Daring, courageous and driven by passion.
This description aptly fits a fast-rising one-man-band artiste who is slowly making inroads in the traditionally conservative Isiolo County with live music shows.
Muniu Muchai is a common name for lovers of reggae, mugithi and rhumba in Isiolo town.
His performances, which fall under the increasingly popular ‘one-man-guitar’ genre, are so captivating that revellers jam-pack every event where he is expected on stage.
His slightly dark complexion, distinctive voice and height make many to mistake him for popular Kikuyu benga star Samidoh.
And while he was a lover of music from childhood, influenced by his grandfather, who played the guitar, the 29-year-old artiste recorded his first gospel song, ‘It’s a New Day’, in 2011 while in high school.
He, however, ran into a major setback.
“The gospel song, which had a reggae beat, did not do well and I was so discouraged that I decided to quit,” he recalls.
Nearly 10 years later and after completing a diploma course in journalism and mass communication, he made a comeback but this time, in a different style (as a one-man-guitar artiste) and with more zeal and dedication.
“I attended a show by Jose Gatutura on December 23, 2019, about six months after coming to Isiolo and felt inside me a push to do something,” the artiste said during an interview with the Nation.
The humorous but rather bold artiste decided not travel to his Subukia backyard in Nakuru County for the Christmas festivities and used the money he had saved to buy a Sh7,500 acoustic guitar.
“I realised there was no one doing live music in Isiolo and did not want to sit back and watch another person grab the opportunity. I bought an acoustic guitar on Christmas day, though I did not know how to play it,” said Muchai.
Since he had no money for guitar lessons, he decided to try YouTube lessons and, through tutorials, he learnt chord structures, music theory, finger positioning, strumming patterns and how to tune the guitar properly. He also learnt how to play a piano and drum set.
It took him six months to learn how to play the guitar and, even before he could perfect his skills, Muchai set out for the market, which he says was too hostile to navigate.
His first performance at one of the popular hotels in Isiolo would turn out to be his most embarrassing experience after he was ejected from the stage after performing for only 20 minutes.
“My guitar had some issues with pick-ability and the sound that was being projected to the output speakers was poor. It was quite embarrassing being thrown out of the stage and getting paid a paltry Sh500,” he said.
But unlike before, the ordeal encouraged him to buy an electric guitar and practise more.
With more practice and sometimes even doing free shows, Muchai soon became a major hit with local hotels and entertainment joints.
Later, a hotelier approached him for a deal that has been on since last December.
“I performed for one week during the Christmas period and that made me so happy. I never thought people would embrace one-man-guitar music that fast,” he said.
The artiste, whose favourite song is ‘Ndaya’ by Mpongo Love, says apart from entertainment, music is therapeutic as it enhances physical, psychological and emotional wellness.
Live shows, he says, are better than recorded songs as one gets instant feedback from the audience, which helps an artiste get better with every performance.
His hourly performances range between Sh4,000 and Sh10,000 depending on the event.
Ms Basra Abdullahi, one of his fans, said Muchai’s style is fascinating, adding that he is slowly making inroads in the county.
“I used to go to Meru and even Nairobi for mugithi but that is now being offered closer home by Muchai. I just love the way he plays the guitar and his voice is amazing,” she told Nation.Africa.
The artiste says it has been tough for him as business has been slow in the coronavirus period. He is, however, optimistic that things will soon get back to normal.
“I am still watching tutorials to improve my skills as learning is a process. Let young people get out of their comfort zone and do something. It is all about hard work and passion,” said the artiste who is already working on a new song.