Watch her perform and you will effortlessly be drawn into her soulful music frequency. Achieng’ Otieno who goes by Ach13ng is back, transformed and ready to honour her heart, as she tells Cynthia Mukanzi
The music school, Sauti Academy, takes credit for honing your quest for music. How did that training shape the artiste you are today?
It was eye-opening, mostly because it helped me find my own identity as an artiste. Sauti Academy took me to a level where I was comfortable with what I was creating as singer and songwriter. It enhanced my resolve to seek more within myself and give more than just the music ever since I got into the industry in 2013 after high school.
So what is your identity as an artist?
As Ach13ng, my identity comes alive through diving into the deepest emotions through music. I feel like many people shy away from that and don’t let the music move them. It is important and okay to be vulnerable when making and playing music. It’s a beautiful experience that bonds you with the audience.
As you dive deep into the motions, your music has a conscious undertone that speaks of uplifting the self. Is this the face of your sound and something you always want to give to your listeners?
That’s my number one aim; to encourage love of the self and positivity. I don’t want to just entertain. There are so many people already entertaining and that is cool. But for me, entertainment comes as a plus, much later. I’d like to reach out to people and music is my avenue of channeling that.
I want to show someone that you can go through life’s experiences without feeling like the rest of the world doesn’t know who you are or doesn’t care. That is who I am.
Focusing on connecting with an audience is really essential and consequently leaves them feeling entertained anyway. But some artistes seem to worry more about gaining a huge following, which they believe can only be achieved by entertaining first. Does that fear of not having a sizeable fanbase ever cross your mind?
It does and it used to stress me, but not anymore. Being comfortable with the music I create gives me assuring confidence that there will always be someone who connects with my sound. I’m not here for numbers.
I don’t obsess over it and feel like the people who will vibe with my music and feel what I’m putting out there will always come. It doesn’t have to be billions of them.
I want to keep the conversation going and right now, I’m happy with the people who are intentionally listening to me. There’s room for everyone in the music industry and if you want to be you, trust me, you will always have listeners.
While on stage at a previous gig, you mentioned you had taken a break from music. Is it because you had your baby?
That was the main reason. I had a baby last year and as a first time mom, I decided to take a year off to bond with her and watch her grow. She is a whole human who needs my time and now that I’m back into music, full time, she will be watching me perform a lot. I’m looking forward to so much with her in my life.
How has motherhood influenced the way you are doing music right now?
It pushes me to be honest with myself. There were times I would force myself to perform when I didn’t feel like it. I felt like I owed the crowd that and that my job was to please them, but not anymore.
When I’m on stage, I want to do something that makes my heart full and impacts me as much as I’m trying to impact the audience. So, I don’t force things to happen. I let everything unravel organically. It has been an inspiration in different ways including my journey as musician.
Is part of this inspiration a reason for dedicating a song to your baby?
After giving birth, I had dark days where I questioned everything. It would get so bad that I’d leave the house and wander to no particular destination just to clear my mind. The walking helped, but only for as long as I was doing it. I would get back to the house and resume the same worry train.
One day, I was out with Menat, my daughter, and saw how much fun she was having by just being in her own company; peaceful and free. That is when the song, Everything, came to me. She reminded me to breathe, take it easy and trust the process.
That moment transformed me, reminded me of my significance and that I’m everything. I learned that in the end, things will work out just fine.
Would you say you are more of a live performer or making beats in the studio?
Well, I’ve recorded before and I love being in studio, especially when I have musical chemistry with the producer. It’s the same as being on stage. The only difference is you get to see people and get direct feedback. I love both but I’ve been doing more of live performances.
How does it feel to be live on stage and feed off from the audience’s energy while giving it to them at the same time?
It gives me nerves sometimes, but after the first song, it eases and I subconsciously slip into the moment and just let go. The experience is completely different every time I’m on stage.
What is your music end-game?
Having an end game would make me super anxious. I don’t have one. One thing I want from music, added to the great connections I make, is to travel the world and share my music. I want to play in different countries across the world.
That is possible and I guess that means you have to work with the right people in your team and away from music to get there. Do you have a strong support system?
Yeah. I have an amazing support system. They are always ready to step in and help me steer the ship to the right direction. It’s been hard getting the team together, but in end they are always there and constantly thinking of ways to step outside the box.
Are you working on any new content?
I’m always working on new content. I’ve been trying to record an album, but it’s been a bit tough because there’s a specific producer I want to work with, but he is busy. I’ve made music with him before and he is so amazing, musical and sharp. His schedule is full at the moment and requires me to seek other producers which is hard.
Why is 13 in your stage name?
It is a very special number that I’ve always been drawn to. It is not an unlucky number as people say. It represents the rebel in me who tries what people shun. I was born on July 13 and in numerology it comes down to four, which is my lucky number. We are four siblings at home. It represents completeness and that is why it is on my name. There are so many stories behind it, I could go on and on.