Tha Movement Band is an instrumental band of 6 members that began performing in 2011. They have made their way to the main stage with performances alongside numerous big names and international stars. They are well known for their collaborations with artists such as Swiga, STL, Mercy Masika, Ayrosh and others. Their come up is a story of blood, sweat and tears as the band dedicates energy and money into their craft.
This young group of men are passionate about their craft and hope that it emulates in their upcoming album. They have a single off the album out called Java Love and are currently in the final stages of their album. I attended one of their gigs at J’s Restaurant where I got to meet the band. Let’s find out more about them.
Please introduce your names and the instrument you play.
Nelfrey: My name is Nelfrey Ongeri. I play the violin and vocals.
Jay: My name Justice Paul Ayenga aka J.P Ayenga and I play the Bass guitar.
Arthur: My name is Arthur and I play the drums and vocals.
Robin: I am Robin and I play the saxophone.
What’s the name of the band and how did you come up with it?
Arthur: So, we started playing for so many artists as a band, as The Movement so we decided to make it official. Then we were at Westgate where we met Ayrosh and people were asking us who were we so we had to form social media accounts there and then. We ingiad online tukapata The Movement was taken so we settled on Tha Movement.
Robin: We are trying to change the mentality towards bands. We’re trying to move the industry.
Nelfrey: In Kenya, I realized Kenyans don’t really appreciate good music. Like, music was taken out of the syllabus. Guys are like Kenyan music is mediocre yet they don’t understand what they mean. So, we’re trying to bring back that real Kenyan music.
How did you meet and long have you known each other?
Robin: It’s been three years.
Arthur: Funny thing is, there’s a guy called Chief. JP was walking in town then Chief stopped him and asked if he plays any instruments then they linked up. From there he met Joe, our keyboardist and I knew Joe from primary school. Then, Joe knew this guy from Sauti Academy. So, JP and Chief brought the band together.
Jay: The first project we did was for 125 that was before sax and violin came in. So, during the KFC launch gig at Westgate, that’s when we met the rest.
Nelfrey: For me, an artist called Swiga invited me when the band was playing for him. That is when I joined them.
What inspires you every day to do music and not anything else?
Robin: It’s something everyone loves. It’s a basic need. Actually, it should be one of the basic needs. It’s therapy for us.
How would you describe your genre of music?
Arthur: It’s a fusion of everything because first of all, we are 6 individuals in the band. Everyone here has his own idea of music so bringing six ideas together changes things.
Jay: For instance, you’ll find all types of music in our upcoming album. You’ll find reggae, kwaito, mugithii…everything. But our song ‘Java Love’ we dubbed it as Afro-acoustic but that’s just one song.
Nelfrey: We haven’t found the word for the type of music we make. We’ll look for it.
Jay: I think it chose me. I started in the church where I played keys and sang then I saw someone play the bass guitar and I thought it was lovely. I loved the way it sounds, then I was inspired by a musician called Abraham Laboriel, my mentor Isaac Khakula and Harry Kimani.
Arthur: I don’t want to be a cliché and say it chose me but it did because my first instrument was the clarinet. I played it for a few years but I always liked drumming on tables so my dad was like you should try drumming. I was reluctant but after the first lesson that was it.
Nelfrey: I went to this gig when I was in high school when I saw Scott the Violinist and I was like huyu msee ni mnoma. So, I challenged myself. I hustled to get a violin and lessons. It’s been a journey.
What are your most memorable performances as a band?
Arthur: That’s a tricky one. All of them have been memorable.
Jay: I think It’s Big by Sportpesa was one of one best performance. We played with STL at Nyayo stadium. That was fun. Drum Jam was also fun because that was what defined us and when we opened for Joe Stone barely a year old as a band then it shocked everybody like who are these guys who are opening for a Grammy award winner. We try to make all our performances memorable and all.
Nelfrey: Folk Fusion was a great gig for me because it was very intimate. The crowd is right there.
What demotivates you?
Jay: Feedback is an important thing. You know people come to your event, you’ve played your best and nobody says anything.
Nelfrey: I would say, respect. On that aspect on why we are Tha Movement, it’s because in the industry instrumentalists are not respected. Sometimes, people when they hire us they’re like why do we need a violinist. We can just get drum, bass and vocals. So, people should see our value as a band and understand why they’re paying a certain amount.
Jay: What also demotivates us is our fellow musicians, the veteran musicians. They can call you for a gig, they pay you peanuts or don’t pay at all. Generally, people who don’t pay us. There’s a top organizer who hasn’t paid us for two years. These guys had to skip exams to play and she didn’t pay us. They try to tell you this is how the industry is that you have to start from there. By the way, we didn’t start small. We heavily invested in our music and still invest in it and our brand. We want to see musicians prosper. That’s the movement. It’s been done in South Africa and it can be done here. We want the culture that was in the 80’s and 90’s when artists used to travel with their bands. The gospel scene is trying.
Arthur: Fela (Kuti) used to fill a plane. Like, a guy goes to play a triangle the entire show and he has to go.
Who are some of the people you want to collaborate with?
Arthur: J. Cole, Octopizzo, and Khaligraph.
So, mostly hip-hop?
Jay: Not necessarily. We also want to collaborate with other bands. Like our brother bands Ecclectic, Shamzi Music, Nairobi Horns, Thread Band and even instrumentalists like Vaseke, Tito and others. We don’t want it to be just about the people who sing, but also the people behind the music.
Do you do covers or just your music during gigs?
Arthur: We do cover. Kwanza, we do mixes. Like live DJ sets integrated with our own music. We play along with DJs.
Do you have any upcoming gigs?
Jay: We have a Facebook page where we keep our fans updated on events. We also have weddings that we are performing at, then we will have our own concert end of November or early December for our album launch and a listening party.
So, what are the main topics in your songs?
Nelfrey: We talk about life. Like we have a song called Black Lives that talks about the killings of black people majuu. Yes, if anything happens right now we’ll sing about it. If politicians keep joking, we’ll chuck a political song but we don’t do political songs. We’ll fight for bands. (laughs)
Arthur: Our upcoming album is mostly feel-good vibes, songs you can listen to when you’re bored or driving.
Do you have a record label or do you self-promote?
Arthur: The Movement Entertainment. We are currently collaborating with Snowball Studios.
How can your fans get your music?
Arthur: Our website is still under construction but you can find our music on Soundcloud, Skiza, Amazon, Boomplay, or iTunes. If you google Tha Movement, you’ll find us everywhere. Except for Mdundo, not yet.
What are your future plans?
Jay: We want somewhere we can throw gigs where neighbors won’t call the cops on us and our movement to continue 50 years later. We also want our own club and to have more albums
Nelfrey: We want to make timeless music.
Arthur: We want Tha Movement to be a respected name in the industry
I’m a content writer, bibliophile and travel enthusiast. I have worked in the digital space for over 5 years which has exposed me to a variety of lifestyle topics and peeked my interests in beauty, fashion, travel and wellness.