Shining artistes who didn’t give up

Saturday October 13 2018

Kenyan rapper Khaligraph Jones. PHOTO | COURTESY


Several music stars currently at the prime of their careers were knocked out of singing, rap and talent search competitions when they were getting started. THOMAS MATIKO follows these stars who remained determined to achieve their dreams of playing in the big league

Kenyan rapper Khaligraph Jones scooped the Best Rap Act of The Year category at the fifth edition of the annual African Muzik Magazine Awards 2018 (AFRIMMA) held last Sunday in Dallas, Texas.
Khaligraph beat 10 other entries, amongst them seasonal rapper Casper Nyovest (South Africa), Sakodie (Ghana), Olamide (Nigeria) and Nasty C (South Africa), to win the coveted award.
This was the first time Khaligraph was winning an international award since bursting into the limelight about five years ago.

The OG, as he prefers to call himself, deserved the award and all the glamour that came with it. His journey to the top hasn’t been an easy ride.

Khaligraph is among several music stars currently at the prime of their careers who, while starting out, lost in singing, rap and talent search competitions, but remained steadfast in their determination to make their dreams of becoming stars a reality.


Khaligraph has been quoted stating that his elder brother influenced him to take up the art that now comfortably pays his bills.


He released his first track in 2004 at the age of 13, a gospel number. As years pressed on, Khaligraph grew to be a bilingual emcee who specialised in rap battles and free-styles.

The hardship he encountered in Nairobi's Eastlands made him fall in love with hip-hop as an avenue to express himself better. Khaligraph's spitting skills were first noticed at the WAPI Festivals, which was a regular event for artistes organised by the British Council in Nairobi, a few years ago.

Around that time, there was also Octopizzo, Khaligraph’s greatest nemesis in the rap industry. They would both take part in the festival and majority of the fans were always split on who was the better rapper.

Khaligraph would receive standing ovations whenever he did his thing, while there was also a huge number who felt Octopizzo had so many punch lines.

Octopizzo burst into the limelight first after he got help from various stakeholders, including DJ Pinye, who believed in him more. Khaligraph remained underground for a for a few years but kept pushing on. He attracted attention when he debuted his tracks on Capital FM’s “The Cypher Show”.

He then released a diss track about Octopizzo, "I Run 254", which became a talking point because of his combination of insight and evocative storytelling abilities in the lyrics. The song would launch him into the limelight, and his star still shines bright.

The two emerged first runners up at the sixth and last edition of Tusker Project Fame (TPF), in 2013.

TPF was an enticing programme that created music stars in the East Africa region.

Interestingly, most of its winners have not been successful in their music careers. But a majority of those who finished as the runners up went on to be stars – like Amos and Josh.

Many believed Amos and Josh deserved to win the competition, but the judges thought otherwise.

The Kenyan duo lost to Burundian Hope Irakoze, whose career in music has been little known since then. Despite missing out on the Sh5 million TPF prize money, Amos and Josh went on to become famed musicians, and have recorded several hit songs including collaborating with the likes of Sauti Sol and King Kaka.


Just like Amos and Josh, Msechu also emerged a runners-up when he took part in TPF 4, in 2010.

The Tanzanian finished behind Uganda’s Davis Ntare who was reported to have lost course, as far as music is concerned, after he got hold of the competition's prize money.

Musically, nothing has been heard from Davis since winning TPF 4.

On the other hand, Msechu has gone to become a star in his country with several hit songs under his belt.

His latest song "Nimesamehe", released last month, has been widely played.


The Wasafi Classic Baby signed artiste is claimed to be currently among a few East African artistes who generate millions of shillings from YouTube because of his songs.

For the last few years, since making his break through with "Aiyola" hit, Harmonize's subsequent songs have attracted millions of views on YouTube.

Harmonize is constantly booked for shows despite his high rate cards; charging not less than $10,000 (about Sh1 million) for shows outside his country.

But before he got to where he is now, Harmonize was disqualified when he went to audition for Bongo Star Search eight years ago. Judges Master J and Salama J told him he couldn’t sing; his voice was poor and that he would be better of trying something else other than music.

The Tanzanian songbird released "Njiwa" with controversial gospel musician Willy Paul, causing a huge buzz.

Nandy is currently among the best known female vocalists in Tanzania. She has released several hit songs in the last two years, since coming into the limelight.

Before then, she had participated in Tecno Own The Stage singing competition in 2016 and did not win. The competition pitted 15 contestants from Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania, and Nandy made it to the finals but wasn’t among the top three finalists.

The celebrated Kenyan actor and singer made his debut into the Kenyan music scene about the same time as Nandy.

He too had participated at the first edition of the Tecno Own The Stage and came second, behind Nigerian Shaapera who walked away with the prize money of $25,000 (about Sh2.5 million).

Tokodi got a consolation prize of $10,000 (about Sh1 million) and has gone to release several urban R&B soul music that have made him popular.