When Elizabeth Kaimuri Magu – now known by her stage name Kaimuri Magu – joined university in 1999, it was to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Commerce – even though she had studied music in high schoo, was a member of the music club and loved singing so much that she wanted to become a musician.
“I studied BCom because then I would know how to handle the business part of my music,” she says.
“My plan was to finish my degree, get a good job, save up enough money to record an album then drop the job and continue with music,” laughs Kaimuri.
After she finished her studies came a series of short-term jobs. “I’d do internships as a company receptionist for a few months. I was also on probation to be a receptionist at an advertising agency, but then it didn’t work out.
Almost immediately after that, I got engaged, then there was a wedding to plan, and then I had kids. I ended up being a housewife because I had my children (five) back to back, and I had no time to prep up my CV and go to interviews. I embraced the change in plans since I got married to have a family,” says Kamuri.
LIFE HAD HANDED HER TIME
Now that life had handed her time to pursue her music dreams, Kaimuri, who is a vocalist, decided to pursue her dream by finding instrumentalists who were interested in playing her favourite kind of music – jazz – to team up with. Now her permanent musical partner is Noel Manyasi, a pianist. Together, they play corporate events, weddings and concerts.
“My degree has helped me to work out expenses and come up with a charge that covers what I will incur which may not be visible,” Kaimuri says. “I have had to make clients wait before giving quotations. I need to know how long we’ll be performing for, the sound equipment to use, the venue and caliber of the event and what the payment terms are. Depending on the event I may add a guitarist, drummer or bass player to complete the band.”
Besides her degree, experience has also taught Kaimuri to exercise the kind of business diligence many artistes don’t usually do. “I know of people who’ve had to wait for nine months for a cheque so I don’t do those. I work with serious artistes and delaying their payment will hurt my name amongst other artistes. Some people pay by check a month after you’ve performed for them yet they have budgeted for (your services). I’ve agreed to do events before at a very minimal rate only to see the affair was much grander than they had told me. We went to a wedding that was out of town and we had to do morning, afternoon and evening sets. There was nothing small-budget about that wedding, despite their earlier plea, and I had to go into my pocket to feed the band at the hotel’s ridiculous prices because we couldn’t eat since we didn’t have invitation cards. I learned that if it doesn’t make sense, I should say no or I’ll get burnt. I miss out on a lot of gigs now because I’m so into details,” she says.
Part of being a good, marketable musician – or any kind of business person, for that matter – is to keep one’s skillset constantly updated. Kaimuri did not learn how to play a musical instrument in her early years and in 2004, she joined the Kenya Conservatoire of Music where she has been an on-off student, getting trained in classical voice, classical guitar and practical musicianship.
Right now, Kaimuri plays covers of classics and jazz songs for corporate events, she is also building a roster of songs she has written herself that she plays at weddings.
“My view of success is: how do I feel about the music I’m making now compared to where I started from? How do I feel about my last performance? How well am I preparing for my next performance? Or when someone comes up to me and says the song I wrote for them spoke to them. Someone told me they had a small budget for a wedding but after we performed she came up to me with the full amount saying it was worth all of it. Because of being a mum I’m limited to the number of events I can attend but I make up for that by giving my best performance at every one I do,” she says.