Kasiva Mutua is a Kenyan drummer and percussionist, who has performed in several countries.
Kasiva, 28, a fluent speaker of the French language, had just returned home from Egypt, where she was participating in The Nile Project, as organisation that promotes sustainability of the Nile ecosystem through education and music.
She has performed in major events in the country, and collaborated with notable figures in the continental music scene during her career, spanning almost 10 years. She has a degree in Journalism from Busoga University, in Uganda.
When did you learn drumming?
I first learnt the art from my grandmother. She had a small drum that she would play while she narrated stories to me. In the middle of drumming, she would stop and ask me, “Kasiva what do you hear?” Sometimes it would be crickets or birds chirping. Other times it would be nothing at all. This way, my ears became accustomed to the faintest of sounds.
Have you practised journalism?
Not at all. I lost my desire for media as soon as I completed my journalism course. Besides, journalism will never come close to what I earn from percussion.
How much do you earn?
My music comfortably takes care of all my basic necessities such as food and rent, my travel expenses, and also pays for my entertainment needs. I’m also able to put something aside for tomorrow. It is more than gratifying.
Describe your journey to where you are now…
When I travelled to Uganda for my university education, I carried my drum. I would play it whenever I had time, usually with no audience. Later, I performed in gigs in Jinja town until I graduated. As a newcomer in the industry, there was hostility from men percussionists. I was bullied. In a male-dominated industry, it feels lonely to be only a handful of women, but I’ve soldiered on.
What influences your type of music?
My music has a leaning towards a variety of styles, such as Afrobeat, zouk, samba, reggae and soul.
What music instruments can you play?
I can play 20 musical instruments, but my favourite ones are djembe, guitar, the Egyptian Tabla and cowbells.
Tell us about the Nile Project.
The Nile Project, established in 2011, is a programme that brings musicians, professionals and university students from the 11 Nile Basin countries, with the goal of cultivating sustainability of the Nile ecosystem through music collaborations, dialogue, education, leadership and innovation programmes. The headquarters are in Egypt. I am a member of the Nile Music Band and an ambassador of the Nile Project.
Which are some of your most memorable performances?
Every performance is unique, but my experiences at the Nile Project and Found Sound Nation were thrilling. Shangwe Afrika Gospel Medley and Out of Africa Percussionist are unforgettable. Performing with Anyango nyar Japan, the Japanese artist who plays African musical instruments, during the 2016 TICAD Conference in Nairobi was a remarkable moment of my career. The 2013 Safaricom Jazz Festival is my all-time best experience.
You have been on numerous tours outside the country…
The Nile Project has taken me to tours across Africa, Europe and USA. One Beat, a US State Department-funded initiative took me to Florida for two weeks with other musicians. On an individual capacity, I have performed in Abu Dhabi, UK, Belgium, Zanzibar, Ghana and Rwanda.
Who are some of the notable individuals you’ve worked with?
I’ve interacted and worked with Oliver Mtukudzi, Kidum, the legendary Hugh Masekela and local music sensations Eric Wainaina, Octopizzo and Suzanne Owiyo.
What makes you stand out?
Being innovative and making my performances different from what everyone else does is the ultimate game changer. My style of percussion is a blend of various music genres, a little of zouk, a dash of Afrobeat, reggae and samba. Most importantly, I love what I do.
What other skills do you have besides your prowess in playing a variety of musical instruments?
As trained journalist, I am an excellent video editor. I also have vast knowledge in Geographical Information Systems (GIS). Additionally, I’m an African fashion designer. I am also a make-up artist and a good swimmer.
What are some of the challenges you encounter?
What I do is like going to the gym. It requires discipline. Percussion requires high concentration and even more patience. Drumming is tiresome, and your hands become coarse, and your muscles occasionally ache, a price most young people are not ready to pay. You have to train hard, forfeit your comfort and be persistent.
What lessons have you gathered along the way?
People fall into the trap of idolising money. That is where they get the whole equation wrong. One should seek to find happiness first. Every time I hold a drum, every time I’m on stage, I feel as if the happiness I feel will kill me. Money can’t give this kind of pleasure.
You must have a role model…
Yes. Muthoni “The Drummer Queen” inspires me a lot. She has changed the drumming and percussion landscape in Kenya and taken it to a higher level by giving it an entrepreneurial angle through her Blankets & Wines concert.
What do you do besides your regular job?
Currently, I am coaching eight young and very talented girls. We normally have sessions when I am in the country. I’m hopeful that they’ll complete the training and possibly become career percussionists. Whenever time allows, I hang out with my friends.
Have you won any awards?
I am a recipient of the Xtreem Awards’ Teeniez Band with Threat Band in 2013, Chaguo la Teeniez Best Female Artist in 2004, and Buruburu Girls’ Best Performing Artist, 2003. I was also honoured at Ladies Musical Club of Seattle in 2015, and featured in the Ayiba Magazine in June 2016.