It’s a long journey to see Harry Kimani. I’ve been on the back of a boda for almost an hour, riding through the leafy suburbs of Kitisuru, the hustle and bustle of Kiambu, a semi-completed Western bypass, and into the dirt roads and hedges of Kibui.
As I near his residence, Harry steps out in brown polo, ripped jeans, and his classic dark sunglasses. He carries his beautiful baby girl in his arms and strolls over for a hug. “Wi Mwega! Come in!” he says with a grin.
I follow him through the driveway, past the garden of maize and sukuma, push aside the satin door curtain into his two bedroom apartment, and plop myself down his white couch. His partner, Vanessa, comes into the room to say hello. She brings out his computer while Harry searches for his usb flash drives.
“Twende kazi,” I say as we hunker down and start going through a treasure trove of his greatest hits as well as unreleased materials.
A self-taught musician, composer, and entertainer, Harry was the height of his fame in the early 2000’s after releasing hits like African Woman and Haiya.
He was the embodiment of a new era – someone who could sing flawlessly in 3 languages (swahili, kikuyu, and english), effortlessly flow between genres (soul, r&b, rhumba), and composed songs that reflected the trials and dreams of the everyday person.
He was rocking out with his guitar, cornrows, open shirts, and sunglasses – parent’s loved his music and kids loved his swag.
As I listen through Harry’s music, he plays with his baby on his red carpeted floors, serenading her with every song that comes on.
“You’ve been sitting on all of these tracks?? Have you ever sold them directly to your fans?”
“Never! In all of my years, I’ve never had a chance to sell direct to my fans,” Harry replies.
“Well, you can now!” I turn my laptop screen to show him and his partner the site we just created together
He asks, “Where does the money go when my fans purchase a song?”
“You keep 95% of all online transactions! There’s no middle man holding your payments and you can withdraw those funds for your family whenever you want,” I reply.
He looks at me incredulously and says “What the f***! I control my own distribution and sales from my phone? I’ve been doing music for over 20 years and I’ve never had that before. That’s great.”
“Yeah. It is!”
The last decade of Harry’s life hasn’t been easy. Like Icarus, he had flown too close to the sun and burnt himself. He’s battled addiction and is finding his way back to redemption with the help of his family – a partner who stands beside him and a baby to stand up for. And most importantly he’s stretching his wings, his music, to help him fly again.
If Harry Kimani’s music has ever made you feel some kind of way, then go support him by purchasing a song at https://lnkd.in/dBCHJG5U