that when creating something new. Since I sing in vernacular, people have discouraged me against it saying I’m closing myself off and that no one will listen to my music.
I came to realise the secret is understanding why you are doing it. I don’t want to do something my heart is not into so I can please people. I want to be authentic even if it may not pay well. As long as I enjoy making the kind of music I do, that’s enough.
Having people doubt your work must be a pain. What was your reaction when people told you to reconsider your choice of music?
When it comes to criticism or feedback, I listen carefully to what is dished, take in what works for me and filter out the rest. I’ve trained myself not to get torn down by it. I use it to strategise without compromising my brand.
So, do you have a long-term game plan that is going to sustain your brand?
My vision is for my music to feed into the brand that I am creating. I came up with a gig called Folk Fusion, where I play fusions of mugithi and other sounds and invite other musicians to play their music too.
That way, we are feeding into each other’s energy and tapping into a common fan base spreading the beat. So even as I try to promote this new fusion, I am growing, researching as a performer, as an African brand passionate about all things Africa and event organiser. The long-term goal is to make folk fusion a movement that will nourish my career.
Are you signed to any label?
I am independent and conveniently so. I do things on my own terms. I used to be under a label, but my contract ended.
What do hard days in music look like?
I think I face the same challenges most musicians do — getting your music to the people. The production part is easy, especially when you have a supportive team — the audience is the task. The Internet has made it is easier.
That said, do you think local artistes get enough support?
It’s hard to say, but I think established musicians have it easier because they already have their networks, businesses and connections in place so the systems are working for them.
But one thing I’ve come to learn is that the Kenyan audience is incredibly surprising — if they like your song, they’ll listen to it regardless of whether or no you’re famous or not. I think there is support in general, but accessing the right networks to gain that support can be hard. But the people I’ve met have give me a lot of support.