“Music is a mission. Not a competition.”
I was honored with the opportunity to converse with such a talented and brilliant soul.
Thomas Olang’o is a 25-year-old art and music enthusiast who is driven by the possibility of change in the arts and creative industry through youth empowerment. He is a man of many talents; He plays the guitar for a living (how cool is that?), scripting is also a huge part of his life. On top of all that he occasionally draws. Back in the day he used to be an amazing basketball player until he “stopped being awesome”.
‘I think travelling is so refreshing, and I love peace and quiet’ says Tom. During our conversation, I was blessed with a few puns and I have to admit they helped ease the tension, this made it easier for me to pester him with my questions.
- What does your typical day involve?
A typical day involves devotion, work outs, Guitar practice, and more guitar practice with the band and a little more guitar before I sleep. Music is my life really.
- Did you always want to get into music?
When I was younger, I wanted to be a pilot. At another point in life I wanted to get into architecture because I really loved physics. However, I found a home in music from as far back as I can remember.
- Who or what inspires you?
I’d have to say Life, Love and the Human mind but most of all my big brother (Polycarp Otieno).
- What was your most challenging gig, why and what did you learn from it?
My most challenging gig weirdly turned out to be my best gig. I will give you 2 instances and both are Jamhuri Festival experiences.
The first one was from the launch. My first ever gig and I’m telling you I had scripted the entire show. I was the bass player and the event organiser. We had over 30 artists in the script and I really had to split myself to follow through on the vision. I had an amazing team with me then; Maggie, Wayne, Edu, Snyder, Chrispine, Keshie, the Watooz and Swizznet. A major S/O to this people! It would have been impossible without them. I love and appreciate you guys so much. It was insanely challenging due to the fact that I really had to work my brain for that show.
The second one was a few months later in Kariobangi South. What made this challenging was almost everyone in K South knew I was a musician because they always saw me walking around with a guitar but they never really got to hear me play up till the 25th of April 2016. I managed to play up till area that was my playing field while growing up. A majority of the people in attendance were people who had known me pretty much all my life and I have to admit it was scary but special at the same time.
Those 2 nights have to be the best nights of my life. They also taught me that charity does indeed begin at home and most importantly, team work makes the dream work.
- Have you worked with international artists? If so who are your top 3?
I have been fortunate to work with a number of international artists. Top of my list will have to be Alikiba. I was his music director for quite some time and I got to enjoy such good food while playing with him (laughs) you do know I love food! On the real though, playing with him gave me an extra confidence boost because it gave me the hope that my gift can reach as far and wide as possible. Second on list would be 2baba (2face) and Sautisol. Working with them was an amazing experience. I got to learn a lot and I did a script for their music video which happened to be my first script outside Jamhuri Festival. Oya come make we go is a beautifully written song with such a powerful message. I was honored to have scripted, cast and set directed the music video. Lastly, I played with Becca from Ghana. She gave me my first out-of-town gig. We played to a Maasai village audience in Narok as she was working on her documentary. It was humbling that an artist from that far considered and had me on her project.
- Do you feel like the government is doing its best to support local artists? If not, state what changes can be made.
I feel like it can definitely do better. Our education system is brilliant, it just doesn’t have that extra branch that isn’t really as extra as might seem. It doesn’t support the arts and the artists in the society. There’s no music, art and craft, woodwork, metal work and all the more practical and creative subjects anymore. Sometimes I wonder where I’d be if i got the chance to do music in school but they stopped offering it from when I was in class one/first grade. In addition, major festivals around the world have government backing but it’s really hard to get their attention here. The arts industry is an industry like any other. I don’t want to put all the blame on the government though because I feel like for us to actualize this, we’ll definitely need all other stakeholders to step up. From the artists to the consumers. It’s all connected really.
- Parting thought?
Love is all we need. Art and music is the vehicle I choose to propagate that love. I want to be a part of the generation that brought change to the society. That change is love. More love. We can all make it in this world! Let’s love another a bit more. Team work does indeed make the dream work.
This by far has to be one of my favorite interviews! Talking to him helped me understand the hard work that goes into a good performance as well as a successful show and also to appreciate his art. I do believe that we need to come together and support our local artists. Artists work tirelessly to deliver amazing content! Hence the need for us to support them as much as we do international artists. Thomas started Jamhuri with the intention to shine a light on undiscovered talent and I ask you not to be left behind! Join the movement and if you do have a talent you’d like to share, do not sit on it!!! Here is a platform for you to bless the world. Are you as eager as I am for Jamhuri Festival?
As we wait on it, you can join me and other music lovers for Jamhuri Jam Sessions every Wednesday at Nyama Mama, Delta at 7:30.
PS. He did not comment on his relationship status. I am sorry ladies but if you want to keep up with what Tom is up to, you need to follow @jamhurifestival on all social media platforms.
Thank me later – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCYYjtJ0AV5Qh52cYvpbtNVg