Music

Star shines bright for musician Elvis Nyaruri

Elvis-Nyaruri

Mr Elvis Nyaruri. PHOTO | COURTESY

Summary

  • Elvis Nyaruri signed a recording deal with A.I Records Kenya, a subsidiary of Universal Music Group early in December and by the end of the month released his first single under the label, “I Just Can’t Wait to Go Back Home.”
  • Earlier in the year, the odds had appeared heavily against the 26-year-old who was born and raised in Mombasa.
  • The disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic meant that he lost many opportunities just as his talent was getting widely noticed.

2020 could not have ended on a more promising note for a performer who is touted as Kenya's brightest prospect in country music.

Elvis Nyaruri signed a recording deal with A.I Records Kenya, a subsidiary of Universal Music Group early in December and by the end of the month released his first single under the label, “I Just Can’t Wait to Go Back Home.”

Earlier in the year, the odds had appeared heavily against the 26-year-old who was born and raised in Mombasa. The disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic meant that he lost many opportunities just as his talent was getting widely noticed. He was in the process of rehearsing for a performance on the popular Churchill TV show in March when the first Covid-19 case in Kenya was announced and a ban on public events imposed.

“I immediately switched to online platforms by recording one-minute clips singing popular country songs, and tagging various people on social media,” he recalls.

One of those videos of the singer’s rendition of “Evening Star” by Kenny Rogers stirred an online debate on whether that was his voice or he was just lip-syncing to a recording.

He was introduced to John Andrews, General Manager AI Records/ Universal Music Kenya who was impressed with the lyrics that he had written for a song called “Gichagi Is Where I Long to Be.”

Mr Andrews advised him to reach out to a producer who could record the music and after several attempts, he was connected via Instagram with Lucas Bikedo of Ogopa DJs fame.

“When we first met, I sang in the traditional country style of Roger Whittaker but Lucas asked ‘is that your best song?’ Then I did ‘Gichagi Is Where I Long To Be’ and he was like 'this is the style of country that you will export from Kenya.”

That song with its feel-good vibe and homespun references to a longing feeling for the countryside has become his signature tune.

He says many people are trapped working in the cities chasing a livelihood, but there is no place quite like home. It is a theme that is carried on in his new single ‘I Just Cannot Wait To Go Back Home.’

“I want to create a song that the audience can relate to. Because there is no point in writing about a horse when many people have never been close to one,” says the artist, who like his idol Elvis Presley, wears elaborate stage costumes.

Write a song

“Through the story in the music, the melodies, and instrumentation, you can close your eyes and picture yourself in the countryside,” he says.

The song which he wrote and produced, features Mark van Rosie, a musician based in Canada on banjos, bass, and guitar.

“I wanted to write a song that will praise our local countryside and will bring attention and love to the place we call home because that’s where we all belong,” he says.

It has been a long road for the young singer whose talent was spotted when he represented Shimo La Tewa School in Mombasa at the National Schools Music Festival singing the Elvis Presley song “The Wonder of You.”

After school, he performed first as a rapper but it's his baritone that people noticed and before long, he switched to singing.

After school in 2014, he worked as an insurance salesman for two years, and used the money he earned as a commission to record his first-ever album called “She Is the One.”

“The music was very raw and now that I have a record deal then I hope to re-record some of those earlier songs,” he said.

He is optimistic that the A.I Records /Universal deal will ensure international exposure and raise his music to a new level. Already the video for “I Just Can’t Wait to Go Back Home” is playing on the MTV music channel.

Eight of the 13 songs for the album are already complete with the next single set for release on January 15.

“Country music has been one of the most consumed music genres with substantial airplay over the decades,” says Mr Andrews.

He says it is time Kenyan artistes cultivate new country music from within and tell a story about their country and experiences in a unique style as Nyaruri has done.