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Meet Singer, songwriter and performer, Hulda Adhiambo Serro

Singer, songwriter and performer, Hulda Adhiambo Serro, 22, popularly known as Serro, recaps her music path with Cynthia Mukanzi

At what point were you introduced to music?

I’ve been doing music all my life, but in different facets. It started with music festivals in primary school to playing drums and solo in high school. Thereafter, I joined Kenya Girls Choir in 2013, where I performed for eight months before heading off to college. This set things in motion and I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else. It was a beautiful period of my life.

Having been in a singing group, did you find it challenging to transition into your next chapter?

Things sort of fell into place again when I joined university. I formed a band and it was just fascinating to jam together. That first semester, I performed at the cultural week — it was then I realised I wanted to take my music a notch higher and find the tools to.

I wanted to not only perform, but also write. I made a mental note to look into Sauti Academy, the music school. I started listening to Miriam Makeba, Asa, Suzanna Owiyo and other phenomenal musicians.

And what did you think of this move?

Enrolling at Sauti Academy was one of the best decisions of my life. The best gift besides the classes was having each other’s back. We were a family that motivated and helped one another grow.

Everyone was so talented and it was inevitable for you to want to work hard By the time you’re leaving, you sort of have a framework of what to work with.

Did this experience make it less intimidating to venture into music?

Totally. It gave me the knack to write my music, courage to hustle for gigs beyond college grounds, form a band and create my brand. It gave me the tools I needed to thrive — I worked on my voice, who I was as an artiste, songwriting, music business and performance.

Mordecai of H_art The Band was my songwriting teacher — he helped me sharpen my skills. Did you cross into the industry after graduating? I actually did so in my second term when I formed a band. We began performing to get our groove on.

However, reality hit after graduation. I had to figure it out on my own. I worked on my first ever single, Rongai, in 2016 and I was blown away by the response it received.

How was it like working on your first single?

I remember people saying it was beautiful, yet I didn’t feel it. I was opening at the Jamhuri Festival that year and Polycarp of Sauti Sol, absolutely loved it. He offered to produce the song, and even played the strings — I couldn’t believe it. He also introduced me to a fantastic video director. The song got overwhelming reception.

Talk to us about your hit Okello?

Okello is about a village girl who had big dreams that sent her in search of greener pastures in Nairobi, leaving her lover behind. It’s a letter to her partner telling him she’s coming back because things didn’t work out. I like to tell stories in my music just as I did with Rongai.

Is story-telling going to be an aspect that will always be synonymous with your brand?

Yes. I want people to feel the rawness in every detail and that will be seen in my future projects, where I will be experimenting with different sounds.

Your inner circle seems to be made up of great artistes. It must be incredible to be surrounded by creative people.

It’s an honour to learn from people you looked up to. While doing so I want to be true to myself and my art. When you are surrounded by all these big names, you sometimes feel pressured forgetting that they have probably been at it for 10 years and you just got in. I constantly remind myself to be authentic to my journey and enjoy the pace.

Speaking of pressure, you must probably be getting more attention now from the public, which has superficial expectations. Do you ever feel the heat?

I try not to focus on what they expect my life to look like. I’m letting authenticity fuel my journey. You can’t please everyone. And yes, there was a time I would worry about how I looked on stage and so on.

But right now, I’m at a place where I’m allowing myself to just be who I am. I don’t want to lose myself. I’m at that season of discovering myself and who I’m called to be.

When a musician says they are born again, people expect them to only do gospel and end up getting judged for being secular. Is this something that ever worries you?

Of course, there are always people who judge you regardless of where you stand. They will always question your ways.

But this is what I always say; everyone has their own journey and individual conviction. I hope God will help me battle those challenges when I face them. But so far, I don’t think I’m doing anything wrong.

Incredible and all the best. So, where are you taking your brand?

I hope to have an album out and when people are talking about lit African live music, I would want my name to be top of the list. I want to be someone who touches people’s lives with inspiration. I just want to speak to people and connect with them.

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