Today on Man Around Nairobi we feature Charles Righa aka Rigga. Charles Righa is a recording & performing artiste. He is an eclectic musician known for rapping, singing, songwriting and most recently for music production. Throughout his career, Rigga has been able to record and release two full-length albums (The Awakening in 2007 & Urban Prayers in 2012), two E.P projects (Chumbani E.P. in 2017 & Undugu E.P. in 2018) as well as numerous mixtapes and singles either by himself or in collaboration with other artistes. Mics And Beats: Charles Righa Aka Rigga
Rigga has also had the privilege of performing live both locally (in Kenya) and abroad; doing shows in Nairobi, Kampala (Uganda), Gaborone (Botswana), Brussels (Belgium) & Glasgow (Scotland). Most recently, in March 2017, he held his own event dubbed “Rigga Live” in Nairobi. Artistes associated with Rigga include: Kanjii Mbugua, Atemi Oyungu, Neema Ntalel, Astar, Noel Nderitu, Lisa Oduor-Noah, Dan ‘Chizi’ Aceda, Kato Change, Webi, Shamsi Music, Mayonde, Kendi Nkonge, Nasara, Noiz and a host of others.
Did you grow up in Nairobi?
I did grow up in Nairobi, well at least for the larger part of my formative years. I lived out of the country for a few of those years owing to my Mom’s job. So for the years that I did spend in Nairobi, we lived in Parklands and Ayany Estate, Kibera.
Parklands was great when I was in primary school. We stayed in an apartment complex with many flats (near where The Oval currently is). Thankfully there were a number kids my age to play with. Though I occasionally went out to socialize with my age mates, I spent most of my time indoors. I guess I’ve always been more of an introvert. I would watch TV and play board games with my elder cousins. I was quite at peace within the house. By the time I was in high school, many families in the neighbourhood moved away. Shortly after, we did we too.
Ayany Estate was a completely different experience. I’m thankful that the neighbors who were my age (mainly girls at first) were nice enough to draw me out of my shell and welcome me to the hood. School holidays were filled with random activity: “twende tuone nani”, “tukule lunch kwa akina nani” or “court flani iko na manzi msawa… sisi hao!” I made many friends and even discovered my love for music there. My first music producer was my neighbor! Though I live elsewhere now, Ayany Estate Kibera still holds a special place in my heart! Namba nane baby!
What you love about Nairobi?
I’ve visited and lived in many cities in the world but I absolutely love Nairobi over all the places I’ve been to. For many reasons:
I love the energy and pace of Nairobi. Everybody’s working hard and always in a hurry (even when they aren’t). There something I like about that internal drive that Nairobians have. Whenever I’m in the countryside or in another city in the world where that fast-paced drive isn’t there, I feel strange… uncomfortable even.
I also love how cosmopolitan Nairobi is. It’s a melting pot of many global cultural influences. There are people from all over the world here. In my city! That’s awesome! Check out Rigga’s video – Lovin254Always [Official Video]
When it comes to my work, I absolutely love the fact that Nairobi is littered with opportunities. Straight out of high school, things worked out that I was able to get commercial “gigs” (like voice-over work for radio advertisements and such) based me exploring my artistic gifts (rapping and singing). At that time, I hadn’t thought that my passion projects would open doors for me to do other income generating work. People either heard my music on the radio or saw me perform and that was enough to get my foot in the door.
Granted that it has been some time since I first started out in music and the landscape of the arts and entertainment scene in Nairobi has changed somewhat. There are lots more young people who are super talented and passionate about their artistic gifts. Yes, that does mean that art as a career is that much more competitive now. But it also means (I hope) that the general quality of art and entertainment in Nairobi is raised. For example, when I started out in the early 2000s, there were few reputable instrumentalists. We knew them by name. Today, there is always a tight band mushrooming somewhere in the city. It’s encouraging that the entertainment scene has grown so much.
This growth is partly owed to how “digital” everything has become in this city. Kenyans are always online and exposed to great content from both here and abroad. This has forced us to raise the standard of our creations and opened up opportunities that creatives didn’t have before. We must NEVER take Nairobi’s (and Kenya’s) internet connectivity for granted. I’ve been privileged to travel to other African countries and realized that our internet speeds and accessibility are a blessing. It’s such a key resource for how we do business. I learned how to produce music from YouTube tutorials from the comfort of my home. I recently performed at Africa’s first online pop-up concert (The Mookh Fest)… such platforms would not be possible without our internet connectivity. This is an exciting time to be a creative in this city. I’m convinced that Nairobi is the place to be!
What would you change about Nairobi?
Nairobi does have its fair share of challenges. The one that pains me the most is the insane traffic. The citizens of this great city spend way too much time commuting from one place to the next. A drive at 2 AM will show you how quickly you can get across this city. That same journey during the day would probably take you most of the day. NKT. Clearly, traffic is an issue that pains many of us Nairobians.
In regarding my work as an entertainer based in Nairobi, there are a few things I would love to see change: having travelled to other cities in Africa, I’m absolutely blown away by how much the local population supports their own art and artistes. Please don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed the love and support of countless Kenyans without whom I wouldn’t have made it this far. I appreciate this very very much. But I also must admit that we do have some room to grow. It would be awesome to see Kenyan acts pack out stadiums. It would be awesome if we showed just as much love (if not more) to our homegrown heroes than the foreign celebrities who headline big shows here in Nairobi. Let’s buy the music from our talented Kenyan artistes as well. We love and appreciate the foreign superstars but I believe we must equally build and appreciate our own. Though we have some ways to go, I’m encouraged that we’re heading there.
I’d also love it if we had a bigger live event culture in Nairobi. For example, in neighboring Kampala, It’s not uncommon to have packed out concert events on random days like a Monday or Tuesday. In Nairobi, I’ve seen and experienced that putting together concerts is tedious work. And it’s even more tedious ensuring that you have a sizable crowd at your event. I’ll continue holding my own events and supporting those of my fellow Kenyan creatives. It’s the only way we’ll build the culture of appreciating Kenyan art.
As a professional how is it working in Nairobi? Is Nairobi open to what you do or what could be better?
This is very much tied to the responses I’ve given earlier. I love working in this city. The opportunities it affords me to reach audiences in Kenya and across the world (as earlier shown through our internet connectivity) is priceless. Over the years, I’ve been able to make great contacts, meet many gifted people and interact with their work. The creativity here has both challenged and inspired me. Add the “pressure-cooker-like” hustle and bustle of the city and you can’t help but get off your behind and create… you can’t help but move!
As a recording/performing artiste and music producer, Nairobi is definitely the place to be! There’s lots of talent in this city and the entertainment scene is always abuzz with activity. I’m able to get gigs, organize shows, collaborate on recording projects with other creatives, and also get inspiration from the cultural energy of the city. Nairobi is a hub of afro-urban culture. Though there may be a few challenges, I couldn’t imagine myself doing what I do, anywhere else in the world.
Nairobi and its citizens are open and supportive to the arts and entertainment. I mean, how else do we decompress from our busy stressful lives? The need for art and beauty will always be there and I’m glad that I can play my part to create it right here.
Maybe one more thing that I didn’t mention earlier, is that it would be better if we had many more live performance facilities in the city. It’s my view that our performance venues in Nairobi are limited. We could use a few more Theaters and Concert Halls.
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?
Make sure you come to Nairobi, the only city in the world with a national park within city limits. A unique opportunity to experience a variety of wildlife without leaving the city.
Nairobi city is beautiful, both during the day and at night. There’s always lots to see and do. Dine at restaurants with world-class local and international cuisine, visit museums and art galleries that paint a picture of the rich cultural heritage of Kenya.
And finally, come to see me perform at my live show (as well as experience other amazing performers from the city of Nairobi do their thing).