What you need to know:
- After enjoying an illustrious career, Nonini took a back seat and faded into obscurity.
- Nameless, on the other hand, has been reinventing himself over the years with his music.
They are famed as the kings of Kenyan music, having helped shape the industry since their debut in the early 2000s.
Hubert Nakitare, popularly known by his stage name Nonini, and David Mathenge, also known as Nameless, need no introduction.
You see, hits like “Manzi wa Nairobi”, “We Kamu”, “Megarider” still rouse the crowd, regardless of the change in music tastes and the entry of gengetone.
Nonini, seen as the godfather of genge music, opened the doors for later artistes to say whatever they want to say in their music. He spoke his mind while his colleagues played it safe.
This is evident in the salacious lyrics and sexual connotations in almost all of his songs.
But after enjoying an illustrious career, he took a back seat and faded into obscurity, giving an opportunity for new blood to enter the industry.
Nameless, on the other hand, has been reinventing himself over the years with his music. With his singer wife Wahu, they have managed to stay relevant in the industry.
Nonini and Nameless are now making headlines but not because of their music. The two recently launched individual clothing brands.
Nonini said his desire to venture into the fashion industry started way back during his time with Calif Records.
“I have always been a fashion guy. If you see the way I dress, I usually want to promote local brands. But I also wear my own brands,” he said.
“This started way back in 2000 when I released the songs ‘Manzi wa Nairobi’ and ‘We Kamu’. I would go to Gikomba market to buy white T-shirts and then imprint them with the Calif Records logo, which I designed. So over the years, I have just reinvented what I have been doing and taking it seriously as a career.”
The Mgenge 2ru Collection includes bomber jackets, hoodies and shoes. The apparel caters to children and adults of both sexes.
A pair of his branded sneakers ranges from Sh22,000 to Sh27,000 and the shoes are only made to order. The shoes, he says, are made in Italy while the clothesline is made in Kenya.
“Mgenge 2ru shoes are made in Italy. I decided this because of many factors. But the clothesline is made in Kenya because we are very good at garment production. I design the shoes myself,” he says.
“The reason I decided to start this collection is that it is a manifestation of how I have grown in terms of my career. From grass to grace, if you wear those shoes, it means you are a guy who hustles and wants to better themselves,” he said.
“I come from California estate in Pumwani and was able to leave. Now that is the meaning of the brand.”
So why venture into such business now?
“There is never a perfect time to start a project in your life, whether you do it when you are in your 20s or 40s. The important thing is that when it’s time for you to do it, you go for it,” Nameless said.
He said he started his clothing brand N-zone as a way to help people. He sees the apparel as a way to connect to Kenyans but there is a bigger picture.
“As much as I have passion for fashion and design, N-zone is bigger than just clothes. Personally, I am basically in that midlife stage getting to my forties. There are things I have been saying that I will do but I have not been serious about them,” he explained.
“I am starting to reflect on how I have lived my life and I realise that there is so much that I need to learn. And I have been doing a lot of counselling and coaching and I would like to be a life coach at some level.”
He said his brand seeks to inspire people to work on the things that limit, and hence the tagline he uses - Be Less Limited. He also wants to create a space where people can talk about their “psychological wellness”.
Being an artiste, he said, is not just about making music. There is also the need to position themselves as entrepreneurs.
“I went through a short entrepreneurship course recently and afterward I wished that I had gone through the course at the beginning of my career, because it would have helped me be more strategic in what I do, like taking full advantage of my brand and what I could have done with it,” he said.
“Covid-19 has also taught people that some things can be pulled away from you and you can be caught unprepared. I recommend that artistes look for projects that supplement their creative talent. You have to keep reinventing yourself.”