Long before Eric Wainaina got involved in setting Tinga Tinga Tales to music for the stage, the Dreams in Stereo/Daima musician was dreaming musical theatre.
It might have started while he was singing and acting at St Mary’s School. The seed could also have been sown once he joined the a cappella singing group Five Alive in the 1990s. But certainly, once he went to the US to study song-writing and record-engineering at the world acclaimed Berklee College of Music, Wainaina must have had an inkling that musical theatre was bound to become a path less travelled that he would eventually traverse.
Proof that he was destined to be Kenya’s version of a writer and composer like Rogers and Hammerstein all in one came out in 2009 when his award-winning musical, Mo Faya was staged for record-breaking crowds at the GoDown Art Centre in Nairobi’s Industrial Area. Then when Mo Faya was invited to perform in the New York Musical Theatre Festival in September 2009, Eric was sold out. In fact, his starring role as DJ Lwanga in Mo Faya has stuck with him. So much so that he’s been developing another musical around the DJ ever since. Even now, DJ Lwanga was one of the musical scripts that Eric shared during the recent Third NBO Musical Theatre Initiative Workshop. It was one of 15 musical theatre projects previewed last week that had only one songwriter; Wainaina.
During the workshop’s finale performance one discovered that Wainaina is involved in the creation of four musicals all at once. There’s DJ Lwanda and three more that he’s working on with three different teams. In the black-brown love story, Pani Puri, Eric has teamed up with writer Aleya Kassam and composer Rashab Nandha. Then, in Moonlight he is working with Wacuka Mungai to explore a bit of Nairobi’s musical history by centering their story around the old Starlight Nightclub.
Finally, Wainaina has teamed up with Mugambi Nthiga and Stuart Nash to develop a true story entitled Three-Ten about Pastor Dennis who swindled his flock with a Bible-based scam. The title is derived by Dennis from Malachi Chapter three, verse 10.