Khoisan Hassan and Dominik Binnahizza
Hassan and M-stic are Nairobian musicians. Besides rap, they perform with a lot of other artists in the project “Abakisimba Musical“. “Abakisimba Musical” tries to combine Kenyan instruments with a huge variety of musical styles.
Interviewers: Nadine Lorenz and Philipp Günther
First of all, we'd like you to introduce yourselves.
H: My name is Khoisan Hassan, I'm a member of “Abakisimba Musical”. I'm a hip-hop artist and I write music.
M: I'm M-stic. My real name is Dominik Binnahizza, musically I'm M-stic. I rap, freestyle and I'm a songwriter, too. I'm a member of "Abakisimba Musical".
When did you first get in touch with art, do you remember?
M: I can remember. I was at class eight in primary school. That was the time I started getting in love with music, it was 2007.
H: It started when I was young. I remember I used to disturb my mom a lot, because she had this music system. She never liked it when we touched it. So we used to break in where she hid it. After stealing it, we listened to music, like recorded stuff. And when she came back in the evening, we returned it, but still she knew. And that's when I knew, there is art in me. When I went to high school, I just started writing music. And it grew and grew and grew. When I finished high school, I recorded my first single and since then it still goes on.
In the beginning, what was your motivation to start making music?
H: My motivation was to tell the world stories that a lot of people don't understand, through music and through art. A lot of people don't get the chance to hear that kind of music that reflects on the world that we are living in. I see the world is really corrupt. And a lot of people don't understand that. So that's the kind of message that got into me, and that's my force that drives me.
M: I'm from the ghetto, for one thing. There is a lot of crime, like thugs growing up there, and guys who are arrogant in life. Growing up there was not that cool. So that was the time, I started to think of ways how I could face society and perish that situation. At this time, I was a footballer; then I started moving, talking to my colleagues, my friends. All of them, they were taking drugs, others were using guns. So their life was tough, and I felt the story and wanted to tell this story to the world.
H: He's emotional.
M: Okay. My brother is one of these guys. He was close to my family, and he was a coach of the team I was playing football in. He was still a thug, too. And one day, we were chilling in the hood. We went for a competition, and then we turned home. That night, we separated around nine and that story going on at night, was not that cool. I don't know how to call them. The guys of the hood, the strong guys. In my hood, there is that clique that spots the youths, they catch the youths. Okay, when you're bad in society and you're doing evil and you're doing things which are not cool, they spot you and they start counting the days, let me say. Then, they come at night when most guys are sleeping. They take you outside the banjo. They pour you petrol – that story inspired me in music – to talk to you not to do it, to stand with most positive ideas in society. I think now I can reach them through music. I'm doing music for them. I want to tell their story. I want to bring them to the positive society. The ones whose lives get lost. This is the reason I'm doing music, I think. It's a call, it's a sign.
So what about you, Hassan? M-stic already told us whom he is doing music for. Who are the persons you are doing music for?
H: Everything he is talking about, I think is also something I have experienced, ‘cause I also come from the ghetto. That's where I was born. That's where I grew up, you know? So, all these things are happening to friends, people I know, family. So when they happen, nobody tells their story. A person gets buried and that's it, you know? And we don't want that to continue. There is a way you can tell the world this is happening. You know, a lot of people in other countries have used music. In the US, they use music to change, you know. Our things are happening, so that's the same thing. That's the same thing we want to do in Kenya, and we want to do it all over Africa. And as he said, it's a call. We don't do it for fun, for money, it's a calling. When you wake up every day and you find yourself here, it's a serious business. So that kind of a situation is what drove me into music. It's happening everywhere. It's happening here in the city, a lot of stuff, and when you see them, nobody cares. I guess people listen to music all over the world. The message that you bring through music matters a lot. And that's a kind of inspiration that I get, and I put it to sound and people listen to it.
If there was a message for today, which one would it be?
H: I think the world needs love, you know? The world needs love. The world needs unity. People need to be human. We are not human, anymore, we have passed that. People need to understand how the world is, how it is supposed to be and how it's going to be. Because we passed through here. And what we should do is to make it a better place for the next generation. To do something good. That's the message that I can pass across. People need love.
M: My message. Most I've got, is will of life. You can handle all the situations in life. Peace, love and unity.
What did music do to you, personally? When you started it, did it change something in your life?
M: Yeah, of course. Music has been life-sustaining. Music is the only weapon that I have. I use music to get everything in my life. Get clothes, food and to have fun. So music is basic to me and it has that love. So I say: Thank you, music!
H: I find peace in music. There is love and you feel like you're doing the right thing in life. And that's what motivates me to do music. It's just peace to me. If I do something else, I'm disturbed. It also gets us little things like rent and that kind of stuff, and food and shelter. In that way, you do something you love and it brings money to you. What else do you need in life?
How would you describe the music you do?
H: My music is conscious hip-hop. It's poetic, in a way. The reason why I do that is because I relate to it. I can do it better when I do it like that. Going to a studio, doing a commercial song and putting it out there in the radio station, that's good for making money and for business, but I feel comfortable doing it the other way. Just maintaining the consciousness in it. Word is power. When you put it through sound, it inspires people and that's my motivation, to inspire people through what I do. So that's why it's conscious and a spiritual kind of poetic hip-hop. That's how I define it.
M: As my bro´ Hassan has said, I'm doing conscious hip-hop. It's kind of a spoken word, poetic style and the flow tells a story that brings the mood of listening to the music. I was performing with a DJ before, but now I'm doing a traditional Kenyan style. I mix the community instruments and come up with a Kenyan sound. I think it's traditional hip-hop or Kenyan music. Kenyan hip-hop you can call it.
So what's typical of Kenyan hip-hop?
M: For Kenyan hip-hop I'm using Kenyan instruments and come up with my flow, my style. So it's a typical Kenyan vibe, not a producer producing whatever electrical sound. It's traditional, plain and analogue.
What is your inspiration?
M: Society. Our streets are inspiring me a lot. When I'm moving, the things that are going on there. Listening to stories, reading books and mingling up.
H: People inspire me. Because everything that happens in the world, whether good or bad, is done by people. People are writing books which I read. And those books are inspiring me. It´s also people carrying guns and do abortions and that kind of stuff. People are changing society. Those are the people inspiring me. The leaders, not the politicians, the leaders.
And what do you think about Nairobi?
H: Nairobi is a great city. It's one of those few cities in the world where it can be raining and there's sun at the same time. It's a great city. I love it. Guys are creative. Art is not as big as in other cities, but there's a lot of creativity here. There's a lot of great people and great minds. And Nairobi is home. It's my city, my town.
M: Nairobi is a nice city where I get much love. It's a city which is open to accommodate visitors. Nairobi is a nice hood. Welcome!
Is there any effect that Nairobi has on your music?
M: I'll slice it because I have much love for Nairobi. But there are pirates. Guys who don't cooperate with us and pirate our music. Selling it and making cash without having agreed with us.
H: Just to add to the Nairobi stuff, there are also beautiful women. I just forgot that about Nairobi. To come to your question, can you please rephrase it?
Is there any effect that the city of Nairobi has on your music? Imagine you would have been born somewhere else, would there be something different in your music?
H: Music is universal. I was doing music for a while and then I stopped. The reason was that I realized the hip-hop I was doing was the same kind of hip-hop that was being done everywhere. I wanted to do a good production. Like M-stic said about working with a Kenyan sound. It's just something unique and something really new. I think I found that in Nairobi, I don't know if you can find it somewhere else. Finding it in Nairobi is cool and in that way Nairobi has affected me.
We're coming to the end now. Can you tell me something about your band "Abakisimba Musical"?
H: “Abakisimba Musical“is a band maintained by our director Jumba Chagala. We are twelve guys there. There is M-stic, Brian Gugo, Erick Abuto, David Abuto, Musyoki Mutua, John Udulele, me and a lot more guys. Each guy does something apart from playing the instrument which is essential. It's really important for every artist in "Abakisimba Musical" to know how to play an instrument. If you are an artist and you don't play an instrument, it´s sometimes hard. Me and M-stic, we rap, there is Johnny who sings in the group and there is Nelson who also sings.
Each guy does something different. We just started eight months ago. We want to bring that Kenyan sound out there, for people to experience something new. People shall understand that there's still good music out there. That's what we want to bring to the world. Good music, that good beat, that good African, Kenyan beat. That's what "Abakisimba Musical" wants to do. And any promoter out there, any manager, organizer should have a place to welcome "Abakisimba Musical". We entertain the world! That's our wish.
Would you like to add something?
M: I'm sending greetings to you guys and your country. Say 'Hi' to them. By the time they feel to visit our country, they can come over!
H: You guys are great. What you are doing is really nice, meeting you guys and exchanging ideas, and that kind of stuff. We need more of that. When you go back to Germany, tell the Germans that there is "Abakisimba Musical" and that they would love to entertain them. That's one of my greatest wishes. Just to go out there and make the world have fun. People should be happy every time. You should make sure you're happy. It's good to have stress, it motivates you, but make sure you're happy. That what you do in life makes you happy. That's the most important thing in life, being happy. Love, unite and peace.
Thank you very much!