The No Chorus hitmaker, gospel dancehall artiste, Garvey Royal (Rurigi Stephen), tells us who he is and how he is creating a niche in the industry. He sits down with Grace Wachira and brings us up to speed on how he transitioned from dancing to singing
Where did you get the name Garvey Royal?
I got it from my friends back in high school. I loved listening to Marcus Garvey, so Garvey sort of stuck. Royal is as a result of faith in God because I am a Christian. I am part of the royal priesthood.
How did you get your grip on dancehall?
I grew up listening to reggae music. My father loved Bob Marley and that made me biased to that sound. In high school, I used to sing dancehall and that was that. Later on, we started a dance group, Ignitaz, and as we were behind the scenes in music videos, the fire to produce my own music was lit. I gravitated o music slowly. I had studied production at a media school here and did not think I’d be in front of the cameras.
As an artiste, how do hone your skills and grow your musical capacity?
That’s an interesting question. The same way instrumentalists rehearse with their instruments, I visit the studio at least three times a week. My voice is my instrument and I make sure it is in top shape.
What was the inspiration behind your most recent jam, Pull-Up and the other songs you have done?
The Word of God is unchanging. It has been the same in all seasons so when I sing ‘Pull-Up, wacha iende ikam’, I simply mean is the Word will go and come back as the same because it is alive. I preach the Bible. Interestingly, there was a song that came to me from God while I was asleep: Class Teacher. It was so easy to write and execute, but that said, I draw a lot of my inspiration from God’s Word and life’s events.
Who does Garvey Royal look up to as far as music is concerned?
Because of my genre, locally, I admire Majic Mike. I have walked and worked with him. Internationally, I love what Chronixx does. What was it like for you penetrating the gospel industry with dancehall? I look at it as a testimony: I hear how artistes struggled to even get airplay, but I did not. When we released the collabo with Majic Mike, we got airplay: that was in 2017 and in the same year, we were nominated for a Groove Award. It helped that I had someone to hold my hand.
What do you think about collabos in Kenya?
I think collabos are important for the music industry. When I think of joint projects, I think of making music with my friends, people who share the same mindset I have. That way, we can gel because of the connection and the collabo becomes a great project.
Tell us about the challenges you encounter
As a creative, my greatest challenge is to live up to people’s expectations. After a great song is released, the audience crave for more, so it is a bit tough to live up to the previous hit. The next project has to be better and that can be quite challenging. Also, financial constraints are ever present: studio time, videos and marketing music needs money.
What do you do when you are not in studio?
I love teaching. I am a Sunday school teacher at City Lighters Church and I also work in one of the biggest football firms in Kenya. I am also learning how to produce music. I studied electronic media in college and look forward to being in charge of productions.
You were nominated in this year’s Groove Awards in the Reggae/Ragga Song of The Year as well as Dance Style of The Year categories. How does it feel? It feels great. It is a good feeling when someone recognises the hard work you have done.