Meet Michael Bundi a fast-rising Kenyan reggae singer
Tuesday, January 26th, 2021
Michael Bundi is a fast-rising Kenyan reggae singer with a big vision to become one of the genre’s best acts in the world. He talks with Monica Kagia about his career in music, aspirations, challenges and more.
When did you start doing music and what inspired it?
I started doing music in 2011 when I recorded my first two songs. I started by doing a dancehall song, recorded my first reggae song in 2015 titled Employment, which was meant to encourage youths to create their own jobs.
Did you study music or it’s a talent you perfected?
I studied in a couple of high schools, but the place where I drew most of my informal music education was at Cardinal Maurice Otunga School (Nairobi).
While in school, I met dancehall artiste Ogwellah and his producer Squiz Works.
I used to sneak out of school to visit the studio and this is how my interest in singing and music production grew.
Who has been your support system in the music career?
My dad. He helped me set up my first studio. It wasn’t financial support only, but also emotional support too, and that mattered a lot.
When I was almost quitting he said to me, “I once had the same dream you have, but I had no one to support me.
That dream is not dead. You will make it come true. My dream will come true, through you.” I have never looked back since.
Why did you choose to go reggae?
Reggae is the beat of our hearts. It’s uplifting, educational and eternal. Reggae is the mother of many music genres.
However, my brand is defined by versatility and adaptability, so I actually have done a lot of Afro music, hip-hop and R&B, but it was reggae that gave me my breakthrough.
Who is your greatest musical inspiration?
I am inspired by the great reggae singers Bob Marley and Garnet Silk.
You are known to do music covers, especially bongo music. So, why bongo?
When I did my Baby Love reggae cover (originally done by Otile Brown) in 2018, it gave me my first breakthrough surpassing my usual views amassing up to 1.7 million views on YouTube.
This created demand for more covers from my fans and I was keen to deliver this.
However, artistes started filing copyright claims and I had to apply some brakes on the covers.
I have a number of originals too including Wisdom in which I featured Zzero Sufuri, Black Shade Riddim Mashup with Frenno and African Girls.
Does your career sometimes interfere with personal life?
Yes it does, all the time. Sometimes I have to go and perform at night and my son isn’t very happy with that.
To have a balance in this, I resolved to perform mostly on day gigs, until my son Fayez is fully grown to understand better what I do for a living.
How does the Kenyan reggae market compare to others in the world?
The Kenyan reggae scene is not perfect yet, but we keep hoping that the future will be bright.
Generally, the product creators (artistes) are doing great, but the product consumers (fans) are not fully supportive towards us the local artistes. This includes the deejays and music promoters.
They mostly are focused on promoting foreign music and this is why the local reggae artistes rarely make it big and some have to move to other genres.
Also, the Kenyans culture of downloading music instead of buying it really hurts us.
Making sales on iTunes, Boomplay and other such platforms has become so hard.