For the love of his guitar, Peterson ‘Pitson’ Ngetha was almost expelled from high school. He was accused of being a smoker because he had strummed the instrument so much that the tips of his fingers had darkened.
“I had to play a rendition of Crabb Family’s Wounded Soldier for my teachers to believe that I was not doing drugs. When they heard it, they made me form a school band.”
Fast forward to now and Pitson is currently riding high on the local Christian and secular radio charts with his upbeat rumba song, Lingala ya Yesu.
Barely two months into the market, the song has garnered 45,000 views on YouTube.
Comedian Dr Ofweneke — also a radio presenter — says the song is popular because of its sing-along lyrics, funny ad-libs and simple instrumental chord progression. “The video is very simple and you do not struggle to remember the tune… It is one of those melodies that get stuck in your head,” Dr Ofweneke says.
Produced by Noel Waitara, Lingala Ya Yesu has employed a minimalistic approach in its arrangement with only the keyboard, drums, the rhythm and bass guitar as the dominant instruments.
Pitson is also the composer of 2013 Groove Awards winning evangelical ballad Wanajua featuring his childhood friend, Mwenyehaki.
Pitson comes from a poor background, having grown up in Eastleigh, and the only entertainment his father could afford for him and his brothers was a guitar.
He begun his music career after his high school in 2004 when he formed a boys band called God’s Grace. He stayed with the group until 2011 when he went solo.
He wrote his own songs, but lacked the money to record them. “So I went from studio to studio doing background vocals for other artistes such as Emmy Koskei and Esther Wahome. I saved the money to pay rent as well as perfect my vocals.” He was then a Bachelor of Commerce student at Jomo Kenyatta University.
Now working as a banker, Pitson says his many years as an underpaid band member strengthened his resolve to succeed. Having learnt the virtue of patience, Pitson says his songs may take as many as two years to write and arrange.
“If you bring uncooked food to the table, you have no chance of taking it back. You get only one shot with the audience.”
As criticism mounts on the gospel industry’s adoption of secular sounds, Pitson appears ready to defy demands in his market, as evidenced by his choice of words in Lingala Ya Yesu.
“The song describes everything that I am: My beliefs and my message to my listeners,” he says.
When he finished recording the song at Noel Waitara’s studios, he took it to DJ Mozz from K-crew, who agreed to fund the video production.
“I was very broke from planning my wedding. I was surprised when DJ Mozz called to tell me K-crew had paid Ken Heman of Eagles Films, and all I had to do was take my idea to him and work with him.”