Pearls And Heels: Atemi Oyungu


It is another beautiful Monday and time for our Pearls and Heels segment. Our Pearls and Heels lady today is Singer Atemi Oyungu. Atemi Oyungu is a singer/songwriter/entertainment guru/marketer/jack of all trades from Nairobi Kenya. Her passion is music and she needs all sorts of tools to realize her vision. Atemi is currently the General Manager for Pine Creek Records and is also an independent events Manager. Find out all about her music, acting, etc. in our segment that spotlights artists Mics and Beats: Atemi Oyungu.

Atemi Oyungu 2

1. Describe your typical day?

I like to get up early and have my quiet time. Then breakfast followed by a work out or the other way round. I’m pretty organized so I usually know my plans for tomorrow before I got to bed. In fact, I like to have scheduled my whole week the week before leaving space for impromptu things but still following a plan of some sort. So on some days I will have meetings (mostly Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays) which I prefer to have in the first half of the day so I can spend my afternoons doing follow up, writing proposals, returning calls, answering emails…etc. I like to have Tuesday’s and Thursday’s open for writing and recording if I can. The weeks don’t always work out like this, but I do my best to maintain order. If I have a performance coming up, this changes completely because all priority will go to rehearsals.

2. What did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be President when I was 9 (I have an uncle who tells that story to this day!), when I was 12 I wanted to be a veterinarian, and in high school I wanted to be a lawyer. In forth form, I went to a talk about Marketing and Advertising and fell head over heels in love with it…hence my marketing major at university. I only realized that I wanted to sing as a career after I graduated…I was lucky to have some tools to help me by then!

3. If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?

I would have started writing earlier. Also, I would have learned to play the piano very early as well. These are tools that have helped my growth as an artiste is such a strong way…I wish I had not listened to nay sayers and tapped into them early.

4. What would you say are the top three skills needed to succeed at your job?

  • Well first you have to have a good ear. I don’t know if this is a skill or a gift, but above all, you need to be able to hear notes, realize what key you’re in…even with a passable or bad singing voice, a musician with a good ear can get very far.
  • You also need to be good with people/have good people skills. We sell 2 products as musicians…our music and ourselves. Musicians touch people everyday with their songs. They invite us in to their homes, their cars, their relationships…basically their lives through our music. So when they meet us, they feel like they know us. We have to be ‘up’ all the time. We need to be ready to listen, ready to give back the love they’re giving us at any given time. This comes very easy for some people…but many of us musicians (me) are very introverted and melancholic. It’s important that we train ourselves to be ready. We make music for these people…we need to put on our best face for them whether they’re loving or hating us at a particular moment. After all, this is the life we chose.
  • Lastly, this may sound cliché, but you have to creative. Some may consider this a talent, but it is actually a skill that can be worked on and honed. We have to keep reinventing ourselves, looking for new ways to say what we’ve been saying, finding new ways to present ourselves to our target. You can get stuck on doing the same this in music. You must keep reinventing the wheel.

5. As a professional how is it working in Nairobi? Is Nairobi open to what you do or what could be better?

Well, Nairobi is evolving right before our eyes. Although we have a little bit of a self-hate complex where we are always the first to bash our own, I think it’s changing in to the kind of place where we are becoming proud of our success stories enough to want to be part of them from the beginning.

This is important…we can’t keep ignoring artistes or hating on artistes, then loving them when the win Oscars. People like Lupita Nyon’go were here hustling long before they made it out there. We just didn’t really love on her until Hollywood said she was famous (disclaimer…I loved her from ‘Suga’ :-). How wonderful it would have been for her and us if we had been loving on her from the first time we saw her! She has always been a great actress though many Kenyan’s didn’t even see ’12 years a slave’ until after she won the award. We should have been first in the cinema’s because a Kenyan was in the movie! But I feel the tides of change coming…little by little we have started to love ourselves.

6. What motivates you?

Hmm…this I have to think about. I am motivated by wins to an extent…but I am mostly motivated when people are touched by my music. I love hearing stories about people who were touched by the songs…its makes my day to hear someone say that my music cheered them up…or that they were in a bad place and my music uplifted them…or they celebrated something special with a song of mine. This keeps me going…it pushes me. After all, I make the music for them :-).

7. How do you define success?

Success is measured in terms of what you set out to do in the first place. If you want to make money, I guess success is making money. But I believe true success is seen in the relationships you have cultivated, the people you touch on your journey. It’s how the people who know you the best see you…it’s how the world around you has changed for the better because of you. But making money while you do it is also a lovely thing!

8. Who has been your greatest inspiration?

I would say that my greatest inspiration as a musician is music itself. I love it…even the genres that I don’t love still manage to impress me…to push me to make more music and to find new ways to present it.

9. What is your favorite aspect of your job?

I like it when I hear a song come together for the 1st time in studio! Before that, it’s all and idea in my head which I must convey to the producer the best that I can and hope that he gets a good grasp of my vision. If he does, the first time I listen to the finished product is magic!

10. What would you say are the key elements to being successful?

I believe that purpose, passion and a good team are the key elements to success. Purpose creates a road map to where you want to go, passion is the fuel that keeps you going no matter what the circumstances and lastly, you can’t get ahead on your own…the people you choose to have on your team also determine how far you go.

11. What advice would you give somebody just starting out in your line of work?

You have to be sure that this is what you want to do for the rest of your life, be sure that you actually have the skills/talent for it and be sure that you are ready to make the necessary sacrifices for it. Anything worth doing isn’t easy…if it was easy, everybody would do it.

12. What has been your most satisfying moment in terms of career?

Lol…I’m not sure I’ve had it yet! The best is still yet to come 🙂

13. What makes you happy?

People getting along and being kind, real, supportive, nice even if they don’t have to be…this makes me happy! That and all things chocolate.

14. What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?

I watch series! This is my biggest hobby…like seriously. Maybe it’s even a problem! I should have a part time job as a series/movie critic…they should let me see everything first!

I like to read too…then watch the movie based on the book I just read and make comparisons! I have been known to go back to a book just to see how authentic the movie was in comparison!

I also love to cook…I’m looking for new recipes! I recently got an iron cast skillet as a gift…Best.Present.Ever!!!

15. Where you see yourself in around 10 years?

I see myself as a better version of who/what I am today. I am sure that I am headed in the right direction…I hope to be better, to be stronger, to have grown in my craft but not to be jaded…still believing in love and in dreams coming true. How corny am I?

In 10 years, I hope to have established a legacy…I would like Kenya and the world to still be listening to the music I’m writing now…and for the music I’m writing then to have the same kind of longevity.

If you would like to interact with Atemi find her on twitter at @atemidiva.

Also if you haven’t you can check out her interview on Mics and Beats.

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Managing editor and blogger at Potentash. Passionate about telling African stories. Find me at [email protected]