Charles Otieno has been a bass guitarist and a music producer for the past 20 years, in the course of which he has created many stars in the music industry.
Growing up, his passion was not to become a music producer but to become a musical star himself.
Otieno, known by his stage name Mixmaster Chao, is the founder of Halflive Productions, based in Nairobi.
He started off his career by being an all-round producer, diving into all genres of music. He was flexible and versatile, but he finally settled on reggae.
“I worked on rock, Afro, benga and hip-hop before I settled on reggae, which was my greatest passion,” he said.
He now runs a label that releases songs monthly and giving opportunities to different artistes to develop their careers and create marketable content.
“So far, ‘MixI’ has five songs in the ‘riddim’ genre which includes deadlocked riddim, jollity riddim, dangerous love riddim, Jah Jah riddim and irie riddim,” he says.
His music studio has some up-and-coming reggae dance-hall artistes, including Black Heart and gospel singer Willy Nzita, under its management.
He has travelled the world, visiting over 20 countries as a representative of Kenyan culture and has attended big events, including jazz, world music and theatrical auditoriums.
Mixmaster Chao says he takes time in recording, mixing and mastering music to the satisfaction of clients.
He has worked with various big names in the music industry, who include Proff, Makadem, Nameless, Wyre, Gravitti Band, Black Heart, Binti Afrika, Jahises, Lavosti, Phill from the UK and Ammi the Veggieman from Israel.
“In my 20-year career, I have learnt that Kenyan music has a trend of following the current wave, ‘going with the wave’, so to speak. For instance, gengetone is the current wave and some established artistes have dived into it just to remain relevant and be heard,” said.
He says music is a well-paying career, but one has to understand the business part of it.
“One may end up getting used, putting in effort, time and creativity but bearing no fruits,” he said.
He adds that music requires total presence, both mentally and physically, in order to get the best results.
He recalls one of the most challenging moments in his career when he was involved in a road accident on his way to Turkana and was bedridden for eight months.
“I had to close the studio,” he says. “In between, I lost a lot and I had to start from scratch. It wasn’t an easy road, but I had faith in God that I would get back on my feet.”
In his advice to up-and-coming artistes, he says: “You have to be sure of what you want and focus on it.”
“Consistency is key and discipline is 100percent all you need before anything else,” he says.