Tapping Talent

Published on 16th August 2005

Laban is a self made pianist, song composer, sound technician and repairer of electronic equipment. He was not lucky to complete his studies due to financial constraints but as somebody put it, ‘one’s gift opens a door for him’. From a humble remote village, Laban has traversed many regions on performing appointments.

The African Executive: Briefly describe your music background.

Laban: Way back in primary school, I used to be captivated by the blended voices pelted by the school choir. This made me to join choir. Our trainer had a small wind instrument that he’d use to harmonise voices. The sound produced by this instrument really fascinated me. In secondary school I got exposed to television. I would enjoy the Sing and Shine and Joy Bringers programs particularly the playing of the keyboard. I got so carried away that I thought the best option was to join the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC), to be close to these musicians. While in Form 2, I applied for a broadcasting vacancy in KBC but I received regrets.

A.E: Explain your first ‘hands on’ experience on musical equipment.

Laban: During one vacation, my home church purchased a big piano. No one in the church knew how to play it. I requested the pastor to allow me to learn playing it and was tremendously excited to be granted permission. I embarked on the long journey of learning the notes on my own. That was around 1993. The following year, a church group launched an open air meeting in my home market. It had a very big keyboard that could play drums, whistle and make a variety of sounds. Never before had such a ‘magical’ instrument been at close range. At the end of the meeting I hastily approached one of the ushers and asked to talk to the owner of the instrument to whom I stated interest to learn. I was later surprised to learn that he didn’t know how to play it. He however allowed me to use it once a week for half an hour.

A.E: You are a much sought after pianist. How did you penetrate the public arena?

Laban: In 1996, a friend of mine was set to wed. The bridal party had indicated using music played from a cassette to march. I suggested to them to allow the choir to sing while I played the keyboard. There was some resistance in the beginning for the bride and bridegroom didn’t want their ceremony to have shortcomings. They however gave in to my request. Little did I know that this would be the turning point in my music career. My playing moved the entire audience and right away people started inviting me to play music in different occasions. Each time I played, I would gain more confidence.

A.E: Has your experience been all “rosy”?

Laban:  Not at all! It took time before accomplished musicians accepted me in their circles. There are many times that I would be chased on moving near a keyboard. Some times, a borrowed keyboard would blow in my hands forcing me to take it for repairs yet I had no money. People love my music. They invite me to perform in many functions. They demand quite a lot from me but give very little in return. Then there is the temptation from the opposite sex. Many ladies like identifying themselves with pianists. I have had a rough time keeping their amorous advances at bay.

A.E: What conditions does one fulfil to hire your services?

Laban:  He has to cater for my transport and accommodation. In addition, he has to remit Ksh. 500 per day spent on his function. Most people rarely honour these conditions.

A.E: How much money on average do you make per month?

Laban: Ksh. 2,000 for performing and Ksh. 400 for training aspiring pianists. That amounts to Ksh.2,400 per month. My house rent costs Ksh. 800. As you can judge, the amount is little but the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.

A.E: Where did you acquire knowledge on electronic servicing?

Laban: For sure I can’t tell but it could be as a result of handling electronic equipment. I had a radio which I could struggle to revive each time it stopped functioning. I could dismantle it at times and reassemble it. This extended to cassette recorders, TVs, keyboards and computers to some extent. It is just a God given talent which supplements my income.

A.E: What are some of your achievements?

Laban: I have trained over 14 people to play the keyboard and am pleased that some of them play better than me. I have also done music programming and sequencing for groups like Kijana Poa of Sayare Radio/TV during their live performance and competitions making them earn top accolades. I have also made several radios and TVs which were condemned as irreparable, to work again.

A.E: Where are you headed?

Laban: I yearn to have my own musical instruments. I have a dream of setting up a recording studio and school of music to help people learn how to play musical instruments. I have already formed a singing group that specialises in gospel songs. With money, we intend to record our songs for sale.

A.E: Tell upcoming musicians something.

Laban: Music is gratifying and fulfilling. Man is a musical being and responds to music in various ways. In the African customs, music is involved right from the cradle way down to the grave. Music heals. Music refreshes. Music relieves tension and acts as an alternative means of delivering a message. Rising to the top has many obstacles but these need not be hindrances but stepping stones to the top. Aspiring musicians should be focussed, committed to their quest and self disciplined.

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