Everybody’s got to start working from somewhere. The only exceptions are those folks born with a proverbial ‘silver spoon’ in their mouth, meaning they can rely on the family’s fortune and never need to work a single day in their life.
For Paul Mukoma, his working life began upcountry where he got his start as ‘Makanga’ (conductor) who called people off the street to board matatus plying Naivasha-Limuru highway.
He did not, however, last long as a tout since he knew there were better things in store for him.
He changed from one job to another as he searched for the right career for him.
Nonetheless, back then he couldn’t have foreseen that one day he would become the founder and managing director of the Talanta Institute, a multimedia college based in the heart of Nairobi’s CBD. It’s a school that teaches everything from broadcast journalism, graphic design and animation to digital marketing, deeJaying, performing arts, music production and sound engineering.
It’s a school, Mr Mukoma says, that’s meant to fill in the gap between the theory that media students acquire in school and the practical skills that are required out in the real world.
“We also aim to nurture young people’s talents in a wide range of fields,” he adds.
Admitting he personally never went to a media college, he says that didn’t stop him from starting Talanta.
“What I’ve seen is that young people need hands-on experience, and that’s what we give them at Talanta,” says the former photographer and videographer who actually started off in the hospitality field once he found his way to Nairobi.
“I’d gotten a good job as a waiter at a leading restaurant in town,” he recalls, having been taught by former Utalii College lecturers at the Career Training Centre (CTC) where he was pursuing a course in hospitality.
“But I only lasted three months (as a waiter) since I didn’t get along with one of the managers.”
Fortunately, that’s when he caught up with his former CTC lecturer, Mr Njuguna who was now a freelance photographer needing an assistant.
“It was Njuguna who taught me photography and videography,” says Mr Mukoma who ended up starting a venture known as Creative Studio based at Anniversary Towers, Nairobi, with Mr Njuguna. They filmed weddings and all sorts of events. They even created content for television.
One day one of their clients wanted Mr Mukoma to make music videos for their church.
“That’s when we started making videos for Esther Wahome and other local gospel singers,” he says.
He won Groove awards working with Ms Wahome. He also won accolades making patriotic music videos with Eunice Njeri who sang Kenya Pamoja during Kenya’s darkest hours of post-election violence in 2008.
By that time, Mr Mukoma had already set up his own company called Princecam Media.
“I named it that way because I was known as Prince at the time and I was never without my camera,” explains the father of two, a boy and a girl.
Still friends with Mr Njuguna, Mr Mukoma set up shop in his friend’s basement at Anniversary Towers.
“We had many interns working with us at the time. Most of them were either university or college students that I had to train since they had the theory but no practical skills.”
That’s when he realized that in spite of not having much money, he had cultural capital and saleable knowledge.
Princecam had already begun training raw talent in photography, video and editing. But he realized that there was so much more involved in making music videos. Issues related to costuming, hair, make-up and presentation generally led him to see that the whole field of media was far more multifaceted. Thus, the company was rebranded in 2017. And that’s when the Talanta Institute was born.
Currently, Talanta is based on the ninth floor of Nairobi’s Ambank House, across from Kenya Methodist University. But from the look of the numbers and the enthusiasm of the students, the Institute seems it could soon burst at the seams.
What’s more, the courses being taught in response to students’ demands are growing. For instance, Joseph Ochieng who heads Talanta’s performing arts department also teaches contemporary dance and Joash Ouma is busy teaching modeling.
“One student said he just joined us because he loved the name of the school. Talanta is what he knows he has but he wants us to help him nurture that talent, which is what we’re here for,” Mr Mukoma adds.