Every other Thursday we interview musicians for our Mics and Beats segment. Today’s artist is Vereso. Vereso is a Kenyan recording artist, performing Afro-urban music with a bluesy feel. Vereso is a trained vocalist and pianist. Her music consists of richly blended vocals, guitars, keyboards and percussion. The band Team Vereso has entertained different audiences in Kenya. They offer a unique and fresh sound. Vereso shares her love for God, her family, her country, and her life through her music. Vereso is looking forward to expanding her musical horizons by building her sound and audience.
When and why did you start playing? Which instruments do you play?
I play the piano/keyboard and keytar. I play and sing because it’s the best way I can express the experiences, feelings, lessons I have and am learning. And it just makes me so happy! It’s what I have been designed to do so it’s what brings me the most joy actually!
Do you have a formal musical education?
Yes, I have been classically trained from all the way from baby class, with Mrs. Gladys Kariuki as my first instructor and still a personal friend and mentor, in Classical piano and voice. At Alliance Girls High School I continued under Mrs Ngunjiri and participated in all music festivals. I continued with my Royal School of Music ABRSM Exams in Piano and Voice.
After high school, I joined the Kenya Conservatoire of Music to train vocally and joined Cantus in Coro that sang alongside the Kenya Conservatoire Orchestra. Then in 2013 I joined Penya, Africa’s Sauti Academy, under instructors Natalie Lukkenaer, Andrew Wambua and Dempsey Omwega and graduated in April 2014.
Thinking back to early childhood what was your first experience with music for the first time like. What song do you remember most as a child?
Music was always around me since my parents, aunties and uncles were in a music group called Eneza. Some uncles have videos of me joining them on stage in church so I must have loved it!
I remember many songs. Some very old school hymns, a lot of Ron Kenoly music and all of Eneza’s records.
How has your family supported your talent and your career as a musician?
My family has supported me in all ways; if it wasn’t for them I’d not have pursued music. My mother paid for all my classes. My siblings cheered me on, posting and reposting posters and music on social media. My father buying my newest toy, the keytar. They listen to my endless rehearsal sessions at home with all the screaming and screeching and give really constructive criticism after every event! My parents ask about the band affairs and are the sole investors in my enterprise. They’ve sold more tickets and CDs than anyone I know! Best family!
What musical influences did you have a child?
As a child, it was mostly anything my parents listened to: Ron Kenoly, Kirk Franklin, Mary Mary, Helen Baylor, Eneza and then Veggie tales series with Cucumber and later on classical music.
How is the music different from what you listen to now?
Then the music was very raw and live. Now there’s use of a lot of electronic sounds and equipment in the production process. Both are useful and key influences in my music.
What made you first realize that you wanted to pursue a career in music?
When I was 10 years old I sang to my class a Rachael Lampa song, they clapped and were surprisingly jazzed. I was shocked for sure. From then on, no-one can stop me.
Who are your favourite musicians now? Groups? CD’s?
I’ve no favourites but really enjoy heartfelt and sincere music so I keep changing depending on what I’m looking for. Now; Laura Mvula, Tori Kelly, Lianne Lahavas, Andra Day, Snarky Puppy, Bethel Music, Steffany Gretzinger, Amanda Cook, Hillsong Worship/Young and Free, Mwanga band, Adawnge, Beth and Highest Praise, Headboy Kichwatah’s new album, H_art THE BAND, Phy, Shamsi Music, Dira the band, Uncovered bandand more. The music changes so it would probably be different musicians if you asked again on a different occasion.
How do you handle mistakes during a performance?
Pretend it is part of the performance and enjoy the imperfection…there’s a beauty to that in life. I make many mistakes on stage, I can’t even count them but it’s what makes it different from the next moment, besides, it’s life!
What advice would you give to beginners who are nervous?
Take your time; know who you are and your purpose.
How often and for how long do you practice?
I rehearse vocally daily but times vary, sometimes hours and hours and other times, 1 hour daily depending on the technique I’m working on. We meet separately as a band.
Do you teach music?
That’s a tricky one. I’m not teaching officially but I instruct the worship team training program at my church, Parklands Baptist. My neighbour is one of my students though; it’s a trade….so yes and no.
How would you describe your music to somebody who has never heard you play before?
Afro urban with a heavy bluesy feel and fusion of many genres. With use of imagery, metaphors and play of words lyrically.
What can people expect to see at your live performance?
Energy and my heart! I do not hold anything back during live performances at all. I share all I have. Since Team Vereso is also a group of amazing artists who are excellent in their own right, you’ll get excellent, fresh and engaging music and personalities in one.
Mbarathi Karuga on bass, Michael Wanyama on drums, Kevin Wambani on acoustic guitar, Leroy Kahiga on lead guitar, Robby and JS on the keyboards, Wairimu Kamatu and Ikiriza Lovyna as lead vocalists and finally, Isaac Kimani, Nechesa, Manasseh, Jojo and William Kasina on vocals as well!
It’s quite the team but trust the launch will be amazing!
What do you think your biggest break or greatest opportunity has been so far in your musical career?
My album launch, WALK ON, will be my biggest opportunity and I think that every opportunity is the biggest opportunity
How much creative control do you have over what you play?
I have full control. I believe in exploring all areas. Together with my team, our experiences and musical skill, we kick it a notch higher.
If you had a chance to change something in the music industry what would it be?
If I had almighty powers, I’d change some of the content that’s plain rubbish and has no moral, ethical or spiritual benefit to people. Words have power and we need to use them carefully.
Have you played for any bands?
I haven’t played with different bands. I’ve always had my band because we have one mind, vision and thus walk on towards it together. My band mates are also really good friends and that’s the value of friendship.
What is your favourite type of music and is it different from what you play now?
I have no favourites. But the genres I’m listening to are in the artists that I listed earlier.
What are your other interests outside of music? What do you do to relax outside of music?
I love reading classics. I’m currently on Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina.
What keeps you going as a musician?
God. I sit at his feet, listen and obey what I’m told to do. It’s a joy to serve him, learn more and more of him daily and just dwell in his presence!
Where would you like to see yourself within the next five years as an artist? What are your long term career goals?
Having established a strong brand and name. Being known for the sincerity and authenticity of Vereso’s sound.
Growing in all aspects of my understanding of God, his heart, how he sees the world, and my expression of his fullness. I want to be able to use my music as an ambassador for environmental sustainability.
If you were to perform with anybody/group in the world, either dead, alive who would it be?
Maya Angelou, Mahalia Jackson, Ron Kenoly, Laura Mvula, Andra Day,Snarky Puppy, Pompi and Abel Chungu.
What are your up to date performance plans? New releases? Tours? News?
The Vereso Launch of “Walk on” is on Sunday 10th of April at Parklands Baptist Church. It will be from 3 pm to 6 pm. You can get tickets at Mpesa Paybill: 890900. Account Name: Vereso Launch. Tickets are Ksh. 300 and you will get a copy of the Album at the Gate. The show will feature artists Shamsi Music and Headboy Kichwatah.
If you would like to interact with vereso you can find her on twitter at @veresocindy.