15 Jan 5-Minute Interview With Webi
5-Minute Interview With Webi: One Of Kenya’s Finest Gospel Artists
When it comes to the guitar, few can strum it as beautifully as Webi.
He’s a master of the strings, and has a great husky baritone to go with it, making Webi one of the most popular music ministers in Nairobi.
We call him a ‘music minister’ because he only sings gospel music, and backed with his incredibly rich songwriting prowess, ushers people in the presence of God in Church and on stage.
Webi is a veteran of gospel music in Kenya, and honed his skills in Church while singing with various worship teams.
And of course, we’ve had the pleasure of watching Webi’s journey from the very beginning.
For our latest 5-minute interview, we sat down with Webi to discuss his album project, “Lukundo” and delve deeper into his music career.
Pssst….Catch up on our previous 5-Minute Interviews with Charity Kimani and Moussa Diallo.
Here’s Our 5-Minute Interview With Webi
KM: Introduce us to this fine gentleman with one of Kenya’s most distinctive voices….
Webi: Thank you! Well, I’m a family man first, then an artist next.
My artistry includes being a singer, songwriter, guitarist, voice-over artiste, entrepreneur and live performer.
KM: You’ve taken a guitar and made art with it. That’s not an easy thing to do. Considering not many people are as skilled with the guitar as you are. when and how did you discover the guitar to be your focal point of expression.
Thanks for the compliment!
Interestingly, I’ve learned a lot of my playing especially recently, from people better than I. It all started with my mom though.
She was always playing when I was younger. I got interested and asked her to teach me. I learned the basics from her and then built it from there.
The guitar is a focal point of my artistry because I was playing long before I was actually singing.
So it’s become a writing aid, a signature and a part of my live performance.
KM: What’s your earliest music memory?
My earliest memories are of my mom.
Always singing and playing hymns as well as the old hits she loved. Along with that, in the earlier 90’s, I was introduced to Phil Collins’ music by one of my uncles.
There’s a few other artistes like Lionel Richie and Luther Vandross in there too!
A little later, I got hooked onto R&B courtesy of Boyz II Men.
KM: In my hands, a guitar is a nice looking item, I place my hands on these strings, strum it, but noise comes out. For you on the other hand, I see you take that guitar and make the most magical music I’ve ever heard!!! How on earth do you do it?
Webi: Thank you for that David!
Well, I’ve spent a good chunk of my life experimenting with it. I developed my own style of playing and that made my sound unique.
It’s been well over 20 years with it, but I’m always learning something new and that’s how it’s been. I make time to put in some practice as well.
I absolutely love making music with the acoustic sound and that’s formed the core of almost everything I’ve ever composed.
KM: How did you know this is the thing you want to do in life?
I knew I’d experience and probably do a lot of different things in life, but nothing tagged at me as much as music did.
The glitz and glamour (younger me really wanted this), the adrenaline from being in front of an audience, making music that would be heard by people I’d never meet; I just had a really strong sense that nothing would be more important to me, than this.
So I went for it, first chance I got.
KM: Was it hard finding your musical identity?
Webi: At first, yes.
Somehow, though, I knew that I’d want to do something that was a true reflection of who I am.
Other artistes were going in a different direction with their sound and I didn’t feel like I’d fit going along with them.
I turned to writing music infused with my R&B influences and my first record was written largely in English. I also wanted my music to be about my faith, so I put that and my R&B inclination together.
That interestingly became what made me stand out to begin with.
KM: How have you managed to turn your passion into a thriving business
First, I’ve learned to define what ‘thriving’ is for me, as far as the music business goes.
I decided that I would see myself as a successful artiste if I’m able to keep doing what I love and then (learn to) make money along the way.
I turned it into a passionate business.
KM: The business of music and the music of business…give us a couple of pointers on your journey so far, highs, lows and lessons learnt.
The business of music is as important as the music itself. An artiste needs to make time for both and learn to balance them – A key thing.
My lowest moments have been the ones where I faced rejection and when things didn’t quite turn out as I expected they would.
However, they turned out to be my greatest learning opportunities. One such low moment was having to walk away from an album project I had worked on for two years.
From that, I learned about patience, reinvention, belief in myself and I also took time to grow in my writing. The result, was my latest album ‘Lukundo (Love)’ – one of my highs.
Another great moment was winning The Airtel TRACE music stars competition in 2015. Aside from a sizeable cheque, I got the opportunity to showcase my artistry to a larger audience, network and expand my musical boundaries.
I had dreamed of experiencing such a moment, when I was younger. From all this I have learned that patience and persistence in whatever someone does and a strong sense of belief truly does pay off.
KM: Are you mentoring any musicians?
Webi: Yes; On and off mostly.
KM: Name some of your most memorable gigs so far..
Webi: There are a few actually; my sophomore album launch concert in 2009, Koroga Festival in 2015, the Airtel TRACE music stars Kenya edition concert which was aired on local TV, followed by the grand finale, the launch concert of my third album in 2016 and most recently a benefit concert early 2017 called ‘ Concert in the Dark’.
KM: How long has it been in music so far, for you?
Webi: Cumulatively, it’s been 23 years. Professionally, it’s been 14 years.
KM: Any plans to venture into other related areas of music business, like production or sales?
Webi: Absolutely! I’m working my way into merchandising and in the near future I’m hoping to extend into production and publishing.
KM: Okay, so Webi’s Top 6 playlist of Webi Classics. Count them down for us…
- ‘Moving forward’ by Israel Houghton.
- ‘Days Like this’ by Kenny Lattimore.
- ‘Water runs dry’ by Boyz II Men.
- ‘Let it Flow’ Toni Braxton.
- The ‘Twende Twende’ album by Eric Wainaina.
- ‘Say What you need to Say’ John Mayer.
KM: And now, I know this may put you in a tight spot, but count down for us your top 6 Webi singles. Give us a background into each song and where we can buy them.
- ‘Outside My Window’ – My first hit single. This song introduced me to my local space and my local space to me! The song created an identity of its own that was completely separate from me, the artiste.
- ‘Dance’ ft Neema and Rigga – my first double collaboration. Interestingly, we were not together in the studio at any one time while recording this song. Also interesting is that I have only performed it a couple of times with Rigga but never with Neema.
- ‘Pamoja Milele’ – this song is the true mark of my reinvention. A classic Afro beat infusing the Swahili and Taita languages. This is also the first single of my latest record.
- ‘Nalola’ ft Angela Mwandanda (Shinde) – A full-length Taita song about a village love story. This is my most played/most listened to/most searched for song, from the album ‘Lukundo’
- ‘Aliye Wangu’ ft Dela – when I wrote this song, initially, I didn’t actually write it for myself. My hope was to give it to a group. With one thing leading to another, I ended up putting it on the album and featuring Dela.
- ‘Baba Yetu’ – This is the Taita version of the Lord’s prayer. I learned how to pray in this language long before learning how to, in English or Swahili. I give credit to my grandparents for this!
- ‘Gonna Be Alright’ – my first ever independent single. I wrote, recorded and released this right after the failed project I spoke about earlier on in the interview. No sooner had this song been released than a great new opportunity to go on the Safaricom live tour 2013 happened. This didn’t happen because of the song, but it felt like a testament. My career had a series of highs after this.
I realize that I’ve said more than 5 songs, but that’s because, all my records have a very significant place in my life. They were all written out of a place of honesty and the desire to share something meaningful. No wonder, I’m most inspired by my experiences!
My music is available through www.webimusic.com for those that prefer digital downloads and streaming. (I’ve linked my iTunes, Bandcamp and YouTube pages on there).
For physical copies (of my latest album) I also have a delivery option. Orders can be placed through the ‘contacts’ page on my site and we’d process them from there.
** For this interview, Webi was interviewed by David Makuyu