Inspired by my vocalist mother, I took up singing
What you need to know:
- The two arrived right when Mr Tuva had just opened the floor for any willing person to join the competitions.
- His friend pushed Washington’s hand up after realising that he was hesitant. Luckily, Mr Tuva noticed and invited Washington on stage.
- He jumped at the opportunity, and was given only three minutes to showcase his abilities.
- That day, he put his best foot forward and became one of the three best performers in the competition.
The apple does not fall far from the tree, so they say. Among the many traits that Washington Odira picked from his mother, a vocalist, music was one of them. And music he enjoyed. From a young age of 10, Washington was always running into problems with teachers for singing to friends during class time.
Now, more than two decades down the line, Washington has successfully built a strong brand for himself despite being a self-taught musician. He explains that he has never been to any music school. He learns from those who have made a name for themselves in the industry. To him, music remains one of the best ways to pass down information while entertaining the listeners at the same time.
“I had hoped to pursue a journalism course after high school, but this dream never came to pass since my parents were unable to raise my university school fees,” says Washington.
Despite this setback, he has managed to record and shoot five music videos that are currently on his YouTube channel, Nash FR. He also has 10 more songs recorded, and is in the process of shooting the videos in early March.
“Every new music video that I shoot acts as a motivation and reminder of where I have come from. My dream is to become one of the prominent artists not only in Kenya but across the globe,” he says.
Washington comes from a polygamous family and was born and raised in Nyalenda slums, Kisumu County. He says that his parents always wanted him to focus on education to lift the family name. Apart from that, the 29-year-old also aspired to be a journalist, and so he kept working towards realising the dream.
During his free time, however, he loved singing to his classmates, something that often saw him land on the noise makers’ list. Washington however says he did this for fun, and that he never imagined himself being a musician.
“I loved singing while doing house chores. This always made me finish my duties fast while getting entertained,” he said.
Washington sat his national primary school exams at Central Primary School and later moved to Joel Omino Secondary. In Form Two, thanks to positive comments from friends who urged him to explore the field, he felt convinced that he was a good singer.
“One weekend, a friend notified me about an ongoing singing competition being coordinated by Willy Tuva within Nyalenda. At first I was reluctant, but he insisted that we drop by and get a glimpse of what was happening,” says Washington.
The two arrived right when Mr Tuva had just opened the floor for any willing person to join the competitions. His friend pushed Washington’s hand up after realising that he was hesitant. Luckily, Mr Tuva noticed and invited Washington on stage.
He jumped at the opportunity, and was given only three minutes to showcase his abilities. That day, he put his best foot forward and became one of the three best performers in the competition.
“I knew I had impressed many, going by the cheers that followed as I exited the stage. I was invited to participate in the final competitions that was to happen the following week,” says Washington.
He was on his way home when he realised someone had been following him. The young man soon caught up with him, identified himself, and asked if they could work together in music, a request he politely accepted. He however requested the stranger to allow him focus on the competitions, with a promise to join him once he was done.
The new found friend later introduced Washington to two other individuals and together, they formed a singing band. Back home, however, his parents were unhappy with the new move. To them, music was a waste of time and the young man needed to focus on his education.
On the day of the final competitions, Washington was confused. He left home without eating anything and had decided to trek to the venue.
“When I arrived, people were already leaving. I saw my friend and approached him, but he looked disappointed. All I remember him saying was that I had disappointed them and that Dogo Biggy, who was an upcoming musician by then, had taken the crown,” he says.
Washington still believes that if he had the support of his parents, he could have won the award. The winner was awarded a recording deal of five songs and attached to Grandpa records, who would also market the songs. This is an opportunity that Washington had longed for.
He however decided not to give up. he enrolled for another competition dubbed Don't Break the Beat which was coming to Kisumu. He explains that although only individuals aged above 18 were allowed to take part in the event, Washington, who was 17 by then, secretly took his brother's identification card and used it to register.
In the competition which drew individuals from as far as Mombasa, he once again gave his best, but fell out at the fourth stage of the competition. Still, he believed that platform was key in helping him grow and develop as a musician. Lucky for him, his father watched him perform and was greatly impressed. Thereafter, he became one of his greatest supporters until his death in 2020.
After the Don't Break the Beat competitions, Washington formed a music band with four friends and named it Cavewoodraiders. The members, who were all from different schools, would write and perform their music during various events in Kisumu, including the Kisumu Fashion week.
The quintet fell apart after sitting their final exams in 2014 and are currently in different businesses. “We were discouraged. We had recorded a number of songs yet we had no idea how to get them to our audience,” says Washington.
He also abandoned music in 2015 and worked as a football coach of a local football team. This he did for three years before making a comeback in music in 2018. His first music video is titled I had You.
He has so far released five other music albums, with the latest set to be out next month.
He however says that his greatest challenge is marketing the music and popularising it to his target audience, something he is currently working on in preparation for the album release.
“I am also working on my plan to nurture talents of young, upcoming artists. I would not want them to go through the struggles I have encountered,” he says.