Every other Thursday we have our Mics And Beats segment where we feature musicians. Today’s Mics And Beats artist is Muthigani Njama. Muthigani Njama is the the Lead singer, rhythm guitarist and co-songwriter of the Claymore Project, a Kenyan based experimental/ indie/ alternative rock band.
The band consists of three other members: Robin Marcel (lead guitar/vocals), George Gikaria (bass guitar/ vocals) and Rai Kanya (Drums/vocals).
When and why did you start playing? Which instruments do you play?
My first instrument was the drums, which I was absolutely in love with! I started in church which was around the year 2007. I then moved onto the guitar straight out of high school in the year 2008. As to why I started playing; music has always been a big part of my family. Also it was a way I could wholly express myself without having to necessary speak about it. I am not much of a talker!
Do you have a formal musical education?
I have no formal music training. Everything I learned was self-taught, through tutorials, documentaries, or experimentation! But I do intend, in the near future, to do some formal music training, if for the sole purpose of widening the scope of my technique and understanding.
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?
Thinking back, my father loved music. He’d always play us his oldies and he had this old acoustic Yamaha. I remember two particular songs that were engrained in my head as a child… John Denver’s Jet plane and Get down on it by Kool and the Gang.
How has your family supported your talent and your career as a musician?
My family have always been supportive. Both my mother and father are lovers of music and are very open minded to its pursuit, professionally or otherwise
What musical influences did you have a child?
I was a huge Michael Jackson fan. I’d try his dances and everything! Other than that I’d have to say guys like James Brown, Kool and the Gang, Otis Redding…
How is the music different from what you listen to now?
I still listen to that kind of music … but at the same time I’ve branched out into a lot more modern, indie type music, such as the Arctic Monkeys or Little comets, among many others.
What made you first realize that you wanted to pursue a career in music?
I never really thought of it as a career, more like something I just loved doing. But of late I must admit I have considered going all the way.
Who are your favourite musicians now? Groups? CD’s?
I listen to a lot of Arctic Monkeys; they are definitely one of my favourites. Kings of Leon, Little comets, John Mayer was one of my major influences when I was trying to get into the whole singer- songwriter + guitarist persona. Too be honest there are just too many influences I think I’d need an hour. *chuckle
How do you handle mistakes during a performance?
I always just improvise when something goes wrong on stage. Try as much as possible to make it look like part of the performance. It’s hard to explain really unless you’ve been on stage before. But it does work 8/10 times.
What advice would you give to beginners who are nervous?
The answer is simple. You’re always nervous. Even the biggest performing artists get nervous before going on stage. The secret is learning to accept it, and turning that nervous state into a state of complete adrenaline. Also, best advise I was ever given. Be yourself.
How often and for how long do you practice?
I personally don’t have a set time I practice or a set period. Sometimes I’d practice 5 hours straight, sometimes one hour maybe three-four times a week; the variables change I guess. As for the band I play for, we try to do up to two sessions a week of two hours each (if time allows).
Do you teach music?
No, I do not teach music. But I have given a few guitar lessons here and there on request
How would you describe your music to somebody who has never heard you play before?
Well, my music is melodic and slightly experimental in terms of music arrangement. It also has elements of a smooth acoustic indie rock. Try and imagine like John Mayer meets Fall Out Boy meets Jack Johnson.
What can people expect to see at your live performance?
I actually haven’t played a lot of gigs solo. But as per the band I play for, you should expect a stand strong band, lots of surprising sounds and a lot of crowd engagement.
What do you think your biggest break or greatest opportunity has been so far in your musical career?
I’d have to say when we played The Trend on NTV. Which turns out we were also the first band ever featured on the show. That was big and opened some serious avenues for us.
How much creative control do you have over what you play?
With my personal music I have 100% creative control no doubt. I’ll of course request second opinions with those around me but in the end I’m the one who decides exactly which direction a piece should take.
If you had a chance to change something in the music industry what would it be?
That’s a tough one… firstly I’d have to say the creation of a platform that promotes all kinds of music, all forms of artists and more sponsored live shows that showcase the amount of immense talent there is out there, which in turn means a very open-minded attitude to things. Secondly for music to be treated as an actual career path; because a lot of people consider artists, especially in Kenya, ‘thrill seekers.’
Have you played for any bands? Are you at the stage in your life where you can have a band that’s your band as opposed to playing for others?
I’ve played for two bands: First one was called Under construction, which we formed to be part of a one-time album that brought together different African artists to make an album on AIDS awareness.
The second, and current one, is an alternative indie rock band called The Claymore Project.
I’d say yes, I am at that stage where I could comfortably put a band together that I’d call my band who play my music as.
What is your favourite type of music and is it different from what you play now?
I guess it highly depends on the mood… but I like indie rock and blues rock. Also I’m very much into melodic and chilled out house music. What I play now is very experimental but you could say it borders a lot on indie alternative rock especially as a band.
What are your other interests outside of music? What do you do to relax outside of music?
I love travelling and bringing people together. Nothing relaxes me more than the great outdoors and meeting new people. Also movies and books. They tend to transport me beyond the confines of my known world and they allow a mini great escape.
What keeps you going as a musician?
Watching other musicians!! Every time I feel a little uninspired, I watch live performances and life stories of various great performing artist new and old, alive or dead. It’s a great motivator.
Where would you like to see yourself in the next five years as an artist? What are your long term career goals?
In the next five years I would like to have released a solo album. I’d like to be somewhat fully realized as an artist, but still have room for evolving. I have never really pictured myself a full time musician. I have other passions I still pursue… but all in all I’d still like to be the best I can be with the time I have and the gifts I’ve been granted. Wherever that leads me I’ll gladly accept.
If you were to perform with anybody/group in the world, either dead or alive, who would it be?
Where do I even begin! I’d definitely love to play with John Mayer, Kings of Leon, Of Monsters and Men, The Arctic Monkeys …definitely Ben Howard. The list is endless!
What are your up to date performance plans? New releases? Tours? News?
At the moment the band is on a hiatus; working on individual projects. Personally, I am working towards developing my playing and writing techniques. As far as future plans are concerned… for my personal music; I’ll be releasing singles by the end of the year and playing gigs as soon as possible. The band will be writing music under the radar and will release a couple of new songs by the end of the year and we have already gotten numerous requests to play several gigs. We will know for sure towards the end of 2016.
If you would like to interact with the band find them on twitter at @ClaymoreProject.