After having a flying start in the music industry, she went through a devastating period of depression. Beryl Owano is back to doing what she loves, and she talks to MERCY KAVUTHA about lessons learnt.
Many of your songs seem to have a message in them. Are they personal experiences?
For sure. I tend to talk much about what I’ve experienced: from love, to my lifestyle, to experiences with people. So yeah, all my songs have come from my own life experiences.
Where do you draw inspiration from and what’s your favourite part of the process?
Let me start with my favourite part of the process, and that’s getting to the studio and singing my heart out, as well as releasing my music to the public. I get my inspiration from the people around me who tell me what they pass through. I tend to sympathise with people, share their joys and celebrate with them.
One of your earliest successes was while recording with Matonya. How did this come about?
Wow, that is such a simple story! So, when I record my songs I always send them to my friends who are big in the industry. I sent that one to DJ Flash and Mzazi Willy M Tuva. DJ Flash was listening to it close to Matonya, and when Matonya heard it he wanted a verse in the song, and that was it. (laughs)
Your videos are always very unique and artistic. Do you come up with these concepts and what do you aim to deliver to everyone?
Many of my video concepts are brought out from the songs themselves, and before I get to studio I already know how my video will be. I also keep my directors close, making sure they know my vision.
Your most recent release is “Utafilisika”. Tell me more about this song.
The title basically translates to “you’ll get broke”. It reminds men that sponsor troubles affect them too; they can lose their families, their money, catch diseases out there. I wanted people to see that both are to blame in this issue. It was to also remind the young ladies that self-love and worth are important, and they will lose out in the end too.
You expressed almost falling into drug addiction due to depression. After that struggle, how hard was it making music again?
The depression came after losing my job and just doing music. I started realising that in this industry it took a bit more than talent to get ahead, some characters asked for sexual favours, money, and after a while I couldn’t think properly enough to make music. The reality was that it took me so long just to make a song after that. Thankfully, I had my family and my manager to bring me out of that rut. People also need to understand that you may be seeing an artiste happy, dancing for you on the stage but you don’t know what happens behind the curtains.
“Utafilisika” and “Sinyamazi” are just two of the singles off your upcoming album. Tell me more about it.
We are very excited about this album. We plan to release it by next year August. After those two singles I wanted to thank God for his favour so this album also has several gospel songs. People shouldn’t be confused about the genre I sing because anyone can sing gospel. The next single will be a gospel one. There are also some big collabos in there; basically a lot of things to be excited about it.
Despite recording for a while, you said it was still hard sometimes to make a living off music alone. What do you think that says about the music industry in our country?
It doesn’t pay much, unless you’re a scandalous artiste or very unique in terms of your sound. People like Susanna Owiyo and Eric Wainaina can say music pays for them. Mainstream artistes like us definitely do not get much. I’d advise upcoming artistes to have a side hustle.
What hot collabos should we be looking forward to?
(Laughs). I have a big one coming soon, after the gospel song release. I really don’t want to talk much about it but it’s a huge one, and I’m sure it will open more doors for me.
So, what’s your favourite thing to do when you’re not writing/recording?
I love reading and that always amuses people, because I look too extroverted to be a reader but I am. (Laughs)
What is the biggest trouble you’ve ever gotten into in the industry?
Wow, I had an ex in the industry, he was the inspiration for my single “Nabaki”. The trouble came when people found out that he had a significant other (married). Being confronted was so bad! I swore off dating people in the industry.
Is Beryl taken?
No. But let’s say I’m taken by music, at the moment.
Any other projects you’re currently working on?
Yes. Right now we’re on tour and planning to do more tours in other countries as well.