MC Bunney and MC Naftal Omari Migisi

MC Bunney (left) with singer and MC Naftal Omari Migisi aka MC Miggy aka Echambioni. 

| Pool

How Migisi ‘Echambioni’ is championing Gusii music

What you need to know:

  • Migisi recently launched a clothing line under the “Echambioni” brand name which has since gained traction.
  • He launched his music career in 2008 before releasing his first album titled Coffee Nights in 2010.

The Kenyan music industry is slowly but surely stuttering back to life after being dealt a major blow by Covid-19.

As the coronavirus reared its ugly head, leading to the closure of entertainment spots nationwide for a painfully long period, a number of artistes rested their vocals, with some even venturing into other trades to put bread on the table.

A few, however, re-invented themselves and took to innovative ways of survival with the mic.

Champion among them was Naftal Omari Migisi, aka MC Miggy, aka Echambioni, whose cocktail of singing, modelling, emceeing, deejaying and organising events drew him a legion of fans both at home and in the diaspora.

Midweek and on weekends, Migisi teamed up with DJ Bunney (Judith Kwamboka) to livestream popular music performances, specialising in Ekegusii songs, primarily on Facebook Live.

Suddenly, they were playing through the night, due to fan demand, attracting a new crop of admirers, especially from the diaspora who would send contributions via M-Pesa and Cash App.

On a good day, the Facebook Live shows would rake in Sh90,000 and on a low spell, the daily income would be Sh40,000. Companies, such as electronic appliances firm Amtec, along with Comfort Homes and Certified Homes, jumped in to support the Echambioni brand.

Migisi cashed in on the newfound fame and even recently launched a clothing line under the Echambioni brand name which has since gained traction and attracted good sales in Kenya and in the USA.

“Before Covid-19, my profile was already good, but when Covid-19 happened, DJ Bunney and I decided to get busy because there were no shows, and the reception was massive,” explains Migisi.

“Since then, there has been a demand for DJ Bunney and me to perform at gigs. In 2022, you will be seeing us more live in action,” he adds, optimistically.

Genesis of music career

Migisi was born in Kisii town and grew up there in the 1980s. He was schooled at Jogoo Primary School in the heart of Kisii town before heading to boarding school in Standard Six at the St. Andrew Kaggwa Boys Boarding School in Nyansiongo, Kisii.

He joined high school at the famous Cardinal Otunga High School, Mosocho, before enrolling at the Kenya College of Accountancy in Kisumu for a Diploma in Information Technology.

“My interest in music started at the age of eight,” he told Saturday Nation earlier this week.

“I was in Class Three then, and I could sing along to songs by Shaggy, Shabba Ranks, Chicco Chikaya, Blackbox, Nyang’au Dismus etc.”

But his interest in music didn’t go down well with the parents of the first-born son in a family of three children - two boys and one girl.

“My interest in music was so visible when in high school, something that didn’t go down well with my dad. On many occasions, he gave me a thorough beating because he wanted me to finish school first.

“He, however, later became my greatest fan. May his soul rest in peace… Currently, my family is so supportive of my career.”

Migisi dived into music, professionally, in 2008, launching his first album titled Coffee Nights in 2010, largely drawing his inspiration from Jamaican dancehall artiste Shaggy.

“Shaggy has always been my motivation. Other other artistes who have always inspired me are Jose Chameleone, Nameless, Akon and the late Dismus Nyang’au, who used to do obokano (traditional, stringed instrument) and dancehall fusion.”

He also admires the late Dismus Nyang’au. “That’s why I had to remix his song One Day Morning at least to continue his legacy,” he adds.

MC Naftal Omari Migisi

Singer and MC Naftal Omari Migisi aka MC Miggy aka Echambioni.

Photo credit: Pool

But then why did Migisi resort to specialising in Ekegusii music?

“When I started music, I could only do English and Swahili songs. But after looking at what the likes of Jose Chameleone along with Radio and Weasel were doing (Singing in Luganda) and still make huge hits, I also decided to do the same with my Kisii language,” he explains.

“In Kisii, it was purely benga that was dominant but I decided to urbanise Gusii music.

“Yes, I received a lot of resistance because I was introducing a new style, but I never gave up. See now, 'Gusii Urban Music' has become a wave and every new artiste is going that direction. We are now taking Gusii music to the world,” he said, just hours after arriving from a month-long tour of the USA in which he wound up with shows along with meet-and-greet sessions principally in Dallas, Atlanta and Minnesota.

Some of his most successful songs are Nyaunyo, Nyarinda, Sesenia, Ntwarwara (featuring “Babu G” and “Vekta”) and Mamissment (featuring Mr Ongengo).

One of the highlights of his music career was when he led a collection of Gusii artistes in composing a patriotic Mashujaa Day song, Mimi ni Shujaa, that had President Uhuru Kenyatta, handshake compatriot Raila Odinga and other dignitaries gyrating for minutes on end at the Gusii Stadium during last year’s Mashujaa Day national celebrations.

The hit was produced in conjunction with the Permanent Presidential Music Commission.

“Music and the MC job has seen me perform in many platforms, including in state functions like Mashujaa Day, and also in various countries including Uganda, the United Arab Emirates and several states in the USA,” says Migisi who has also featured in television and radio commercials besides doing voice-overs, many times over.

So far, Echambioni – Ekegusii corruption for ‘champion’ – has delivered over 100 songs and over 30 music videos.

“When I started, the response was low, but I’m happy the graph is looking up. Every song I release now is received well.”

Future of Gusii music

Where does he see the future of Gusii music?

“Gusiiland has a lot of talent. I see a situation where Gusii music is taking over, and that is what I have been championing. Time is coming where all Djs will have a whole set for Kisii music, just like they have whole sets for Naija, reggae, bongo, benga, etc,” explains Migisi who confesses of being torn between being MC and singer.

“I like both because they complement each other,” he explains.

“For instance, my performances are always lit because I know how to read and control my audience, an experienced I got from MCeeing.”

A huge hit in the diaspora these days, especially in the USA, Migisi broke beyond the borders first with a performance in the United Arab Emirates which triggered promoters’ antennae.

“My successful tour in Dubai in 2017 inspired my US tour, and that’s when US promoters reached out to us and invited us to US. Since then, we have been holding shows every year until Covid-19 happened.”

Last month’s tour of USA was their first post-coronavirus lockdown, the last one having been in 2018.

Along with one-string instrument Entururu hitmaker Mr Ongengo (Egesa FM radio presenter Dan Mosima), “Echambioni” performed in Dallas, Minnesota and Atlanta, the highlight being a show at the Gusii Cultural Night held on December 3 at Irie Vybz Jamaican Restaurant in Minnesota, where revelers parted with $25 (Sh2,500) at the door.

“Each time we are in USA, we do an average of eight shows in various states and cities, especially Texas, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Indiana and Delaware,” says Migisi who adds that their recent tour of the USA was mainly to shoot a music video, but left them overwhelmed with requests to perform.

“We decided to extend our stay by two weeks to add three shows before leaving, and we had one in Texas and Minnesota before travelling to Atlanta in Georgia for a final one.”

Live performances

Migisi’s latest hits Nyarinda and Falling Falling have both been received quite well, unearthing the romantic side of the Abagusii people.

“For a long time, people have been thinking that we Kisiis are not romantic, that we cannot make a beautiful love song in Ekegusii, and that’s how I got the inspiration to work on the song Nyarinda,” he told Minnesota’s KJTV in an interview last week.

Echambioni discloses that his next hits will be released before Christmas, with more hits coming in February.

Though he doesn’t wish to divulge too much, he confirms that among his upcoming releases is a collaboration he did with a US-based Caribbean artiste called Chancy.

Migisi is currently managed by Victor Moguche (USA) and DJ White (Kenya) and loves watching comedy and playing football, alongside spending time on his PlayStation console.

He’s not married, but says he’s seeing someone…

Jet-lag and all, Echambioni has a very busy Jamhuri Day weekend.

Tomorrow, he will be perform at Nairobi’s Wallets Utawala in the company of DJ Benn before crossing over to Roxy Lounge, also in Utawala, where upcoming artiste Berin Koroso will be launching her music video and performing with a live band.

He concludes our interview with a message to his fans: “To my fans in Kenya and all over the world, I really appreciate the support you have showed me for the last 15 years.

“Thanks for buying my merchandise, thanks for turning up at my shows in large numbers and thanks for streaming my music. In 2022, expect more surprises and more great things. I love you all!”

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