We start the New Year with one of the leading music producers, songwriters and recording engineers in Nairobi. Our Man Around Nairobi today is Tim *Timwork Rimbui. Tim Rimbui has a career spanning over 16 yrs and he has a wealth of local and international awards and accolades to his credit. He owns and operates a number of successful music business ventures, including EnnovatorMusic a boutique Audio-Visual production company based in Nairobi, whose work has been seen and heard around the world on projects by Warner Bros, Universal Music Group, BBC, MTV, Endemol Shine Africa, Coke Studio Africa and Ogilvy Africa. He has also worked with several major Kenyan acts that have leaned on his production prowess such as Sauti Sol, Wangechi, King Kaka, Khaligraph, Phy, Eric Wainaina, Atemi, and Mercy Myra to name but a few. Music streaming download service, Waabeh, is also another of Tim’s endeavours where he is one of the co-founders as well as CEO. Tim Rimbui is married to Wandiri Karimi and they have two children.
1. Did you grow up in Nairobi?
Mostly yes, my parents were lecturers so we moved quite a bit. We lived in Kenya Science Teachers college for about 8 years, then JKUAT, then moved back to NBI in the early 90s, So yeah, I spent most of the time here.
Like any other kids growing up in the late 80s and the 90s, the games had nothing to do with technology. Our games were all done outside, anything from shake, futa, (the one made with many polythene bags), adventchaaz (JKUAT was awesome for this), we chased skunks, learnt about vultures, killed snakes and rode bikes. All holidays were spent in Meru and the same thing happened, just in a different county. It is only as I got into my teens that I discovered rugby which I played very briefly in high school.
I have very good memories of my childhood. When I think about it now, it was fun, but at the time, I felt my folks were extremely hard on me more than my other siblings, but having had kids, it’s become rather evident that it was my smart mouth that was always getting me into trouble. Everything about that time seems magical, my dad took us to all the official openings of the malls i.e. Yaya (where I meet my first Kenyan celebrity and took a photo with him, Douglas Wakihuri), and The Mall. There was also always a car-boot sale or church concert happening. My love for books was natured by helping my dad sell them outside the church (he managed to mix up Hardy Boys, Famous Fives and Asterix with the Christian books and sold them at church!!). He was woke, and he never seemed too alarmed about exposing his kids to “the culture”. I also loved going to Piano lessons. How they managed to do all this whilst pretending to create this bubble of fun and security for us, while they were earning very little as university lecturers, Moi’s goons were brutalizing their dissenting colleagues’ privates at Nyayo House…I will never know…
2. What do you love about Nairobi?
I love the people and the hustling spirit found among us. Guys are mostly eager to help and industrious. I no longer love Nairobi. I used to but now I don’t.
3. What would you change about Nairobi?
Infrastructure. It has become increasingly dirty, unsafe, and unhealthy and one gets the feeling they are just a hash-tag away from meeting their maker every day.
Everything here is always marked up 300-4000% compared to the rest of the country, which just makes living here a jungle where anything done for survival can be easily justified as fair game. This line of questioning slowly becomes political and is thus dangerous for my line of business. So please allow me to stop here now, niko na watoi.
4. As a professional how is it working in Nairobi? Is Nairobi open to what you do or what could be better?
Nairobi is actually the only county in the country where I would be able to earn a living and do what I have done for the last 16 years! It is with this regard that I consider myself extremely fortunate and blessed to be able to earn living from the arts. Everyone hoping to succeed in the arts and entertainment businesses (Radio, TV, Film, Writing, Stage etc.) normally have to make the pilgrimage here to kick-start their career.
Sadly laws and incentives for art-based businesses are lacking, permits largely favour foreign crews and which is really actually sad because they really aren’t invested here, or they shoot illegally and disappear, whilst those of us who live and work here are forced to pay for everything even if we don’t see any benefits.
If it was within my power I would use this as an entry point to position Nairobi as the Hollywood of E.Africa by offering incentives to entertainment businesses to set up and operate from here. I would get rid of all the laws that make earning a living as a creative impossible. Then bring a lot of incentives and tax breaks to allow film, and TV to shoot here and undercut the South Africans who have been able to create an entire industry that runs the continent.
5. If you had a tourist friend coming in from outside the country what three things would you say to sell them the idea that Nairobi is worth visiting?
• Nairobi National Park, because a majority of American, EU & Asian tourists have never seen the majesty of the wild, both landscape and animals. We take it for granted.
• Clubbing and experiencing the nightlife in Eastlands. It is a whole other worldly experience; it’s raw, gritty and very authentic. It is something we should all do at the barest minimum, once in our lives
• A visit to either Kosewe’s or Mama Oliech’s for an authentic Kenyan cuisine experience.
• They should also make a visit to Kwani, to buy all their books. Their series of books as well as their shop are a great way to immerse yourself in Kenya’s literary scene.
If you would like to interact with Tim you can find him on Twitter @rimbui.