Mercy Akuot aka Akuot (South Sudan) and Kendrick Ebei aka Scoobylincos (Turkana) are from Kakuma.
The two have been working under a project by Wyre and FilmAid: “Making Stars-Kakuma”.
This week, both released spanking new individual singles along with the videos for them. Akuot has a soothing, goose bump inducing R&B song titled “Anavyonifanya”, while Scooby has a scorching rap track, “Hapa Kazi Tu”.
Both tracks were produced by super producer Herbalist under Love Child Records in a joint collaboration with the FilmAid initiative.
Akuot Mareng’ Mercy is a 24-year-old South Sudanese, originally from Bor, trying to piece her life back together.
After having to flee Kampala in 2015, in circumstances she only names as “personal insecurity”, she found herself in Kakuma.
She expresses herself as a well-learned individual, which can only attest to the sacrifices she has undergone in order to assure her safety, even if settlement in a refugee town was her only option.
“I had to really adjust and accept my fate, while making the best out of a negative situation. Life in the camp is fine; we are moving on,” she says.
FINDING A SILVER LINING
Akuot has always been singing, from church and all through her years in school, but she only recently realised she could take it to another level.
“Since I came to the camp, I’ve been singing for different occasions held there. People had been complimenting my singing and urged me to pursue it seriously. It wasn’t until some guys approached me to help them in doing a song advocating against teenage pregnancies and motherhood at the camp that I did what would be considered a musical venture. I’ve also recorded another song with somebody else,” she says.
It wasn’t until Wyre noticed the uniqueness in her sound that she really believed she had a talent worth exploiting.
“He watched a video of me singing during World Refugee Day this year, and he contacted one of the people at Kakuma to find me. The guy told me someone wants me to work with him in Nairobi and wasn’t disclosing who this person was. I told him there was no way I would go if I didn’t know whom I would be going to, that’s when he told me it was Wyre. I just laughed, speechless and excited, this was someone whose videos I had watched since he was at Necessary Noize. So I came and we recorded the song,” she says, still star struck.
She says working with an established artiste helped her a lot when it came to composing a song that could capture an audience while presenting herself as an artiste.
She was also involved in coming up with the concept for her video.
“When we went into the field, the objects were different from what we perceived and we came up with the ideas for the video spontaneously. What we thought we’d do was not what we came out with,” she laughs.
It was a hectic affair for Akuot during the shoot, who is currently five months pregnant with video shoot having happened about three weeks earlier.
The production crew handled her well and gave her time to rest when she required it. She says her pregnancy gave her the extra motivation to work harder on the project, she did it for her family.
Her song “Anavyonifanya” is a love song. Hers is a message that refugees had a life before their current status and they still continue living their lives. It’s not always about asking for a hand out or problems when you’re a refugee.
Akuot’s sound is really refined and you can easily pick out Ugandan influence in it.
The video is also of high quality.
“We are not under a contract with Wyre, but they (together with FilmAid) are financing everything. This is a career path I have started walking and I want to be the next Yvonne Chaka Chaka,” says Akuot.
KENDRICK OF TURKANA
Kendrick Ebei worked hard to get this opportunity at only 17. A Turkana, he was born-and-raised in Kakuma. 2013 was when he fell for the rap game.
“When Octopizzo first came to perform in Kakuma, I was astonished and then I became jealous of him. I asked myself why I couldn’t do what he was doing. I officially started rapping in 2010 when I would write short raps and choruses, but I realized this talent when I was in class one,” says Kendrick.
He had been performing rap at shows for FilmAid. His mother didn’t have money to give him to go school and he was following up on money he was owed when he was informed of auditions at FilmAid.
He went with five of his friends to try their luck together. Only he was selected and brought to Nairobi to record.
“When I met Wyre and Herbalist in the studio that’s when we started composing the song, using a tune from a song I had done before and they came up with the beats. They even taught me about rapping with an attitude to give me credibility, which also helped as we shot the video,” says Kendrick.
He delivers his rap in Swahili and Turkana in a flurry almost like his international rap namesake.
Together with his video he wanted to celebrate his roots with the world. The beat, delivery and visually rich video are an emphatic statement of his arrival to the music scene.
Kendrick has had to sell peanuts and eggs in the streets of Kakuma to help his parents take care of him and his five siblings, on top of school.
He got permission from Taraj Secondary School where he’s in Form Two, to get on the project for the weeks he had to be in Nairobi.
“God willing I will make my people proud by taking our story to the world,” he says.