Today on Mics And Beats we have Mwai and The Truth. Mwai and The Truth will be performing tonight at the Safaricom Jazz Festival. The Truth was birthed in 2013 as an offshoot from the original duo of Chris Bittok and Mwai Lawrence called “Double Take”.
At the helm of The Truth is Mwai Lawrence. As a founder member of Spot On! Solutions – the parent company they formed to handle business – he has been involved in different facets of the entertainment industry from performance, production, management, and has also built a vast network of choice artists, producers, managers, promoters, agents, venues, and technical service providers locally.
The Truth specialises on live performance. At the core of The Truth is the passion and expertise of stage performance by Mwai Lawrence and Crew.
The Truth has five band members.
Mwai Lawrence – Band Leader and owner of the brand
Ephie Shitakwa – Lead Singer
Tugi Mulamba – Lead Guitarist
Caleb Kyalo – Bass Guitarist
David Mwando – Drummer
When and why did you start playing/singing? Which instruments do you play (if any)?
I started playing piano from childhood. My dad had a piano and learning it was not an option but a requirement. So yes, all my siblings also play.
What musical influences did you guys have as children?
I was started off at an early age on a diet of classical music and training, as influenced by my dad, then everything else kind of metamorphosed from there. There’s the Nairobi School Band influence, and then there’s the influence after I started playing regularly all over Nairobi.
Currently The Truth is a relatively new outfit, as a unit, but the members have been playing with different people for a long time, then we joined up in the last 6 months or so – long story.
How is the music different from what you listen to now?
Music is always changing and every generation says “nowadays they just don’t make good music anymore.” I try to keep an open mind, but it’s difficult to change once tastes have been defined.
Who are your favourite musicians now? Groups? CD’s?
Michael Jackson…just to mention a few.
I like a wide variety of artists, acts and albums. Depends on what I’m feeling at that particular period.
How do you handle mistakes during a performance?
Once you are on stage there’s no time to fret about mistakes unless they are extremely glaring – which will have been handled during rehearsals. When we start, we go till the end and make notes of the mistakes so as not to repeat them. Back to working out mistakes at rehearsals.
What advice would you give to beginners who are nervous?
Listening is a huge part of learning. Listen to more complex genres and learn from that so that the easier style of music becomes a breeze. Work your craft to a point where nervousness is not an issue. Nervousness comes from knowing that you are not prepared enough.
How often and for how long do you practice?
Twice a week for about three hours per session.
How would you describe your music to somebody who has never heard you play before?
We do not play one type of genre so it’s kind of difficult to box our style. Maybe I could say versatile… And wholesome.
What can people expect to see at your live performance?
All round enjoyment of what we shall serve up on stage.
Out of the songs you have performed which is your favourite song? (If you have your own music which song of yours)
That’s a difficult one – we have a very wide repertoire and favourites are just as many. I could not for the life of me pick one out because each song serves it’s own purpose at the point we play it.
Currently we have 2 singles; Inspired and Monday Morning.
What do you think your biggest break or greatest opportunity has been so far in your musical career?
They’ve been a few here and there, but I would say playing at The Safaricom Jazz Festival definitely ranks up there as one of the best ones.
You have been chosen to be play as opening act for Hugh Masekela? Are you guys excited?
Grateful and happy to have an opportunity to showcase on such a platform.
What did you guys do when you realized you had been chosen to be one of the Kenyan bands performing for the 2016-2017 Safaricom Jazz circuit?
We immediately intensified the rehearsals. No room for unforced errors at this level.
How much creative control do you have over what you perform?
We are careful to play what works depending on the audience, vis-à-vis what we know we can deliver properly.
Do you guys write your own music?
Yes. Currently we have 2 singles out.
Are you mentoring any young musicians?
Every time an opportunity to mentor arises, we are more than happy to participate.
If you had a chance to change something in the music industry what would it be?
That’s a tough one…hard to talk about one thing outside of other things because so much ties in together and affects everything else.
Were you in another band/s before you started your band? How was it?
I’ve been performing for more than 15 years. Sometimes solo, as a duo, trio etc. Many times I would simply put together musicians as the need arises, and do the show. For the longest time we didn’t even have a name per se. So I have played with many people. The current team I mentioned earlier is the latest.
What are the lessons you have learnt being part of a band?
How to handle talented people
Are there challenges of being Jazz musicians in Kenya?
Jazz is a tough genre because of the sophistication of the music. I could say that there aren’t really any musicians in Kenya who strictly only serve up Jazz because of this reason. You have to find a balance and try to appeal to a wider audience. Because fact of the matter, music is a mass market product and your biggest consumer is a lay man, so it’s up to you the trained one to find a way to make your music palatable and enjoyable, otherwise you end up playing for nobody.
What is your favourite type of music and is it different from what you play now?
Again like I said earlier, it depends on the mood at any particular point. I like practically all types of music – except hard rock and metal. Though every so often I do come across a track I like.