What you need to know:
- After high school, Kaleb could not continue with his education as he had an eye problem and could not afford the required medical intervention, so he decided to focus on music.
- To survive, he occasionally took casual jobs.
- Luckily, in 2015, he met producer Stan Weezy who helped him record his debut single, Girls Love Me.
Audio cassette players and tape recordings of his family singing together in the evening are some of the earliest memories that Caleb Okoth has. Known to many by his stage name Kaleb SinGa, the 26-year-old reggae dancehall artist says his journey in music started taking form right from childhood.
“My father was a sort of amateur music producer,” begins Kaleb. “He loved music and had bought some instruments which he would play as the family sang along. I am the second lastborn in the family, so mostly I would just watch my older siblings sing. But, all I kept thinking was, ‘I can definitely do better.’
Unfortunately for the Girls Love Me hit maker, life took a drastic turn when he was six. He lost both his parents in an accident and had to leave his home in Ugenya, Siaya County, and live with relatives.
“My father was polygamous, so my step family took me in and we moved to Kisumu where I lived for three years. In 2006, during my sixth year in primary school, my older sister who was living in Nairobi took me in, and that is how I ended up in Kayole.”
It is during this time that Kaleb started learning sheng, a language that prominently features in his music. He also developed an interest in showbiz, and discovered his passion in music. As an orphan, Kaleb endured a period of financial difficulty in Nairobi. He was forced to move from place to place during his upper primary education and when he was in Grade Eight, he was taken in by ABC children’s home where he met renowned Kenyan artist Bahati.
“The children’s home sponsored my secondary education as I was a bright student. Even in high school I was very outgoing and always engaged in club activities. I would write poems and skits for the school which we would then perform in competitions. Looking at how far I’ve come, I feel lucky. I know of so many other talented youths who ended up on the streets doing drugs and engaging in crime. Only a few like Bahati and I got an opportunity and the discipline to exercise our talent.
After high school, Kaleb could not continue with his education as he had an eye problem and could not afford the required medical intervention, so he decided to focus on music. To survive, he occasionally took casual jobs.
Luckily, in 2015, he met producer Stan Weezy who helped him record his debut single, Girls Love Me. Later, he reunited with a former high school mate who was working as a deejay in a local radio station. This DJ helped him record his second jam titled Banger, featuring Rwandan artist Titi. The song did quite well in the local market. The following year, Kaleb also recorded a reggae song, Tera Mos (take me slow) on reggae fest riddim which came out as his third single.
“In 2018 I started working under the BMG Empire, and I recorded Nairobi Gal, with the eighth winner of Project Fame West Africa, Nigeria’s Jeff Akoh. I was doing well and the tides were blowing in my favour, but the euphoria did not last. Perhaps I can attribute this to poor management. I did not know how to ride the wave and rise higher, and soon the good fortune fizzled out.
“I have learnt from my mistakes, regained focus and got a good management team. I am now ready to bounce back,” he said. This Sunday December 11, 2022, Kaleb is expected to release an EP titled Tuthie at the Nairobi Showground.
“Tuthie is a Kikuyu word that means ‘let’s go’. It best describes my current life circumstances and mood. I believe it is OK to fall, but it is not OK to stay down. So I have forgiven myself for the missed opportunities of the past. I am ready to move and soar even higher, and that is exactly what my fans should expect.” Kaleb hopes to grow his music within East Africa.
“I grew up listening to Benga music, and during ‘disco matangas’ (funeral ceremonies), I would listen to Jose Chameleon a lot. But the music that stuck with me the most was that of Mighty King Kong, perhaps because he was my in-law. That’s how I ended up loving reggae dancehall. You can change the way you do things while still staying true to your original taste. That’s the beauty of music.
“Kenya has talent, the only challenge is how we manage that talent. Many artists are exploited by agents who only care about themselves. Young artists looking for a spot in the limelight must invest in themselves. If you are recording a video, dress well and take some good quality pictures. You do not have to do much, just do it nicely.”
What remains to be seen is how the wind blows for this young artist who has high hopes of leaving a mark in the fabric of Kenyan music, and inspire future generations. His upcoming performance at The Spot Bar and Grill, Nairobi, will be a good precursor to Kaleb’s seemingly bright musical future.