RISH:  I’m going into music full time

Njeri 'RISH' Muchai, Performing Bruno Mars' 'Locked out of Heaven' on Saturday, January 3, 2015. PHOTO | COURTESY | AIRTEL TRACE MUSIC STARS

What you need to know:

  • Njeri Muchai, aka Njerish/Rish has experienced various facets of entertainment, from being in rock bands to editing entertainment pullouts, and more recently, participating in the Airtel Trace Music Star. She spoke to about striking out on her own.

1. RISH, tell us a little about your life before music and your progression thus far.

I was born on May 16, 1985, and raised on a farm in Ngong, surrounded by animals.

At the time, I loved it. Farm life, I mean. However, that changed when I discovered music.

I remember watching Michael Jackson turn into a panther in Black and White, and people weeping because his music touched them, so and thought, “How do I become that?”

My mom bought herself a guitar in 1992. I would steal it to play it but couldn’t and she kept locking it up so I wouldn’t break it.

I’d always find a way to get it back and hide it in the room I shared with my sister. With the help of a book she’d bought, I learnt to play the guitar over the years. It was a slow and painful process.

We didn’t have Google and YouTube tutorials or UltimateGuitar to teach us how to read the tabs or chords. But somehow, I managed.

In high school, instead of reading for exams, which I passed anyway, I was writing songs and poetry. Most of the songs I’ll be recording this year, I wrote as a teenager.

2. How many bands have you been in?

Let’s see… The Beathogs (bass), BlackFog Angel (bass), Hounds ‘n Maidens (bass and vocals) and Murfy’s fLaw l). I’m jamming with Seismic now.

3. Are you excited about your first release? Where can we find it?

Very excited. Haven’t had much hate yet, which is bewildering, considering the title of the song. You see, I wrote The Hate Song when I was about 16 or 17. And I taught it to some of my friends, one of whom sang it back to me, hatefully. I forgot the second verse and had to rewrite it when I joined Hounds ‘n Maidens in 2010. Mary Njogu always learnt and sang along to my songs in high school. My sister, Nyambura, taught me most of the Sound of Music tracks that broadened my appreciation of  music. And my producer, Nick Wathi, is a ninja.

You can listen to, and download The Hate Song on SoundCloud, Mdundo.com and BandCamp, as well as on Reverbnation.

4.What did you like most about Airtel Trace? Do you think the outcome was fair? And what was it like being around a musical heavyweight like Akon?

Having a purpose, a goal to achieve and the support to achieve that purpose so that all I had to do was focus on performing was amazing. I don’t know that fairness matters at this point and I never met Akon face to face.

I was on a Google Hangout with him, though, and everything he said stuck with me.

He strikes me as a very unpretentious person. It made me want to just be… you know? 

ABOVE: From (L-R) Phylis ‘Phy’ Mwihaki Ng’etich, Trina ‘Katweeny’ Mungai, Benjamin Webi, RISH, Joy Gitau and Bliss ‘Blinyow’ Kioo during the Airtel Trace Group performance of Sauti Sol’s SuraYako on January 3, 2015. Behind them are the  FBI dancers. PHOTO | COURTESY | AIRTEL TRACE MUSIC STARS

5. Who was your favourite on the show – apart from yourself, of course?

I think Phylis “Phy” Mwihaki Ng’etich had the greatest voice. Thick but soft, rich and controlled, especially considering how young she is.

I was sure she would beat Benjamin Webi, whose voice I’m also in awe of.

6. Why a rock-type single for your first song? Is this going to be your style?

I don’t know. Why the labels? Whatever my heart wants to sing, it will sing.

Yes, I favour rock, but also  enjoy country, Bob Marley and his offspring, Matt Maher, Deitrick Haddon, Cypress Hill and Eminem as much as the next guy.

Do I have to be one thing for the rest of my life?

7. Who would you like to work with?

In Kenya, I think I’m already working with who I would want to work with right now, Nick Wathi from Andromeda, who produced The Hate Song.

Jaaz Odongo could be in my musical future. I’m also very eager to explore the possibility of working with Wyre and Ian. Their energy on stage transfixes me. I don’t move until it’s over.

When they’re done, I’m exhausted. I want my audience to feel like that every time they attend my shows.

From left, Rish on November 14, 2014 at the Nation Studios before she was confirmed a contestants in Airtel Trace Music Stars. She performs Bruno Mars' 'Locked out of Heaven' on January 3, 2015 the Kenya Finale. PHOTO | NATION | COURTESY

8. Comment a little on the rock scene in. The Battle of the Bands doesn’t attract as many people as it used to, and not many people are attending rock events as much either. Why is this? What do you think should be done to improve that?

Bad sound, late-night gigs, bad venues, African timing and corrupt event organisers plagued our shows. The last show I remember attending and performing at was the 2010 Rocktober Fest.

We got paid peanuts and the sound was epically horrendous. Most of that has changed.

I can’t claim to have a solution to this problem. But I personally will do the best I can for myself, and those around me.

All it takes is one person taking action. I took my cue from Simply Tomas, who went solo a few years ago.

Others will take their cue from me, and the scene will grow at its own pace, if people stop holding hands and skipping towards the cliff of obscurity.

Also, as rock artistes, we’re not very well known or liked in this country, so behaving like we’re famous enough to wait for is ridiculous.

We need to set a time for a show and stick to it. When people realise we’re serious, they’ll always keep time, line up for our shows 12 hours before they begin like they did for iPads and JK Rowling’s books.

9. Do you plan to make a living from your music or is there a sugar daddy funding your dreams?

Why not? People seem to like the way I  sound and what I sing. Next up is videos, and if history is anything to go by, they’ll like those too.

Before you know it, I’ll be buying my parents a beach house in Watamu because people won’t stop paying me, or downloading my music, or playing it on the radio. Yes. I do and God willing, I shall.

A sugar daddy? Please!

10. Are you in a relationship?


11. Where can we catch you next, performance wise, music wise, song/album wise?

Well, Andromeda and I are working for the rest of this year recording my album, Who You Are.

I’m also performing with Seismic, a Christian Metal band of extremely talented and exceedingly humble men. Our first show as a band is scheduled for the end of May or early June, at the latest. 

We’re constantly updating our Facebook pages RISH and Seismic for events, so anyone who wants details on what we’re doing or planning to do can find it there.