Today on Mics And Beats we feature Joseph M popularity known as Jemedari. Jemedari is a Music Creative. He says “I feel like saying “Rapper ” creates this box that then makes it difficult to see all the other things I do. I rap, perform, write poetry and music, I MC at events and I advocate for a larger space for art in society. But of all this, the most active thing I do is make Hip hop music and perform my works of art.”
Msenangu – Jemedari feat Jerry (Official Video)
When and why did you start rapping? Which instruments do you play?
I discovered rap the long way. It started with Spoken Word as early as those primary school competitions. I took it a bit more seriously in high school but my biggest break came after high school.
I have been toying with the idea of playing the Saxophone. My biggest hindrance is the learning curve. I wish I had a USB port in my brain. Until, then, I leave instruments to the real instrumentalists
Why rap and not singing?
Rap is a bit more flexible with intonations, breathing patterns and structure. Singing would require a huge amount of vocal control, which I’m not very capable of. Let Ken of Le Band and Chimano of Sauti Sol handle the deep voice singing
What are the challenges of being a rapper in Kenya as opposed to a singer?
Being a rapper in Kenya is a love hate relationship. Like a competitive sport mixed with a relationship and employment. One day, everything works. Music is flowing, radio is showing love, shows are packed. The next day, you can barely write, you’re barely being played and you’re performing to 7 people. The key is to maintain your sound, maintain your identity and keep delivering 100! I’d perform in front of 10 people the same way I would in front of 1 million. Energy, passion and dedication are key.
Do you have a formal musical education?
I have zero formal musical education. But I was raised when “Art, crafts and Music” was a subject in school. Does that count?
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?
My earliest memory of music was The Zangalewa Troupe! Odd I know, but my parents knew I smiled when they sang it to me. The first sounds I experienced were Jazz and Rhumba from my Dad’s collection and Ragga! Not this dancehall stuff we see now. Real Ragga! Shabba Ranks, Chaka Demus and Pliers, and Yellowman were kings back then. I bumped into hip hop much later but it was love at first listen.
What musical influences did you have a child?
I grew up listening to the OGs. I always had love for coastal sounds and Mother made sure Mzee Ngala was always on replay. I then discovered sounds like Miriam Makeba, Ino Kamoze, Black Mambazo and Paul Simon, gravitated towards rap after Vanilla Ice, Tupac, Notorious BIG and our very own Hardstone. Music discovery back then was strictly via radio so there was little choice in what you came across.
How is the music different from what you listen to now?
The music is different now because I sort of have a choice in what I listen to, and this is mostly informed by how good the music is. I care less for genres and labels, now I just listen to good music and hope that my own music matches up.
What made you first realize that you wanted to pursue a career in music?
Transformation! The ability to capture the attention of another human being and in that moment, make them see everything through your eyes. The feeling you get when a musician is saying the exact thing that you are going through, in the exact way that you feel it. I experienced this during my early days as a performer in high school. I knew this was a calling and I simply never stopped.
Who are your favourite musicians now? Groups? CD’s?
No current favourites, I’m afraid. Now my ear jumps from artist to artist based on specific songs and performances.
How do you handle mistakes during a performance?
The show must go on. Fortunately, I perform with a band so it’s easy to deflect the attention to another aspect of the band. The important thing is to recognize a mistake and try avoiding it during the next showcase.
What advice would you give to beginners who are nervous?
Everyone gets nervous. The day you stop feeling nervous is the day you’ve stopped challenging yourself. That adrenalin should fuel you.
How often and for how long do you practice?
Currently, practice is dictated by how frequently I perform. High season means regular practice, low season means time to work on other aspects like branding, writing and improving my biking skills.
Do you teach music?
No. I’m currently picking up a lot of knowledge from other musicians. I share the little that I have learned but I wouldn’t call that teaching per se.
How would you describe your music to somebody who has never heard you play before?
*Insert Optimus Prime voice* Humans of the earth, Hip hop has never sounded this different. *End clip* Seriously though, Jemedari’s hip-hop is the sound of freedom to express, experiment and create. No holds barred, straight from the soul. This music is alive…
What can people expect to see at your live performance?
Soul, emotion and fun. This music is more than just music. It’s expression, therapy and fun all rolled up into one. People go to see shows. At a typical Jemedari show, we experience things.
What do you think your biggest break or greatest opportunity has been so far in your musical career?
I walked into Sarit Centre one day and asked if I could see the organizer of Kenya Music Week so I could perform. Mike told me slots were full but he asked me if I could MC the event and see how it goes. I have MC’d what is now the ONGEA Eastern Africa Music Summit for 8 years and most of opportunities I have encountered are as a result of that one opportunity.
How much creative control do you have over what you play?
I work on most of my music in tandem with the band. They dictate what sounds better as they are the pros. When it comes to writing and recording, I go it alone most of the time. I’m currently learning to be more open in my creative process.
If you had a chance to change something in the music industry what would it be?
I would change the whole channel of music discovery if I could. The greatest Kenyan artists barely get to mainstream media. I wish they could. I wish there was a bigger way that art could play a role in modern day Kenya
You have played with many different bands (Afrology, Trifecta, Fused) but are you at the stage in your life where you can have a band that’s your band?
I work with a specific group of people now. There’s a band director who decides what we do with the shows and the sound, etc. He dictates who plays under him.
What is your favourite type of music and is it different from what you play now?
My favourite music is Jazz. Very different from what I actually do. It soothes my mind and eases my troubles.
What are your other interests outside of music? What do you do to relax outside of music?
I dabble in advertising and some visual art but my greatest and most energy consuming activity is my current quest to be a semi professional biker.
What keeps you going as a musician?
Music never stops. My biggest joy is knowing that I’m creating sounds that will exist even after I do not.
Where would you like to see yourself within the next five years as an artist? What are your long term career goals?
In five years I will be rapping, playing the sax, touring and trying to sell my 5th album. I have been thinking of actively documenting some aspects of the art so I might just be on radio or TV telling people what good music is out there.
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)
First, close your eyes… Imagine a 40-piece orchestra playing Until The End Of Time by Tupac Shakur. Tupac himself pauses the music and says, “Ladies and Gents, coming to the stage, straight from Kenya… Jemedari!” *crowd goes wild*
Realistically though, I would love to rock a stage with Dan Aceda, Makadem, Tetu Shani, June Gachui and Maureen of Elani.
What are your up to date performance plans? New releases? Tours? News
I’m doing a series of shows called Suits And Mics. The latest series is slated for Saturday 16 July at the Michael Joseph Centre at 6PM. I have some awesome friends coming through and there will be lots of music to experience. I shall also be using this a feeler session for some content off my upcoming album.