Over the past few weeks, Patrick Gitonga popularly known as MC Njagi has trended on social media platforms, graced TV screens and radio airwaves with audiences amused by his Yaliyo Ndwele Sipite hit.
The song, which he produced after Machakos gubernatorial candidate Wavinya Ndeti’s proverbial gaffe, has catapulted him into overnight fame and created numerous opportunities for him. Diminutive in stature, he exudes a great sense of humour in person just like in his videos.
But the recognition that has come with his instant taste of the limelight is a far cry from the excruciating journey he has led in the streets for over 10 years, with no place to call home and haunted by a tough childhood after his parents walked out on him. Patrick was born in 1988 in Machakos, where he lived with his parents and elder brother.
The family then moved to Kathonzweni, the rural home of his father in 1994. Things would drastically change the same year for the once happy family after his parents split. His father left them.
Together with their mother, they moved to Meru where she hails from and started living in a rented house in the outskirts of the town. With no formal job, their mother struggled to fend for them. “She worked so hard tilling people’s shambas to feed us, but one day in 1995 the abject poverty became unbearable for her.
She fled never to return,” he says. The young brothers were condemned to a life on their own. His brother got adopted by a well-wisher while Patrick found a new home in the streets of the nearby Nanyuki town. Not one to easily give up, he quickly found a way to survive in the streets.
“A man who owned donkeys employed me to ferry luggage around the town. I would get around Sh50 per day,” he adds. His dreams of ever going to school like other children of his age were shattered.
Despite the circumstances, his thirst for knowledge wasn’t diminished. “I loved watching movies, especially those acted by Wazungus. I would spare five shillings to go and watch movies,” he says.
That’s how he was able to learn English. He also developed an interest in playing the keyboard, but every time he approached people in church crusades eager to learn, they would chase him because he was dirty.
He would keenly observe how the keyboard was played and at night, he would sneak into a nearby church and practice what he had seen. With constant practice, he sharpened his skills. But one day he was caught.
Defending himself, MC Njagi said he just sneaked in to play the keyboard and he meant no harm. The pastor told him to prove his case. When he played the instrument, the pastor was so impressed. He invited him to play the instrument on Sundays in 2006.
“It was exciting to see how much the congregation enjoyed singing when I played the keyboard,” he says. When the service was over, he would retreat to the streets. This is until 2008 when he was introduced to another pastor from Meru, who adopted him.
In 2010, Patrick relocated to Thika town and started living with a friend. He was determined to learn how to produce music. “I would sneak into one of the cybers everyday eager to learn music production.
The owner of the cyber noticed that I kept showing up at the cyber and asked me what I wanted. He liked me because I always made him laugh. He then installed a software that could help me learn on one of the computers,” he adds.
The more the people he interacted with raved about his good sense of humour, the more convinced he was that he should start a career in comedy.
He started Mceeing at events in 2014 and also auditioned for Churchill Show, but did not make it. Besides entertaining people at events, he also produced funny clips and parody songs, which he would circulate on social media. The funny clips earned him more gigs.
With the savings he had made from Mceeng at events he started a music production company, Audio 1 Production three years ago. When he saw the Wavinya Ndeti goof a month ago, he went to the studio and produced a song three days later not knowing that it would put him In the limelight.
Immediately he released it, he was contacted by MP Moses Kuria to do a campaign song for the Jubilee Party. He also got to meet Wavinya Ndeti and has done a song for her. It’s his hope that more opportunities will arise. When he is not producing music or entertaining people at events, MC Njagi is hosting a show on Weru TV, a Meru vernacular TV station.
The 28-year-old has a sharp wit and strong curiosity. It’s the same qualities that led him from being homeless to being a music producer, comedian, a TV host all without ever setting foot in a classroom.
Besides the keyboard, he can also play a guitar, drums, piano and currently, he is learning to play the saxophone. All the skills he has acquired are self-taught.