The just-concluded African Muzik Magazine Awards (AFRIMMA) that went down in Dallas, Texas, saw our very own Papa Dennis bag the award for Best Gospel Artiste of the Year. The Nashukuru hitmaker has endured hardships and challenges and slowly risen garnering an international fanbase. Grace Wachira caught up with the Afro-RnB artiste to speak on his recent win and musical journey
It’s not everyday you come across local gospel acts who’s forte is Afro-RnB. What about the genre drew you in?
I’d like to believe that I am a talented gospel artiste and as such, I try to do all kinds and styles of music. It is something I am grateful to God. I didn’t start off as an Afro-RnB act. I debuted the scene with Lingala, which till now, I still infuse in my music.
My management encouraged me to come out of my comfort zone and try other styles. It has cost me, in terms of time and money. I had to undergo vocal training, still I am, and that was how I came upon my Afro-RnB style.
Congratulations on your recent win. The news that you and rapper Khaligraph jones had bagged two Afrimma awards had 254 buzzing. Could you take us through everything you felt through those moments.
Bagging the award brought an overwhelming feeling to me. I knew people appreciate my music, but didn’t know to what extent. I felt, still feel so humbled and grateful to God, my management, family, and fans in Kenya and Africa as a whole. For those who I was nominated alongside, I pray they keep up the good work, they were worthy contenders.
Take us through your musical journey.
Getting into music was like discovering my purpose on Earth; I was created and tailored for this. It’s a talent and gift from God. I was leading praise and worship in my local church, alongside performing and dancing. During that time, I was employed as a salesperson in an open market.
When announcing products, I would sing, it was fun. I got motivated to go further, joined up with friends and my twin brother. We formed a group and began to sing and dance in events.
I set aside the little I had towards recording a song. I went to a studio in Sirende, a few kilometres from Kitale. It was a 30km walk and I had Sh200 instead of Sh500, which was what I needed, and here we are.
What inspires you when you are penning your lyrics?
My inspiration comes from the Bible and real life experience such as the things happening around me. Sometimes I see something happening and a song just strikes. I also have people who help me write, I share my feelings and they’re able to grasp and connect.
You’ve become widely known for shooting videos in exotic locations. What is it about these places that appeal to you?
I simply do my work, my management decides on production, where and how. They assess the song, script, emotion behind it and make the decision and so far I’m happy with their decisions.
Let’s talk collabos with acts from the secular front. The local gospel industry has in recent times been under fire with many accusing it of losing the ministry, citing blurred lines. As a gospel artiste who openly works with secular musicians, what are your thoughts on this?
Music is a universal language. We express our emotions through music. It is a talent and a gift — it can connect you to people who are like you, so when a secular artiste decides to praise God, who am I to say no?
Your win three years ago at Mwafaka Awards (Mwafaka Best Male Artiste of the Year) catapulted you to fame. It garnered the interest of Sadat Muhindi of Maliza Umaskini, who has since supported your growing talent. Talk to us a bit more about this.
All I can say is, I have an understanding that I didn’t do this all by myself, God has used Maliza Umaskini management to mentor me. Signing under them was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
It became my turning point. I’m a child who is loved, accepted and corrected when I’m err. There are times I have been grounded and it has helped me to grow into a young responsible artiste. When you humble yourself, God will lift you up; that’s the secret.
This award means the world to me and my fans and also more importantly to upcoming artistes, who may be going through rejection from various fields in the line of their music career.
They should not give up. The doors that God opens are many. I wish to be an ambassador to those who are ignored, forgotten, despised and also to those doing okay in the industry. I have great things lined up.