You might be forgiven to remember Angela Ndambuki as a member of the heyday girl-band, Tatuu. But that was many moons ago. Things have happened in her life, important things. She got a Master of Laws in Intellectual Property Law. For eight years, she was the general manager at the Performers Rights Society of Kenya, five of which she was the CEO.
She then joined Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry for an eight-month stint as a CEO. Now she has taken office at the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), you have to be careful how you pronounce that, as a regional director in charge of 46 countries.
IFPI represents record companies globally by promoting the value of music and campaigning for the rights of producers.
She talked to JACKSON BIKO on the phone.
Do you find that no matter what you do, you will always be under the shadow of the musical group Tatuu?
That’s true. It’s funny I was having a discussion with a friend and it’s amazing how Kenyan media will always refer to me as “ex-Tatuu” or “former Tatuu.” I can’t just be my own person even though I have identified myself in many other ways; I have been a lawyer for close to 15 years, for instance. I only sang in the group for a year or two. Perhaps, if not anything else, this shows the power of music.
But you had a great time, I suppose?
One of the best two years of my life. I was young, I had finished university and I have energy. We had a great time. I guess that's what makes me keep going back to music.
What speaks to you the most...if you were told to choose law or music, what would you pick?
To be honest, I wasn’t a singer, I was the songwriter in the group. I loved singing but my passion is in law. But I’m fortunate to have found something to connect the two; music and law and find a way of promoting the industry in different ways.
When your children watch the old videos of your music career, what’s the one question they ask a lot?
For the longest time, they didn’t know I sang in a group. But once they learned that I used to sing they were very excited. They didn’t know that mom was a celebrity. (Laughs)
With that background, I suppose you will be more open to them pursuing the arts when the right time comes?
My little one (7 years) seems to have picked the artistic streak. The older one (13) is big in the sciences. But I guess it’s a journey and they are still discovering where their heart lies. There are many opportunities for them depending on where their passion.
What title do you define yourself with the most?
I’m a mother. I’m a wife. I’m a believer. I have a great passion for intellectual property law and advocacy issues. And I'm keen on making a difference in the world, be it in the music industry or the lives of those I meet.
What did you do lately that you felt made a difference in the world?
I think part of my work is already so impactful. When I entered the chamber of commerce, especially with the new leadership, we assisted business by putting the relevant programmes in place. Last year, for instance, in the partnership with Equity Bank, we set up a Sh200 billion fund that enabled members, mostly small businesses, to access these funds and grow.
What is the one question you are currently struggling to answer in your life?
What the greater purpose in life is. Where do we end up eventually? There is so much spiritual understanding, but also so little of it, how everything connects. You wonder about humanity; why do certain people do things that they do? Why are some people malicious and nasty? Why do some people do good? Why is there evil and good?
Have you stumbled on your purpose?
Everything I do is purposeful. Part of what I’m doing is to go through a greater purpose. I’m happy with what I’ve done in the little spaces I’ve been in; in music, the chamber of commerce, business, and now with what I'm set to be doing in the phonographic industry. Purpose, how I understand it, is about the impact on people's lives.
What have you discovered in your 40s?
I have discovered that things change, even your body. You get more tired as you grow older. (Laughs) I'm also not able to shed weight easily now. They say life begins at 40, well, I don't know about that, but I know that you stress over things less. You have a sense of belonging and drive, life is clearer and you focus more on what you want. Most importantly you have a better and more honest realisation of who you are. Oh, and you ache a lot. (Chuckles)
What are you most insecure about now?
I have a good career going but what I think about more is what the future holds. I think about illness, the uncertainty of life, like what Covid-19 has taught us. These are things I can't control, but they make me insecure.
If it were all to end, what's the time now?... 10.02 am. If it were to all come to an end at 11 am, do you think you'd go to heaven?
(Laughs) I would like to believe so! (Laughs) I would be very surprised if I didn't because I have tried to do right in my life. I don't think my sins are great enough to end up in purgatory. I have done my best to live by His teachings.
Do you find that as you grow older you get more serious or do you loosen up a bit?
(Pause) I find myself more serious when I’m focusing on something important. But at the same time, I have to remind myself not to take myself too seriously. That this is not it. What if life throws me lemons, I have to make lemonade. Also, before I’d approach things with emotion, I find that now my reaction has mellowed.
What were your dreams when you were a teenager?
Sigh. (Pause) Like every teenager, I guess, I wanted to be an air hostess. The lure of flying and seeing faraway foreign lands was very intriguing. Then much later I wanted to be an architect but my KCSE exam results couldn’t let me get in, so I changed options and did law instead. At that time I can't say I was passionate about anything, I was simply going with the flow.
Are you having a good life yourself?
I thank God. He has blessed me. I look around and see His hand in my life. I have a great family. I have great siblings and great friends. I have supportive people around me.
What would you like to come back as in your next life?
I want to come back as me. (Laughs) To be sincere, it’s been a good life, one with challenges, sometimes with hurt and disappointments, but a good one nonetheless.
So you don't want to come back as a bird; free and soaring?
(Laughs) What's the lifespan of a bird? I don’t think birds live long, so no. (Laughs).