Webi is a soulful singer, songwriter and guitarist. Born and raised in a musical family, Webi picked up playing the guitar and singing at an early age and has continued to do so until this present date. Having started a professional career in music as an artiste in 2003, Webi has up until now recorded three studio albums ‘Outside my Window’ (2005), ‘All I Can Say’ (2009) & the soon-to-be released ‘Lukundo (Love)’. Also released, are some independent singles including ‘Gonna Be Alright’ & ‘The Love Stand’. Consequently, he is a 3 time One Gospel awards winner (2008), a multiple Groove awards nominee (2009) & the Airtel TRACE music star winner – Kenya (2015). Webi is currently signed to Pine Creek Records.
When and why did you start singing?
I started singing around the age of 10, as far as I can remember. I loved it and felt the call to pursue it.
Which instruments do you play?
I play the guitar, as my main instrument and basic piano.
Do you have a formal musical education?
Yes I do. I took it up seriously in high school then right after at a Nairobi based music school called Joy Music & Creative Arts. I also did some online courses offered by Edinburgh University and Berkelee College of music.
Thinking back to early childhood what was your first experience with music for the first time like. What song/s do you remember most as a child?
My first encounter with music would have to be through my mom’s playing and singing. I have memories of growing up and almost every day, watching and listening to her as she sang played hymns and tonnes of other songs on her guitar. I was most musically aware during 90’s and from that time, some of the most memorable songs for me would have to be “No Diggity” (Blackstreet) & “Return of the Mack” (Mark Morrison).
What musical influences did you have as a child?
Well at first it was my mom, but then I got hooked on to R&B so the biggest influences were BabyFace, Boyz II Men, Toni Braxton, Jagged Edge, Faith Evans, and Jon B… quite the list of singers.
How is the music different from what you listen to now?
Well, I think that there’s a lot of music being made mostly for high rotation on radio/TV, clubs etc. now, more than back then. What I always loved about the music from the 90’s for instance is that it felt more honest and had a little more musicianship. That’s there these days too, but they don’t make it like back then.
What made you first realize that you wanted to pursue a career in music?
I think that from the moment I first started playing guitar, I knew in my heart that no matter what else I might end up doing, I wouldn’t be far from music. The first choice would be music though.
Who are your favourite musicians now? Groups? CD’s?
Dela, Sage, Chris Adwar, Elani, Sauti Sol, Tye Tribett, Joe Thomas, Maxwell & Coldplay. My favourite CD’s right now are “Greater Than” (Tye) & “Black summer’s night” (Maxwell)”.
How do you handle mistakes during a performance?
I tend to quickly go into ‘adjustment mode’. However, it depends on how serious the mistake is. Some of them are undetectable by the audience so I ‘stay in character’ and keep on doing my thing!
What advice would you give to beginners who are nervous?
I guess I’d say breathe deeply before beginning and smile as you begin. Soon enough, you will relax.
How often and for how long do you practice?
I rehearse with my band mostly a month or two before shows and that tends to be for 2 hours each session. On my own, in my little rehearsal room at home, I could do 2-3 hours and that’s every two days.
Do you mentor any musicians?
Not as much as I’d like to, but I have had the chance to.
You won the Airtel Trace music star competition last year. How has that changed your life?
It has been my biggest win yet. It set the stage for what follows, which is the release of my third studio album. Being on that platform spurred me to want more out of my career.
What is the best thing about winning the competition?
The practical realization that time and chance happen to everyone and that it was my turn to win. Also, the money!
How would you describe your music to somebody who has never heard you sing before?
My music is deliberately soulful, inspired by life, love and laced over a signature acoustic, African sound.
What can people expect to see at your live performance?
They can expect to see me do what I love with great energy and having contagious fun with my band! They can also expect great vibes.
Out of the songs you have performed which is your favourite song?
My favourite cover song to perform is “She’s Royal” (Tarus Riley). Of my own songs, one of my favourites is a previous single called “Gonna Be Alright”.
What do you think your biggest break or greatest opportunity has been so far in your musical career?
I’ve had many great opportunities and each has been very special. The greatest, though, would have to be my win at the Airtel Trace music star competition in 2015, because of the relationships I built around it, the chance to share my gift with a wider audience and to make an investment into mine and my family’s future.
How much creative control do you have over what you perform?
In essence, I have complete control. However, I make room for the creative expression/input of the people I perform with.
Do you write your own music?
Yes I do. I have had a chance to co-write some songs on my projects, but mostly, I do it myself.
If you had a chance to change something in the music industry what would it be?
I would change how we avail & consume music. There are lots of great artistes that will never be heard on a large scale because they’re not popular or don’t produce ‘radio-friendly’ music. I’d make it that everyone gets a fair chance to be heard.
Have you ever performed with a band/group? What are the lessons you have learnt from being part of a group?
I’ve never really performed with or in a group, but I have shared the stage with a couple of them. I have performed backed by different bands over the years though, and I’ve learned that personal discipline is what characterizes success.
What is your favourite type of music and is it different from what you play now?
My favourite type of music has always been R&B/Soul. The only difference now is that I choose to express myself through a more African sound, but the R&B influence is still present.
What are your other interests outside of music? What do you do to relax outside of music?
Outside of music, I’m very fascinated by the world of marketing. To relax, I swim every week. I also go to the movies at least once every week with my wife.
What keeps you going as a musician?
The thing that drives me is my passion for writing, recording and performing music. I also love seeing the music become a part of people’s lives.
Where would you like to see yourself within the next five years as an artist?
I’d love to share my music with audiences within & beyond the African continent, playing live on tour. I’d also love to pave the way for an upcoming artiste into the world of artistry.
What are your long term career goals?
One of my main goals is to be able to get to the point where while still being fairly active as an artiste, the focus would be investing in talent. At this point I’d have achieved personal goals & would want to set others on the path to doing the same.
If you were to perform with anybody/group in the world, either dead, alive who would it be? (You can name a couple of people)
I would absolutely love to perform with Joe Thomas, Maxwell, John Mayer, John Legend, Lokua Kanza & Jonathan Butler.
You are launching your new album next week. What can your fans expect from the new album?
They can expect a new sound, in that it has a strong Kenyan/African flair to it. They can also expect to find it relatable as it is by definition ‘for the lovers, the believers, the dreamers, and the everyday people’.
What are your up to date performance plans? New releases? Tours? News
Of course there’s my album launch on 29th April, but I’ll also be playing at Choices on 12th May and hopefully we can take the show to Mombasa right after. To get every confirmed performance update though, everyone can follow me on twitter (@Webi_) and Facebook (Webi Music). There will be quite a bit of action in the remaining months of the year and I’ll be posting about that.
Meanwhile, advance tickets to my album launch are available on www.ticketsasa.com and each ticket purchase includes an album copy!
Webi’s music is available on:
Webi.bandcamp.com & www.mdundo.com
If you would like to interact with Webi find him on Twitter – @webi_, also on Facebook at – www.Facebook.com/webimusic. Check out his YouTube channel www.YouTube.com/TheWebimusic. Also follow him on Instagram – @webimusic