At 41, Nairobi senator Edwin Sifuna is still a young man, musically speaking. He is big on mixes by local deejays, idolises GenZ artistes, and he has received a boost towards constructing a recording studio for up-and-coming artistes.
In an interview with Sunday Nation, Senator Sifuna discussed the entertainment scene and other issues.
He has secured the support of EABL to start a studio: One of Sifuna’s pre-election promises was to start a studio for artistes in Nairobi. He says the promise is close to being actualised.
“I remember during the (2022) campaigns, I promised that although senators don’t have a development fund, I am going to try my best to give Nairobi people a gift of a public recording studio for upcoming artistes. And right now, I’m very proud because that journey has begun. I’ve been able to convince Kenya Breweries Limited to sponsor that particular project. We have signed an MoU with them. And we are now in the process of identifying a suitable site for that project to come along. The project is envisaged to be expandable, to encompass or have an art centre, a complete art centre,” he says.
“The public recording studio is free for upcoming artistes. Before you get signed with the likes of King Kaka, we will give you that first opportunity for free,” he says.
He is looking for a famous TikToker to give him a job: Sifuna has for long admired one TikToker, whom we have figured out is Anmbatayr Rambatato, @rambatayan_01, who goes round with a speaker with ready beats for anyone who believes they can rap. This has led to the discovery of talents in the city and the senator wants the TikToker to be at the forefront of the soon-to-be-established studio.
“I want this guy because we are supposed to establish a committee to manage that studio. I want to start with this guy because he has done a lot in terms of unearthing that raw talent,” says Sifuna.
“Essentially, this guy hunts for talent physically. He is a guy I respect a lot because there is a lady he discovered a while back. The lady spit her lines and everyone liked that and she got a contract with King Kaka. So, I am looking for this guy. I want him on the committee to manage this thing, because I think what he has done so far has really helped in terms of identifying talent,” says the senator.
He downloads a DJ mix every Friday: Sifuna happens to be a big fan of a DJ called Redbone, who plies her trade at Homeboyz Radio.
“That girl is good,” he enthuses. “Whenever she has a mix out, I download it (on Mixcloud) immediately.”
DJ Redbone, who has also headlined a number of high-profile shows in the country, is among Kenya’s top-rated female deejays.
He rates Ssaru highly: She is the first one Sifuna – who is also the secretary-general of the Orange Democratic Movement – mentions when asked about his favourite artiste. “Huyo dem ni mbaya (She’s a bad one),” he says. “Ssaru and Khaligraph are the people carrying the industry.”
Ssaru, the bare-knuckled rapper behind Kasikie Vibaya and other hits, has won many over with her voice and her lyricism.
He left his daughter’s school WhatsApp group due to maandamano: Being an official of the Orange Democratic Movement comes with its costs, and one of those was the tough questions he faced in the peak of anti-government protests earlier in the year. Things came to a head in a parents’ WhatsApp group where one parent accused him of being one of the people causing trouble.
“One parent said I was the one making children not go to school, wondering why I couldn’t stop the maandamano,” Sifuna, whose daughter is in Grade One, says.
“Before the admin could block comments, things had flown. So, they discovered there were Azimio people in that school WhatsApp group. It was a mess. It was a mess. So I thought I’d better leave and have only the mother in that WhatsApp group. Then one evening, the child asked me, ‘Daddy, is it true you’re wearing a sufuria on your head?’ She had been told in school: ‘Why is your daddy wearing a sufuria on the head?’” adds Sifuna, laughing.
Gym? No. He prefers dieting: Sifuna was weighing 100 kilos on his 40th birthday last year. That spooked him to the point that he considered hitting the gym. But given his many engagements, he says, retaining a gym schedule was not easy.
“That thing requires that you do it continuously. If there are any long breaks, like if you travel and then you go to a place where maybe the place you are staying or the hotel you are staying does not have a gym, and if you miss a week or two, by the time you come back you try to restart it, it’s very difficult. So, I think right now the only thing that is helping is diet. If you try and eat as little as you can,” says the senator. “Now, I eat once a day… In the morning, I don’t eat breakfast. I drink dawa here in the morning. Then I eat at around 3pm and that’s it.”
“I’m not a young man anymore. I used to eat three square meals and I used to be less than 75 kilos. But immediately I turned 40, my friend. I started to see scales going up and up. It reached 100 and I was scared,” he adds.