Laura Karwirwa Mugambi, 22, is a fast-rising Kenyan gospel artiste. She was among the nominees in the just-concluded Groove Awards 2018, thanks to her song, Ujulikane, that was nominated as the Praise and Worship Song of the Year. She talks with Grace Wachira about her music
Who is Laura Karwira?
I’m a lover of Christ and all He upholds. I am a third year student pursuing a degree in Food, Nutrition and Dietetics at Kenyatta University. I’m quite passionate about human health and music is also a big part of my life.
Growing up, did you always want to venture into music?
I was really influenced by my parents’ love and rich taste for music. So, I grew up listening to a rich variety of music. I started singing in church at the age of seven, but being the shy girl I was, I didn’t really imagine I’d be doing what I’m doing now. It’s in high school, however, that music heavily came upon me that I needed to use my gift in music to serve and honour God, and that’s where I made the decision to pursue it.
Is your music a self-taught venture?
For a long time, I’ve been practising music from artistes I admire. Taking music as a subject in high school helped a lot in expounding my understanding for music. When I pursued it on a professional level, my interaction with so many musicians challenged me to do more and become better. I also undergo a lot of consistent professional voice coaching, just to ensure my ‘game’ is good.
How did you choose the genre you do?
Contemporary gospel is where I found myself fitting in when I first came into the scene. I was quite young and fresh out of high school. So, at the moment, I feel like my sound is really growing and I’d like to try out more than just Afro-fusion and zouk.
How has been the experience penetrating the market?
There’s a niche for Christian music, so I can’t say it was challenging getting to them. The challenge is in getting beyond them, which I just believe for every moment, people will come to know the truth through my music and appreciate Christ even more.
Which musicians do you admire?
I admire quite a bunch, but to mention just but a few: Cece Winans, Sinach, Tasha Cobbs, Emeli Sande and Travis Greene. Locally, Kambua and Pitson, whom are some of my longtime friends, have immensely supported me and I can say I have learnt so much from them.
Tell us about your latest song,
Ujulikane, with Alice Kimanzi?
Ujulikane has been received really well and I feel so excited that I made such a sound decision to do this project. Alice is such a wonderful soul and her husband, Gideon Kimanzi (who produced the song), is amazingly gifted. This project made me appreciate the power of teamwork. The Groove Award nomination is honestly a great honour and I appreciate it because I feel the song deserved it.
Where do you find balance between music and other obligations?
Balancing music with school and other life commitments is not the easiest thing, but it’s possible. I have learnt that it is all about setting priorities right. My school work is more engaging than you would imagine, so it does take a lot of my time. I have busy weeks and even busier weekends, but I like it. I try to take in what I can handle at a time.
You’ve also worked as a background vocalist for a number of artistes. What is it like?
Yes, I’ve worked as a BGV, but quite occasionally. I find it such a fun thing to do because I also get to learn a lot from being a part of my friends’ projects. It’s also lovely seeing friends through what they love to do. I enjoy it. The artistes I work with often are people I’ve already established relationship with, so it’s always fun and easy and it also helps build the bond.
What is your general view on Kenya’s music industry?
We still have room to do better, but there is a bunch of artistes trying to really keep it going. One such artiste that I really admire is Noel Nderitu. I appreciate all artistes out there who are seriously and professionally working hard on the craft.
What inspires your songs?
My songs come from different places and situations as inspiration. I work on a lot of music and a huge percentage of it is self-written. I do get help too, from time to time. I’ve come to appreciate the power and beauty of working with other artistes. It’s something I am open to.