Buzz spoke to gospel pacemaker Daddy Owen about his latest endeavours and what he wants to do to help the disabled members of the society
How did ‘Mbona’ come about?
The issue of disability is something that is dear to me. I was born with one bad eye and for a long time I struggled with low self-esteem.
Even when I was starting out as a musician, it took the intervention of Rufftone, my older brother, who encouraged me to believe in myself when I thought I didn’t have the looks to become successful.
Even after I had some considerable success, I was still constantly disturbed by how people would perceive me if they knew I had only one eye so I wore spectacles in public and in my videos.
When did you decide to record the song?
I met Deno a few years back during an interview I had been invited for on a local TV show.
DJ Moz introduced him as a great fan of my music. Even though he was blind, he immediately recognised my voice and told me he was also a musician.
We got talking and sometime last year he asked if we could do a collabo. At first I wasn’t sure how to respond but eventually we recorded the song.
Why were you hesitant?
Gospel music is not like secular music where you just decide to do a song and hit the studio. I needed to find the conviction and inspiration to do it.
In addition, working with a visually impaired artiste like Deno is very sensitive.
I needed to be sure that I would be able to paint a clear picture of the story he wanted to tell.
I kept thinking people will look at him funny but then I remembered that’s how I used to think about myself and look how far I have come.
How was the actual experience of recording a song with a visually impaired person?
The first thing we did was bond. We spent time together and he told me how he first realised he was blind since he was born without sight.
Apparently all through his childhood he thought all people had to be held to move about.
His mother had to explain that he was blind and what that meant.
During the recording of the song, the producers, Dillie and RKay had to direct him on how to navigate his vocals and we had to use a different approach with him because hand signs couldn’t work.
But once he got the hang of it, he was really excited and at some point he even cried.
What about the making of the video?
We did the script for the video very long ago but just before we did it, Nonini released “Colour Kwa Face” and the concept was exactly like ours.
That’s how I ended up releasing “Dakika Tatu”. It was actually DJ Pinye who convinced me to do the video for “Mbona” after I played the song for him.
He sounded really passionate about it and eventually convinced me to do it.
It was then we decided to do the cameos and had asked Miss Confidence and Henry Wanyoike to make appearances that he told us about his brother.
How did you react?
We were quite shocked because we have been close friends with DJ Pinye for a long time and he had never mentioned that he had a brother with a medical condition.
It was then that he mentioned that they had a neighbour who had lost a child yet no one had ever known that they had a child.
That made us realise just how serious the issue of stigma was. Even in the making of the video, we talked to a lot of people but many declined to appear in the final clip.
What was the response when the video came out?
We ran a week-long campaign which we dubbed “Sunday1215” which was the time the video was meant to debut on TV.
Come Sunday, everyone was anxious to see what the hype was all about and when it premiered on all TV stations at the exact same time, people went wild.
There was a lot of buzz on social media and my phone was blowing up. I was glad that people appreciated the song and video but was sad that Deno couldn’t see all that.
Even before “Mbona” we had planned to do a campaign to create awareness about the plight of people with special needs.
Our reasoning was that sympathy isn’t enough. We need to create opportunities to help them realise their potential.
We hope to bring together stakeholders, the government and other concerned parties to raise awareness within the community about this situation.
Are there any specific activities you intend to undertake?
Already, we have begun discussions with the government to put in place regulations that will require all new buildings to put in ramps to cater for people on wheelchairs.
We have also lobbied the government to build ramps on flyovers along Thika Road to ease mobility of this group.
We also plan to do a campaign targeting transport operators who discriminate against people with special needs.
Would you believe the wheelchair user in the “Mbona” video cycles everyday from his neighbourhood to town because buses refuse to carry him.
Other areas include creating friendlier ATM’s and the awards we plan to launch later this year.
Tell us more about the awards.
They are called the “Malaika Tribute Awards” aimed at celebrating the unsung heroes in our society.
These are the people who have achieved against all odds and those who have gone out of their way to help the less fortunate in our society achieve their dreams and ambitions.
The awards will be launched on December 3rd, which is the world day for the disabled and in the buildup we will run a TV series highlighting the nominees before viewers vote for their candidates.
When Groove Awards started, gospel music was nowhere but thanks to the awards it has grown in leaps and bounds. Hopefully these awards will have a similar impact.
What does all this mean for Daddy Owen?
I still intend to make music. All I’m doing is challenging other celebrities to use their status for the greater good.
I have done my research and I can tell you that there are so many causes in this country where celebrities can lend their hand and create a huge impact.
This goes especially to my gospel counterparts. It’s things like these that set you apart from secular artistes.
At the end of the day, it’s the impact you leave behind that counts, not how famous you were.
Your style of music has also shifted
I’m merely reinventing myself. As an artiste you need to keep pushing yourself beyond the limits and avoid getting comfortable.
I will still do the ‘Kapungala’ and ‘Tobina’ that people have known me for but I also want them to know that there is more to me.