ONE ON ONE: Darassa - Daily Nation

‘Bra, bra, bra, staki kusikia...’ Meet the man with the biggest song in the region

Saturday February 25 2017

Sharif Thabit Ramadhan’s. Darassa, as he is known to his fans, is the man of the moment. PHOTO | COURTESY

Sharif Thabit Ramadhan’s. Darassa, as he is known to his fans, is the man of the moment. PHOTO | COURTESY 

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How did you come up with the name Darassa?

I’m always talking about things that I feel need to be done to help artistes, especially the up-and-coming ones. I believe I talk sense... because people started saying I was schooling them or taking them to class, so that is where the name came from. 

Have you been in the industry for long?

I have been around for some time. It took long to get the recognition I’m getting now because I chose to first learn the music industry before I jumped in. I had to hustle really hard in the background because music is something I love.

My first song also featured Ben Pol, called Sikati Tamaa, back in 2014. I took some time off in 2015 before resuming in 2016 with Kama Utanipenda, featuring Rich Mavoko, and then Muziki happened. 

Which rappers did you look up to when you were planning your entry into the industry?

I used to listen to any song that would stir a certain feeling in me, and didn’t necessarily just watch out for those in hip-hop. Professor Jay symbolised the type of path I wanted to follow, and how I should carry myself. I always wanted to be an artiste who would be looked up to and be a positive point of discussion. Others included Afande Sele, Mwana FA and AY. 

What was the initial reaction when you told your family and friends that music was the path you wanted to follow?

They opposed the idea. It was a big challenge to get them to understand why I had made that choice. I can’t blame them for wanting to protect me from what they feared might be too big a dream to achieve, but my mum gave me her blessings, wanting me to succeed and keep out of trouble. It’s from the tough time I had convincing them that I got the drive to make it. Challenges always build those who know what they want. My friends have also been very supportive. 

Which other people supported you?

The people I collaborate with, or work with in my music, are those that I have known for long. Before I got under the current management of CMG (Classic Music Group), I was under AM Records where I recorded Sikati Tamaa, Nishike Mkono and other tracks that weren’t released. 

How did the track Muziki come about?

Producer Mr VS had just produced some beats and I would go to the studio and sample them. When I listened to this particular track, it elicited the feelings and energy you hear on the track. I wrote the lyrics, then it was taken to another producer at CMG, Abbah, who added the traditional percussion instrumental. Mr T Touch then laced in the vocals, and did the mixing. Having Ben Pol on it was a big plus because he could bring out the feelings in the song. I didn’t want it to be too hip-hop, just a good song. 

The song is really popular in Kenya. It resonates with many because you adopted a ‘Kenyan style’ of rapping — slow-paced, that is totally different from Bongo Flava.

You’re the one who’s saying that. I won’t say that is the case, or deny it, because the +255 and +254 are home. I don’t feel bad being compared with Kenyan artistes at all. It would have irked me if I was told my style resembled that of someone in Russia. I love the Kenyan comparison because it shows I’m still close to home, even though I don’t see what you see. 

What was your intention with the track? Some say it is a low-key diss track

As soon as I heard the beat, I felt like speaking out on some of the things I think are wrong in society. Trying to act like these things are not there is not in the spirit of nation building. It’s a calling I took upon myself to get people to be positively productive. It’s me fighting for the right to own that name: Darassa.

Were you targeting Diamond when you rap ‘Sio simba, sio chui, sio mamba’?

That is not true. I see no need to attack him, he’s a hard-working artiste who’s widely respected and we both have a part to play in the industry. I think people formed a certain imagery from the words and I cannot go around telling everybody that it isn’t what I meant. At the end of the day, we make music so that people receive it in their own way, whether correctly or not. 

On which album would your fans find Muziki?

I don’t have any album to my name yet. That’s what my management team is working hard to put together now. Muziki will be on that album, along with Heya Haye featuring Mr Blu, Kama Utanipenda featuring Rich Mavoko, and Too Much. 

Any collaborations that you are looking forward to?

My management and I view collaborative work differently to what most people would think. It’s not about who we want to collaborate with, or who’s hot in the game right now. It’s about who the specific song suits. It might take long for that specific artiste we’re looking for to come along but once we hear their sound, we’ll know who it is. 

Did you really go to a witchdoctor to make you popular?

It is true that I have gone to a witchdoctor, but that was eight years ago and had nothing to do with my music career. In hindsight, it was a foolish thing to do. But I can’t go against what my God has revealed in me these past few years. 

Others say you bought your initial YouTube views for ‘Muziki’

I know my YouTube channel and my business very well. I know from the shows I have performed and the responses in social media how people receive my music and other products. You can find your answers there, too. Buying views would be silly, since my conscience would know I was not making as much impact as I would want others to believe. The only thing I have tried to do is to use creative methods to get people to watch my videos. 

Memes and funny videos have helped market the song. Was this generic or you had something to do with them?

Odo Gojo, the guy who did the first parody while wearing a towel and dancing to the song, lives in China and has been there for long. He was even featured in some of Mr Nice’s music videos. I did not ask him to do it. There are also parodies by comedians such as Joti from Tanzania and Kenya’s Eric Omondi. These show that my work is not only informative but is also enjoyable. The videos by fans are a massive seal of approval. I’d like to send a huge shout-out to everyone who’s put out a video, used the hashtag, or mentioned that they were listening to my song.