Every other week we have our Mics And Beats segment where we feature a musician. Our musician this week is Patrick Eugene Njuguna aka Patoh Njuguna. Patrick Njuguna is a songwriter, singer and guitarist. He plays basic piano and he is learning saxophone as well. He holds a Diploma in Business and Technology (BTec) in Music from Brookhouse School. He teaches guitar and vocals.
Patoh says his story resembles many other singers. He started singing when he was young (probably 10) in church. His mother was a very active cantor in their church choir when she was pregnant with him and he says he thinks he used to harmonize her songs from inside her womb. Patoh says he can’t remember a time in life when he didn’t like singing. He wrote his first song when he was about 10 and hasn’t stopped writing since then. He is now on his 200’s song and counting.
Patoh recorded and released an album titled ‘My inspiration, my paradise’in 2010-2011 which you can download at http://mdundo.com/a/7391. After releasing the album he joined Brookhouse to study Btec in Music for 2 years. He then worked at Brookhouse for another 2 years as a Tech Engineer. When the two years were done he hooked up with Eric Wainaina and together with P-Unit member Frasha to record his first collabo’Disco‘.
On 22nd April 2016 Patoh released his first release from his upcoming sophomore album, Nyani Ya Rongai. More songs are in store!
When and why did you start singing?
I started singing professionally once I was done with high school in 2009 because of the encouragement I got from my family to record the songs I had been writing since I was young. Immediately after high school, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life but thankfully I was guided in the right direction. My first love is football though.
Which instruments do you play (if any)?
My first instrument was a recorder then voice both of which I started playing in primary school. I went on to learn the guitar in high school and it shaped my songwriting throughout that phase of my life. At Brookhouse, I taught myself how to play the piano for songwriting purposes. I’m learning the saxophone.
Do you have a formal musical education?
Yes. I have a formal education. I studied music in high school and went on to study Business and Technology (BTEC) in Music at Brookhouse. I however feel I still have a very long way to go. I also did a short stint at Sauti Academy.
Thinking back to early childhood what was your first experience with music for the first time like? What song/s do you remember most as a child?
I remember my mother and aunt listening to country music on Saturday mornings as they did their chores in my grandfather’s house where I lived for my first 9 years or so. I remember well songs by Kenny Rodgers, Jim Reeves, Dolly Parton and the likes. Those songs have shaped my songwriting and singing styles. My favourite song from that time was ‘Love is strange’ by Dolly Parton and Kenny Rodgers.
What musical influences did you have as a child?
My all-time greatest is E-Sir! He was a genius. I was also inspired by Nameless, Redsan, Necessary Noise and Prezzo – I knew ‘Mafans’ better
than my times’ table (don’t tell my mum). From the international scene, Kenny Rodgers and Dolly Parton were my favourites. I also admired Phil
Collins, Bob Marley, Jenifer Lopez, Ja Rule and Puff Daddy.
How is the music different from what you listen to now?
I don’t think there’s much difference. I don’t have a very wide playlist. I still like listening to the oldies and I still love Kenyan music! Now I like listening to the new artists who top our charts like; P-Unit, Kenrazy, Kansoul, Gish plus others like JIVU, Lyrical Ill, Cara Feral Steve Urban and I’m a big fan of Anje.
What made you first realize that you wanted to pursue a career in music?
My family. My mother, sister, brother and particular aunts and uncles. As I had mentioned I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after high school. ‘They discovered me.’ I knew I loved singing and writing songs but I never planned to go professional. They pushed me to record my first album and I haven’t looked back since.
Who are your favourite musicians now? Groups? CD’s?
Locally, Sauti Sol, Eric Wainaina, Kenrazy, Visita, Kaka, Octopizzo and Khaligraph Jones. In the diaspora I go with Phil Collins as my ultimate song writing inspiration. My favourite record is a merger of all three Sauti Sol albums. (EP not included)
How do you handle mistakes during a performance?
Mistakes? There are never mistakes, just a difference in the performance!
I’m a new artist and I have I haven’t performed as much as I would like to but I’ve had my share of mistakes. The worst was when a band I had hired completely forgot my song and made a complete mess of it. I just kept singing, forced a song out of the chaos and gave a fake smile hoping no one could read my emotions. I believe that every mistake should be handled differently though, sometimes you have to turn to your band if it’s their fault and tell them to get their act right or leave!
What advice would you give to beginners who are nervous?
Being nervous before a performance means you know where you’re going,
to work! Whenever you have new employment you are nervous on your first day and so are you when you join a new class. Musicians get new employers every time they go on stage and they have to impress on their first day or lose their job so it makes sense to be nervous. However that nervousness on stage should be converted into excitement by tapping into your adrenaline – everyone has their way of doing it. My advice is to embrace the nervousness and convert it into an outburst of expression on stage.
How often and for how long do you practice?
I sing daily for an hour. I play the guitar for about the same time as well. I’m way below what I should be doing though. I’d like to be able to be practising the guitar for up to 6 hours a day and singing for two. That’s my end-of-year target.
Do you mentor any musicians?
Yes, I do. I’ve been helping out musicians since I was in high school. One of my friends who I taught guitar for a while has become way better than me and that makes me proud. I love teaching guitar and songwriting to new artists who have the passion to learn.
Your song Disco is one of my favourite jams. What inspired you to write that song?
I’m the originator of Disco. The original song was a romantic mellow song that was inspired by the beauty of my then-girlfriend, now fiancée. I wrote it as a proposal (not a marriage proposal). “If you be my Disco I’ll be your Dancefloor.” At the time I wrote the song, we were learning about ‘Object Writing’ in our songwriting class at Brookhouse with Eric Wainaina and so I wanted to put it into practice; hence the vast use of symbolism. When Eric and Frasha came on board we changed the song to be a proposal sensitized by dance and funky disco music.
How was it working with Eric Wainaina?
It was great working with Eric! He is a genius! Eric is very humble; he listens, appreciates and is honest. He is also very talented musically. He changed around some of the chords and gave it a happier feeling. He also introduced me to Will Kennedy, a producer based in Los Angeles who made Disco what it is now. Eric gave me a lot of advice as we carried on with our project and as we did the radio interviews he kept encouraging me not to be afraid. I’m still in touch with him and he still gives me tips on what to do and what to avoid.
How would you describe your music to somebody who has never heard you sing before?
I simply express messages in song! I first have the message I’d like to convey ready then I choose the best genre to sing it in. For example: In my new release ‘Nyani ya Rongai,’ the message is best described with a bit of attitude and so I chose a hip-hop beat to do that. If I need to rap to put my message across, I will rap but if it can be done through singing I’d prefer that.
What can people expect to see at your live performance?
What I can promise for now is that you will hear a voice like no other. The rest will be a surprise!
Out of the songs you have performed which is your favourite song?
My favourite song is a song I wrote to my girlfriend in 2012 titled, ‘It’s You.’ I’m yet to record it but it should be one of the ones that feature in my upcoming sophomore album. I love it because it tells the real story of how I had a crush on someone else but in the end, I choose my girlfriend, even though my crush is making advances.
What do you think your biggest break or greatest opportunity has been so far in your musical career?
I don’t think I’ve had my big break yet. The song with Eric and Frasha
was my greatest opportunity yet but I still think my big break is yet to come. Hopefully, it will be my new release Nyani ya Rongai. Disco has put me in an advanced position though, I can’t deny that.
How much creative control do you have over what you perform?
When I am with my band I tell them exactly what I want to hear. Same with my producer in the studio. I’m always open to suggestions though.
Do you write your own music?
Yes. I write my own music. I’d like to try out writing for other people and singing songs written by someone else though.
If you had a chance to change something in the music industry what would it be?
The amount of money professional musicians are paid. I don’t believe anyone should do anything solely for money but I believe music is good
business. We spend hundreds of thousands to record songs and shoot videos so it’s only fair that what we are paid matches our investment. Only a handful of musicians are enjoying the fruits of hard work. A very big number are left discouraged and talent in turn is being wasted.
Have you ever performed with a band/group? What are the lessons you have learnt being part of a group?
I’ve been in a band. The biggest lesson I learnt is punctuality. A lot went wrong because of the lack of punctuality by me and the rest of the band.
Patience as well is needed; every band member has their own speed in understanding and so you have to be patient with all.
Also, remember that no one, not even you, can concentrate on one thing for more than two hours straight. Give breaks and deserved rests.
What is your favourite type of music and is it different from what you play now?
I don’t have a favourite type of music. I listen to whatever my mood calls for. I write the same way.
What are your other interests outside of music? What do you do to relax outside of music?
Football is my first love! I love playing it and watching people play – on TV or even on the streets. I watch movies to relax but I’m not a big fan of them.
What keeps you going as a musician?
The hope that one day people will be able to sing my songs like they used to sing E-sir’s Boomba Train. Also, I am a full-time musician now so my
rent and sustenance depend on the music.
You are a young musician in the industry who has managed to feature 2 well-known musicians in your first single. What advice would you give young musicians who are trying to break through?
First of all, it is important to build a character before joining the industry. Know your limits, strengths, and weakness and how to handle them all before throwing yourself into this ocean otherwise you will lose yourself completely.
Always remember where you’re from and stay humble. Just because your song has 1 million views on YouTube or your page has 50,000 Likes on Facebook doesn’t mean you are suddenly better than your mother who brought you up from scratch; or your father who has been there for probably double your age. Pray to God for humility – it doesn’t come from our own strength.
Never give up! The first steps are always hard and you’ll be broke for a long time, but don’t give up. People will give all sorts of ideas, pick the ones that suit who you are and rubbish the ones that require you to drop your authenticity.
Finally, rewards will come if you are patient. Don’t do anything just to get famous! You will kill your conscience and lose your humanity.
Where would you like to see yourself within the next five years as an artist?
Five years is not a long time. I’d like by then to be a known and respected artist in the East African region. I’d like to have a performance set that makes people get goosebumps and be able to play violin and saxophone well enough for performance.
What are your long-term career goals?
I’d like to one day open a big music school and hire qualified teachers to teach musicians with a passion for music. I’d also like to be a performer bigger than Michael Jackson and with more emotion than Phil Collins. I’d like to perform at Madison Square Garden and all other big arenas and maybe win myself a Grammy.
If you were to perform with anybody/group in the world, either dead or alive who would it be? (You can name a couple of people)
E-sir and Phil Collins. On different stages.
You have just released a new song. What is it about?
Nyani ya Rongai is the title for my new song. ‘Nyani’ is a Swahili word for a baboon. The other two words, ‘Ya’ and ‘Rongai’ vaguely mean ‘From Rongai.’ These baboons aren’t originally from Rongai though. They are from the serene Nairobi National Park but often escape to the neighbouring residential areas including Rongai. They leave the security and comfort of the park in search of adventure and sometimes diet variety. In their escapades, they’ve been alleged to have stolen from residents – foodstuffs, clothes, and cigarettes among other things.
My first contact with a Nyani ya Rongai was when I was still at Brookhouse. I watched it snatch a full shopping bag from a lady, take the bananas and snacks that were inside and … walk away like a boss!
In the song, a Nyani ya Rongai (NyR) means someone not afraid to live outside their comfort zone. Someone who believes that the struggle is most necessary; someone courageous enough to shout out together with me in their weak moments – ‘Don’t worry about me! I’ll be fine!’ ‘Mi ni Nyani ya Rongai!’. You can download it here.
What are your up-to-date performance plans? New releases? Tours? News
I’m in the process of shooting the video for Nyani Ya Rongai. It should be out in a few days. Right now I’m focusing on recording and releasing as many songs as possible. I haven’t yet scheduled my performance dates though you can stay updated by visiting my Facebook page: Patoh Njuguna or through my Twitter account @thePatohNjuguna.