King of Ohangla speaks
Posted Friday, August 7 2009 at 18:24
- Popular ohangla music artiste TONY NYADUNDO tells DANIEL OTIENO the story of his own life — from a tailor’s assistant to a pop star
I was born at a place called Kal in Tanzania. We were twins but my sister Apiyo died when we were still young.
My family moved to Kenya in 1978 and settled at Nyahera in Kisumu district. Then, my father went to work at Kongoni in Nzoia.
I went to Kongoni primary school, but my childhood was riddled with poverty. I proceeded to Bugembe secondary school in 1985, although I dropped out the following year because we could no longer afford the fee.
I joined my brother, Jack Nyadundo, who was then a tailor in Nzoia. I was to mend clothes, which did not fetch much, until 1992. I did not like it very much so I quit.
All my life I had loved music and took an active part in it in school. I tried my hands at disc-jokeying with disco outfits in Nzoia and Kisumu.
At the time I didn’t think much of ohangla, the music genre that has catapulted me into the limelight. I just used to watch people dance it. Then, it was the preserve of chang’aa drinkers and played as part of dirges at funerals.
One day when we went to play music in Amagooro, the host invited also a group of ohangla players. We were almost made irrelevant. There was overwhelming response for the ohangla songs and the people enjoyed the dancing.
Back in Nzoia, I told Jack about our experience and how the music that had been relegated to funerals and drinking dens was getting people on their feet.
Jack was still a tailor then. On one of his visits to Kisumu, he found a group which was playing the music genre. Jack was gifted in singing and instantly they struck a relationship that started the journey of ohangla to the dance hall.
My brother knew that I was a good dancer and asked me to recruit and train the female dancers for them. Other than the dance trainer, I was still not so keen on joining him.
One day late in 1996, I was invited to play music in Nakuru. When I came back, I found my house broken into and most of my dee-jaying equipment stolen.
I joined Jack and his group as a bouncer and was in charge of gate collections. But as patrons danced the night away, I started nursing the passion of singing. I knew it was possible.
Gradually, I stated trying out the microphones after Jack finished performing. It was on the sidelines that I started composing my own songs, the most most popular being Nyakindu (the girl from Kindu).
People urged me to sing more songs and do less gate collection.
To do that, I needed to move out of my brother’s band. I left for Tanzania to go and stay with my sister Cyprose Atieno. But I started off making drums because that is what I could lay my hands on to make a living.
But it was proving more difficult than I thought. I needed money to move and I realised my job was not about to get me anough money for my musical ambitions.
I went back home to my father Ayieta, who had returned to Nyahera, and told him what I had in mind. He gave me a bull which I sold for Sh8,000. I gave my father and mother Sh1,000 each. I spent Sh3,000 to make an improvised amplifier.
I carried it with me back to Tanzania to launch a music career. There was no electricity at the joint where I performed. I used car battery to power the amplifier and a pressure lamp to light the dance hall at night.