A chat with Ben Bii, the rising star of Kalenjin benga music

Musician Ben Bii speaks during an interview with the Nation at his home at Kaproron village in Chepalungu, Bomet County, on June 28, 2020.  

Photo credit: Francis Mureithi | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Kong’asis is the home of the late popular musician Kipchamba arap Tapotuk, who is regarded as the grandfather of Kalenjin music.
  • So far, the song has attracted more than 200,000 views on YouTube.
  • In 2018, he released his fifth album, Tanganga, which has songs such as Leonida and Kemunto.

To many secular music lovers in the Kalenjin community, the name Ben Bii Kaproron is very familiar. His ability to connect with ordinary people through his music is serving him well beyond his village of Kaproron in Kong’asis ward of Chepalungu, Bomet County.

Kong’asis is the home of the late popular musician Kipchamba arap Tapotuk, who is regarded as the grandfather of Kalenjin music.

The 34-year-old Bii is following in the footsteps of Kipchamba.

One of his recent performances saw Bii earn a once-in-a-lifetime ride in one of the presidential vehicles.

“I was guarded by the Recce squad, and that was a big honour for me. My dad worked as a Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) soldier for 35 years and never had a one-on-one with the President, but I got that chance,” he says.

However, the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has slowed down things for Bii.

“This coronavirus thing has put the brakes on the entertainment world,” he says. “I had planned several performances,” says Bii to the Saturday at Chepalungu village recently, where he was feeding his domestic animals.

“Life must continue beyond singing and these five cows give me satisfaction when I am not on stage as I wait for the entertainment world to resume.”

His top composition is Batiemisiek, loosely translated to ‘let us take care of the elderly.’

Composed song

"This is a real-life experience as I met an old grandmother in the cold on my way from Nakuru after she was chased away by her husband. I took her back to her matrimonial home, and this is why I composed this song."

So far, the song has attracted more than 200,000 views on YouTube.

His other song, Beatrice has also attracted more than 150,000 views.

Some 15 of his songs are among the top ringtones among the residents of Rift Valley and are popular hits on Kalenjin radio stations.

Bii is a former student at Komboni Polytechnic in Gilgil. He is also a trained videographer at Vision Institute in Nairobi.

He started out his music career in 2010 as a producer. Unknown to many, he is the initial producer of Aron Cheruiyot Rotich, popularly known as ‘Sweet Star’ and many other Kalenjin singers.

In his formative years in music, he says he was largely influenced by the late musician Weldon Cheruiyot, aka ‘Keneni’.

"I joined ‘Keneni’ as a backup artist and after performing his popular song Safari Ya Israel, he told me I could also sing," he says.

Studio fees

"I will forever be indebted to him for encouraging me as he went on and paid for my studio fees in 2015 when I produced my first album titled Mongina. It has songs such as Matirir Tetyo, Silent Drills and Ngendekab Chebet," he says.

In 2016, he released the single Batiemisiek, which was followed by Susana and Isabella in 2017.

"Susana was popular in public rallies. Leaders like the late Bomet Governor Beatrice Kones often started their functions with this song to work up the crowd."

So popular is Bii in Kericho and Bomet counties that many public and social gatherings are never complete without his presence.

He has earned invitations to public rallies in Nakuru, Kericho, Bomet, Uasin Gishu, and many the Carnivore in Nairobi.

In 2018, he released his fifth album, Tanganga, which has songs such as Leonida and Kemunto.

Despite coronavirus pandemic, Bii has produced his latest song, Ruth Chelimo.

"This song is doing well and I hope to release more in the coming days," says the father of three – two girls and one boy.

He says one of the lessons he has learnt during the pandemic is to have a fallback plan when music comes to an abrupt stop.

"I had four boys as my dancing crew who are now suffering. I had bouncers, a personal assistant, and a driver," he added.

"Adjusting is not easy with this coronavirus. I heard there was Sh100 million to cushion artists but nobody has called me about the money. I have visited county government offices several times with little success."

Unsuccessful attempt

He says he initially wanted to become a soldier but he was not selected.

"After an unsuccessful attempt to become a soldier, I decided to go to Nairobi and study video editing, and that is how my interest in music grew as I handled popular Kalenjin musicians," he says.

The second born in a family of seven attributes his rising star to his wife Joyce Cherono and support from his parents David Kibii Siele and Cecilia Siele.

"My wife is the pillar of my music. As the saying goes, behind every successful man there is a woman, and my wife Joyce is the unsung heroine. She has treated me like a king," he said.

His music sojourn was jumpstarted by his father who gave him Sh60,000.

"I used the money to buy editing machines such as computers and cameras and I launched my career as a music producer," said Bii.

He says most of his songs revolve around romance, moral issues, culture, family, politics, education, business and farming, among others.

He advises the upcoming musician to take music seriously.

"Music as a career has a life span and I urge young musician to make hay while the sun shines because one day it might be stopped by a more deadly virus than covid-19," says Bii.

His father says he is proud of his second-born son.

"He sings reality songs and he has made me famous. Whenever I am in Bomet and Kericho town and I identify myself as his father, I receive many praises," says Siele.

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