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Chalk and board was too boring, bengatronics is now my thing-Mwalimu Gregg Tendwa

By Shirley Genga | Wednesday, Jan 11th 2017 at 07:33
Tendwa [Photo: Courtesy]

 Why did you settle for bengatronics and not any other kind of music?

 Bengatronics can be many things, depending on your preferences. To some, it’s a sound, to others, a vibe, while some identify it as a movement.

Sometimes, we regard ourselves as a think tank that finds romance in the fusion of sweet benga rhythms and melodies with the cutting edge of global electronic dance music.

However, when we get on stage, we are a band, playing both original and remix versions of tracks we love.

 Do you sing or mix the music?

Both. I am a sound designer. I produce music. I am the DJ in the band, but also play percussion.

Sometimes, I am a backup vocalist and an emcee. I also research and archive music.

When did you get into bengatronics?

We started in December 2014. That’s when I met a benga guitarist by the name of Slinger in Machakos. We started jamming at PH Lounge in Machakos during December holidays. 

In 2015, John Udulele, our bassist, joined us, followed by Moseh Drumist on percussions and Kibby Kenneth Didi, our studio engineering at the time.

 In about four months, we were ready to stage our first live show at Afadhali Night in Arusha. That was on May 22, 2015. We are still at it.

  Has the response been ensouraging?

It has been unique and different depending on where we are performing.  Tanzanians love it. Ugandans find us irresistible.

Nairobians often look surprised because it reminds them of their true past, which unfortunately, they try to run away from. For the dance maniacs, once you hit the floor, you can’t leave.

We are just back from Dakla Fest, where we engaged our audience in a trip down memory lane. I was impressed by how they sang along to half of the songs we remixed.

  What do you love most about your career?

I love preserving and promoting a unique African culture; dissecting music and rearranging it. I also love being free to do what I love.

I am that teacher who graduated from Kenyatta University but left the boring classroom for a more vibrant creative world.

 

 What are some of the challenges you face?

Appreciation versus rejection. It is common for artists to be rejected. Secondly, passion versus profit; we love to follow our passion while making some profit, but that isn’t always the case as market forces drive you towards places you never wanted to go.

Also, walking solo or creating a movement; working with a group can be difficult and dynamic, and the returns can be minimal, so many people opt to work solo, but to create a movement, we opt to share the little we can find.

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