By Charles Otieno
Together today, parted tomorrow — that seems to be the dictum by which musicians live. They start out together as the best of friends and go their separate ways as the bitterest foes. Wakimbizi, Mr Googz and Vinni Banton, One 11 Moja, Sema and Klepto all started out as tight as Siamese twins but have been split by rivalry. What is it that tears the most romantic success stories apart? Money? A vision not shared? Or just plain old jealousy?
Mariko, Mr Filter and Andre
Last year, when the rap duo Circute and Jo-el made their debut song, Juala, they kicked up so much controversy that overnight, they became household names. The two blood relatives were on the threshold of a successful music career.
But only months into their stardom, the cousins could not work together and have split with each going on to pursue a solo career. How did it happen so fast?
Their close friends put it down to jealousy — and over girls, for that matter. Circute was rumoured to have become "uncomfortable with the girl attention" that Jo-el was getting. Circute then accused Jo-el, the younger rapper, of having become a ladies’ man.
Their associates say that Jo-el in turn accused Circute of drinking too much. When they split, Circute released the song, ‘Nikii, with the Homeboyz while Jo-el has just released a single with reggae singer Tequilla, recorded at Calif Records.
The personality differences between the two singers also made it impossible for them to cope with one another. Circute is outspoken and mingles freely with fans while Jo-el is reserved and a little shy. Some have described him as outright lazy.
When the duo disagreed, Circute claimed that while he was busy looking for shows, Jo-el just waited for everything to happen. But come show time, the girls would be ogling Jo-el.
Although neither of the two rappers admits being jealous, both say their split was based on professional grounds. Jo-el says that girls’ attention did not cause the split. "They (girls) used to say hello, what was I supposed to do apart from acknowledging them?" he poses.
Circute, though, says they broke up because of their different views on music. "Music is a business like any other and sometimes we differ on opinion. That’s the case between Jo-el and I," says Circute. He adds that they had different views on the course they wanted their music to take.
"I just realised that I could do music on my own. Jo-el, too, wanted to do his own music."
Jo-el says that he and Circute are still friends but they needed to chart out their individual careers. "Our break-up was good because it made each of us mature individually in music," he says, adding that they would do a collaboration after each has released an album.
Circute observes that though jealousy might cause break-ups in music groups, the media sometimes fuel it. "A group may share artistic views but when the media decide to hype one member of the group it causes friction," he says.
The group SEMA broke up soon after releasing their album, Mwewe. Sanaipei Tande, one of the group members, seems to eclipse the other two when it comes to media attention. She is also seems to be the most outgoing of the trio.
Sana, Pam and Kev
Pam, however, denies that she and Kev were ever jealous of Sanaipei because of the media attention she attracted. "I would not say that jealousy cropped up among us since every one was given equal attention (by the media)," she says.
"There was nothing wrong with the group. To this day I speak with Sana and Kev." The musician concedes that working together has been harder than many other music groups because they were not friends before they won the Coca-cola Popstars event at the age of 19.
"It’s easier for group members to bond if they had been friends before," she says.
Things had already started going wrong in the group when Pam and Kev toured the Netherlands, courtesy of the Great Commission Church International (GCCI), without Sanaipei.
Pam and Kev had been attending and performing at the GCCI evening fellowships at the 680 Hotel, Nairobi, before the church’s Bishop John Gertjan organised their Netherlands tour. "It was a great opportunity to further our career, hence we had to go," says Pam, explaining why they left without Sana.
Sana says she could not attend the show because of "family commitments."
There have been rumours that the GCCI is keen on signing up Pam and Kev but the church’s spokesman, Francis Omondi, says they have not been signed up, although the Bishop would not hesitate to help them, and indeed any other musicians, to get good deals. The group has split, although Pam says it’s not official since their managers, Homeboyz, have not released an official statement about the group. "We handled ourselves very maturely but the problem was not with the group members," says Pam. Homeboyz CEO Myke Rabar confirmed that they are no longer managing SEMA.
"The whole break-up thing is very sad but it’s cool because we are surviving," adds Pam.
The Wakimbizi music trio, popularly known for hits like ‘Hallo Hallo’ and ‘John’, also split recently when Andre started accusing Mariko and Mr Filter, who are brothers, of sidelining him. The brothers claim that Andre was not even part of the group but a friend they had adopted to train musically. "Wakimbizi is made up of my brother Filter and me. Andre joined only us for brief spell so that we can bring him up," asserts Mariko.
Andre, however, says that he made the decision to quit the group after he realised that Filter and Mariko were performing in various concerts without even telling him. "Huwa wananiita tu kwa show za sare, lakini za pesa hawaniambii," says Andre.
"How can he even expect us to share with him money accrued from the concerts when he is never there when needed?" poses Mariko.
Late 1990s music group One II Moja failed to take off because of infighting among members who included raga luminary Redsan, Shanky Radics, Lyrical Erico and Kiddush.
Shanky Radics, Lyrical Erico and Kiddush allegedly could not put their act together and they had to split in 2000 after staying together for two years. "It was not our fault but since Sync sounds folded we had nowhere to go," Shanky Radics explains.
When the group was struggling to chart a new musical course, Redsan teamed up with Ugandan rappers Bebe Cool and Jose Chameleone. Redsan now denies that he was a member of the group. "I have never been part of One II Moja. We used to hang out together since we had started out in the same studio," he says.
After Redsan made his career breakthrough, the rest still remained in the cold for two years. Tyrical Evusu then invited them to feature in the remix of his song ‘Bambika’, produced by his brother Brian Evusu, a former deejay at Vybester Club in Thika, who is now the producer of Bombshell Records. The song became an instant hit and shows started coming their way. This sparked off a fight pitting Tyrical against Shanky Radics and Lyrical Erico.
Although Tyrical claims ownership of the song, Shanky has allegedly been performing it at various shows, claiming that he is the artiste behind it. The trio curtain-raised for ragga group TOK at the Carnivore last year and the show organisers, Insyder Magazine, had difficulty finding the person to pay: both camps claimed ownership of the song. They finally settled on Shanky, whom Tyrical claims did not share the money.
"I’m very bitter that Shanky just received our performance fees and did not bother to give us anything although we performed as a group," said Tyrical.
Tyrical saw Shanky and Erico as attempting to steal the limelight from him after featuring in his song. "Shanky Radics went performing in various parts of the country and neither informed nor gave me any cash from the shows," says Tyrical.
But Shanky argues that Tyrical’s sentiments are overblown and might be driven by jealousy. "I was approached by his bro to help him with the song. I wrote my part and I was the bigger artiste who gave it the name," he says. Shanky adds that it is not his fault that people associate the song with him.
The singer says that he has stopped working with Bombshell Records after the row. Tyrical says that Shanky went underground and has been actively performing alone.
Mr Googz and Vinni Banton looked like they were destined to go places after the release of ‘Wasee wa Githurai’. It became a hit, while the remix featuring the mellow-voiced Mr Lenny became a party anthem in clubs and topped music charts. The bosom friends who grew up together have not been able to savour similar success after going separate ways in April last year. According to Googz, who has since got born-again, he and Vinni were not a music group. Googz says they decided to split because of their different views. "We sat down and decided to split for one year and release our solo albums because we did not want people to say that Googz is riding on Vinni’s back and vice versa," he says.
Circute (standing) and Joel
"My thoughts and Vinni’s were not on the same wavelength," adds Googz. He, however, maintains that their decision to part was meant to let each individual be judged by the fans according to his talent and earn their respect. "We wanted guys to know that we were no joke," he adds
But Googz, who is working on his solo album at Homeboyz studios, maintains that the Kenyan music scene is full of copycats. He says that their split was sped by the fact that other musicians copied their hip hop-fused ragga. "The only artistes worth mentioning now are Redsan, Wyre as serious lyricist, Bamboo and Kantai. I’m tired of this Ogopa kapuka beat and asking the youth to club," he adds.
Vinni Banton says that the break-up was in good faith since his style was ragga while Googz was doing hip-hop. He adds that they had composed a whole album by the time they split, but he had to go back to the drawing board. "I could not release the songs and call them my own because we had worked on them together," he says. Vinni says his album is ready for release but he is now studying the market before launching it.
Does he feel that Googz, who together with Bamboo promote merchandise for Chandaria Industries, is better off? "No," he says.
But their regrouping seems quite unlikely because Googz is now a born-again Christian and is more interested in singing gospel tunes than secular ones, which Vinni is doing.
"His was a good move but I cannot take it because I’m not ready," says Vinni about his former partner’s salvation. He says they are still buddies.
Rap trio Kleptomaniax, best known for their hit song ‘Tuendelee’ and now bracing for the release of their debut album, could have split a while ago as the pressure of the production process mounted. The Kleptos have been organizing the release of their debut album since August last year but differences between the group members led to the delays.
Collo is said to have accused Nyash of not working hard enough to ensure a timely launch of their album (last August). Collo said Nyash was lazy and did not take their music seriously. There were indications that the trio would not continue together. However, with their album complete and ready for launch on April 29, the Kleptos are together. Whether or not they will stick together after the launch remains to be seen. Nyash, the group leader, attributes the altercation between him and Collo to "just a simple misunderstanding."
"I think at the time Collo was under a lot of pressure and volatile as a result," He explains that they had their personal differences but they did not break up. Nyash, a student at Kenyatta University, points out that he has been busy with his studies and that was one of the causes of the unpleasant scenario.
"We have since put our differences aside after talking things over and are currently working on our next project," says a jovial Collo.
Collo, now a presenter at Kiss FM, was reported to have decided to retire from music and concentrate on his job at Kiss. The third Klepto, Roba (Munkiri), has maintained a low profile, allegedly to spend quality time with his girlfriend. His colleagues were once reported to have accused him of being oblivious to the goings-on in the group.
"Roba does not know about any fallout. He is in love," said Collo in an earlier interview, alluding to the fact that he spends too much time away from his partners. At that time, Roba seemed to have been more engrossed in his girlfriend than in anything else.
Roba, a law student at the University of Nairobi, dismisses the claims as sheer nonsense. "Being absent from the limelight does not mean that I am out of the game," he says. "We are a team and I want to assure you that this is the birth of Klepto," he says, adding that Kenyans should be prepared for more surprises in the future.
- Additional reporting by Caroline Nyanga