the only way to get a life

Pulse is published every Friday in the East African Standard.

pulseLOGO.gif (3728 bytes)

bt1.gif (43 bytes)
Friday, July 2, 2004

Pulse

bt1.gif (43 bytes)
           
Mysterious Vultures
By Caroline Nyanga
Pics by Thomas Omondi
They have long been thought of as Congolese, because of their accents, and Tanzanians, because of their perfect Kiswahili. This week, Kisima winners Deux Vultures tell us what country they come from, as well as who they are and what inspires them.

When the Deux Vultures stepped up on stage to receive their award for the Group of the Year (TZ/UG), the only thing most of the audience asked was, "What happened to TID?" However, the question we all should have been asking is, "Since when did they become non-Kenyans?"

As it turns out, the youthful duo of Thomas Gonzanga (21) and Moustapha Daudi (22), long rumoured to be flashy Congolese musicians, are Kenyans. "This story about us not being Kenyan," they say, laughing, "is actually a rumour that was started by Smitta Smitten. No one is Congolese among us."

And how did they end up in a category they didn’t belong in the first place?

"We don’t understand it either," they say in their characteristic fluid Swahili. "We don’t blame anyone for that error, but no one has ever asked us where we are from. In fact, we are glad that you have asked us, and now we have a chance to tell Kenyans that we are one of them."

Perhaps the reason for the misconception is the fact that both Moustapha and Thomas were born in Tanzania, and moved to Kenya right after they finished primary school. They have since attained citizenship, but their Tanzanian roots are still very much in evidence. All you have to do is listen closely to such hits as ‘Katika’ and ‘Monalisa’ and you can hear the Dar inflections in their pronounciation.

Growing up in the coastal town of Dar-es-Salaam, the earliest memory the two have of each other is hitting it off even before they knew each other’s names. "We were next-door neighbours, and in Class Two at the time," says Moustapha.

A fruitful friendship based on their love of music grew. "We often took part in various dancing competitions within the neighbourhood, during parties or weddings. We were very good at breakdancing. It was the breakdance jig that later inspired music in us," says Moustapha.

In 1995, they moved to Kenya to pursue their education. "We admired the Kenyan system of education that is considered one of the best in Africa," Moustapha says. They joined Muguga High School in Kikuyu, and even though they had left their parents behind in Dar, they still had each other.

"It was difficult at the time," they say. They did not speak Sheng or English, like their peers, and they hated Kenyan boarding school food. But they survived and adjusted, perhaps because they had their music to help them along.

"We used to perform in high school, during variety shows and school concerts," says Moustapha. "We would constantly keep the crowd on their feet during our high energized performances," recalls Thomas, rather immodestly. Although they had no instruments or microphones, they would often do rap sessions for the school, and enjoy themselves immensely. It was during this time that the idea of forming a rap group was born.

"It was at one point in school when we had a major show and the two of us were asked to sing using a microphone and instrumental beats," says Thomas. "It was at this point that most of the students urged us to join in the music industry."

Many successful Kenyan hip-hop groups have passed the litmus test that is the jam session. It is here that many of them hone their skills as performance artistes – take K-South, who started off at Florida 2000. Or Kalamashaka. Even Gidigidi Majimaji had their first taste of adulation at this venue. It was no different for Deux Vultures, who used to hepa school to go to the Sunday afternoon F2 jam sessions.

"We noticed that we could pull crowds with our unique Kiswahili rap, so we went for the skies. Club performances were the natural starting point," says Thomas.

The biggest damper on their plan to stay here and develop their music career was the fact that they would have to move back to Tanzania after completing their education, a move that would not have been favourable because Tanzania had not yet developed enough of an entertainment industry to support them. In Kenya, things were starting to heat up, with the emergence of such luminaries as Hardstone, Kalamashaka and that forerunner of all music studios, Sync Sound. Things would definitely be easier for them if they stayed.

That decision was taken out of their hands when both sets of parents hopped across to join their sons here, and opened up businesses. The Deux Vultures ‘Kenyanisation’ was complete.

Once they finished high school, the two budding rappers proceeded to the American University Preparation Institute in Westlands, Nairobi, hoping to gain entry into an American university via this route. They soon shelved that plan and decided to concentrate on performing at various functions for a while.

They joined a group of 18 other rappers, and gave themselves the name ‘Desert Vultures’. But 20 people proved too many for one group. "We used to free-style and moonlight at various clubs," says Moustapha, "but we were so many that any money we made, split 20 ways, became peanuts."

Also, 20 divergent opinions on any one issue was too much for them to handle. Moustapha and Thomas soon deserted the Desert Vultures and, a deux, gave themselves the appropriate moniker, ‘Deux Vultures’.

Going solo, so to speak, in 2002, Thomas and Moustapha did a little bit of this and a little bit of that… and eventually bumped into Lucas Bikedo, Ogopa DJ’s premier producer. "A DJ friend with whom I had performed introduced us to Lucas," says Moustapha. "We gave Lucas a tape with a track we had made for our shows, and he listened to it, changed it, and gave it a name – ‘Monalisa’.

‘Monalisa’s runaway success was all the indication they needed that this – the entertainment business - was where they needed to be.

"’Monalisa’ kept us on our feet for almost two years, we had shows on weekends and weekdays. I bet this was due to its popularity," says Moustapha.

After ‘Monalisa’, there wasn’t enough time to record another track, what with all the shows they had. So while the rest of us thought they had succumbed to ‘One Hit Wonder’ disease, they were spreading their popularity all over the region.

There was a spot of controversy in their lives later that year when they left Ogopa DJs. This, they say, had nothing to do with them. "We didn’t leave Ogopa because we had a problem with them. We just wanted some variety in the way that our music sounded."

However, a number of artistes were deserting the Ogopa camp at the time, some of them citing animosity between them and the producers.

"It’s unfortunate that at the time we left," says Moustapha, "a lot was going on in the Ogopa camp. We had no problems with them. In fact they paid us all our money and our working relationship was cordial," he adds.

"As you know, different producers have different talents and our aim has always been to exploit these diverse talents," says Thomas. "We are still good friends and keep in touch," he continues. Their current album, ‘Katika’, features different producers, including Mike Mwamba of FM studios, RK and Next Level studios; even the Ogopa DJs have worked on it. The duo also says that an up-coming video, for a song titled ‘Go Back To School’, will be edited by Lucas.

Currently, Deux Vultures are focusing on promoting their new album. Some of this involves such stunts as featuring promoter Big Ted on their ‘Go Back to School Track’.

Does this have anything to do with the fact that Big Ted is now back in school, I wonder?

"No, no," they laugh. "Big Ted has been like a brother to us," says Moustapha. "It is thanks to Big Ted and Lucas (Bikedo) that we have come so far." And so the choice to include him in a song came naturally. The song focuses on a young lady who completely refuses to go to school despite all the efforts her parents make to educate her. She often skives school, and in the process, conceives and has an abortion. The song also revolves around HIV/Aids and how people should be aware of the dreaded disease and lead a moral life. They are currently shooting the video.

Thomas and Moustapha are Majimaji’s neighbours in Doonholm, where they lead a comfortable life. Although they will not give us figures, they say they have made enough money to support themselves. They run a Simu ya Jamii booth in the estate, and own a clothing label named after themselves. These they sell in their apartments.

They may not live together, but they certainly travel a lot together, and so they own a black Nissan. They are also looking forward to playing the real estate market soon.

Both are happily engaged to be married – Thomas to an airline stewardess called Josephine Gitau, and Moustapha to a KCB sales rep called Lena Gakii.

Both have met the parents, and admit that it was difficult, because of the negative perception most people have of musicians.

"But we are now glad that they have since accepted us and we are going to be part of those families," says Moustapha. "We intend to raise our families here," says Thomas. Which brings us back to that little problem of them winning an award in a category they should not have been part of.

Although Deux Vultures are popular in Kenya, they say they are much more popular in Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda. Even more popular, they say, than TID. They also concede that the Kisima awards were fair (regardless of the fact that they won), and that they deserved the win because they have struggled to get where they are today.

"We felt honoured because it’s not everyday that one gets such an opportunity to be rewarded. We are grateful to God, our parents and all our fans in that order," says Thomas, with a look of pride in his eyes.

The Deux Vultures have a dream - to put Kenya on the world music map. Reason: "Our album is different from what other Kenyan artistes have done." This is all well and good, but the question is, now that the truth about their nationality has been established, will they have to return their little Kisima statuette?

 

 

Thomas Gonzanga
Moustapha Daudi
bt1.gif (43 bytes)

Pulse Home

       

Copyright © 2004 . The Standard Ltd
The Standard Ltd
I & M Building, Kenyatta Avenue,
P.O Box 30080, 00100 GPO, Nairobi-Kenya.

Tel. +254 20 3222111, Fax: +254 20 214467, 229218, 218965. News room: +254 20 3222111, Fax: +254 20 213108.
Email:
editorial@eastandard.net, online@eastandard.net, Advertising: standard.ads@swiftkenya.com