On today’s Mics and Beats segment, we feature ‘T.H.E Band’. T.H.E Band which stands for ‘To Him Entirely’ are a contemporary Christian band with a drive to bring metamorphosis to African Gospel Music. They bring the edge back into melodies that satisfy your soul and take you back to when gospel music was gospel music, back when you would hear an Angela Chibalonza song and everything around you just stops. That kind of music.
Formed in the year 2015, the gospel band that comprises of 16 people that aren’t just a group of individual musicians playing together but a single entity that comes together to bring its own personality and sound. So far, they have had a lot of concerts and tours done in different parts of the country. They have also had three main concerts at Mamlaka Hill Chapel in Nairobi including Psalms Unplugged which was a celebration of local content and timeless gospel music.
Kevin Alegwa, the leader of the band To Him Entirely, gave us a more in depth insight into his musical journey with the band.
When and why did you start playing/singing? Which instruments do you play?
I started playing music at an early age. I picked up the guitar when I was like nine years old and I can remember the first four chords that my father taught me. I owe all that I am to Mr. Levi Alegwa, the greatest musician I know. One of my most fond memories of when I was younger was when he used to stand in front of me and teach me the chord progressions of music when I only knew about three or four formations of chords on the guitar.
I play a variety of instruments i.e. bass guitar, lead guitar, acoustic guitar, classical guitar, piano, saxophone, recorder, flute, clarinet amongst others. I also sing and write my own songs and arrange music as well.
I can say that the band has been blessed with an immense variety of talents and it’s amazing how we all just synchronize to become one.
Do you have a formal musical education?
Yes I do. I was in Kenyatta University where I undertook a degree programme, Bachelor of Music (B.Mus). I recently graduated, in July last year. We also have a number of band members who are studying (or have studied) music.
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?
Having been brought up in a Christian home and with Christian principles, most of all the songs I can remember are congregational music. I however recall one of my favourite songs was a tune whose lyrics are as follows,
“Christ is the answer to all your problems, Christ is the answer, He’s all you need. Saviour baptiser, the Great Physician, Christ is the answer, He’s all you need.” I really can’t recall the name of the song but I’m sure the older folk would know what song that is.
What musical influences did you have a child?
My dad is definitely my greatest role model and influence. I also grew up listening to a lot of rhumba music and I fell in love with Lingala and Sebene at an early age. I remember how excited I could get whenever dad taught me those Congolese riffs. Then I started listening to a lot of reggae and R n’ B, then I got into jazz and got stuck at Black Gospel and Neo Soul.
How is the music different from what you listen to now?
One of the greatest differences is the content. When I was growing up, there was a lot of music with messages on air. There was a lot of really good music being written. I guess then it was more about the art than it was about money and industry. One notable difference is the timelessness of the music that was written then. Most of them are and can still be sung years and generations down the line.
Now we have a lot of commercial music. Which is not wrong, but my heart still aches for the times people used to write music loaded with scripture, truth and sound doctrine. When people wrote songs that only glorified Christ and no one else. That is the greatest difference I could say especially for gospel music, hence the need for the concert. Where we get to revive these old time Gospel Classics and give them an urban funky twist, while still maintaining and retaining the lyrical content therein.
What made you first realize that you wanted to pursue a career in music?
That has always been the hardest question to answer. For most of us in the band, the passion for music is just inborn. It drives us each and every single day and we don’t know where we would be without that passion in us. But one reason I’m definite about is when we get up on a pulpit or a stage and we get to see the joy on people’s faces when we start playing. That for us is where we know that this is where our hearts really should be.
Who are your favourite musicians now?
Oh my, they are so many. I listen to anything and everything. I can be so random, to listen to Jewish music at one time and then off to Russian at the other time. I like to do that as it broadens my scope in terms of arrangement and understanding of stylistics in music.
But some of my favourites are Troy Sneed, Todd Dulaney, James Fortune, Israel Haughton, Joyous Celebration, Evolution, Frere Golla, Werra Son, Fally Ipupa, Jose Chameleon, Tasha Cobbs, Shirley Caesar etc. The list is endless.
How do you handle mistakes during a performance?
We smile them away. I have come to realise that listeners buy what you sell to them. If you give them the “Oh my God I just messed up” look, then that is exactly what they will buy. Being a creative, sometimes ideas just come up on stage at the spur of the moment. Some work, some don’t. But as my mum always told me, you win some you lose some, such is life. So I do not worry much. There is beauty in such messes in a performance, it all depends on how you handle yourself when you make a mistake.
What advice would you give to beginners who are nervous?
Make all the mistakes you can now when you are starting. Be excited whenever you make a mistake. Most people who are ‘bathroom artists’ as they like to call themselves find it hard when they get on a live stage because the dynamics are so different. So be bold and make those mistakes!
Also, Practise Practise Practise! And when you feel tired, P R A C T I S E even more! The trick and secret to being a master lies entirely in practise discipline.
How often and for how long do you practice?
We rehearse twice a week whether there is a gig or not. This is important for us to come up with our material and our arrangements plus it also helps to gel us as a team and as we know chemistry is important for any group up on any stage.
When there are gigs as we have been getting lately, then the rehearsal time increases as the demand arises from the specific gig. Sometimes our sets are not so demanding so we sometimes have extra time to slot a practice session before the event.
Do you teach music?
Yes I teach music. I teach music in an international school and I also have private students that I teach various instruments.
How would you describe your music to somebody who has never heard you play before?
Soulful. We play with our souls. It gets to a point where we get lost in all of our performances and when it comes from such a deep and vulnerable part of a human being, it can be hard to describe it.
What can people expect to see at your live performance?
Fun, fun and more fun! There is a lot of spontaneity. We’re all creatives so sometimes ideas tend to pop up on stage making our performances full of life and full of a mix of different arrangements and twists and turns.
We also love engaging our audience, I mean, we can’t have all the fun alone now can we?
What do you think your biggest break or greatest opportunity has been so far in your musical career?
Some of my greatest highlights would be playing at the World Cup Football finals in 2006 with Judy Bailey. Touring Germany and other parts Europe doing ministry. Working in the studio with different artistes was a big thing for me as it helped get my name out there. As a musician you are as good as your reputation and your skill and your referrals.
But for me my current greatest moment in my musical life is when we formed T.H.E Band. They have given me a new cause to my life and seeing them up on stage humbles me so much.
If you had a chance to change something in the music industry what would it be?
It would be campaigning for the heart in the people playing the music rather than money. I would encourage people to do their art from their heart, and to quit pursuing money. For money is fading. It is here today and gone tomorrow, but the heart is permanent. The heart is there to stay and it should be the reason behind every note, every word and behind every song.
Did any of you sing or play for other bands before you started your own band? How was it?
Yes, some of us have played for other band and some still do. It was a great opportunity because as I have come to earn, personally it has given me a level of musical maturity. It has also taught me group dynamics when on stage. It has opened my eyes to the role of every musician on stage in any given performance and how to work to ensure that everyone is being brought forth instead of only one person shinning.
What are the lessons you have learnt being part of a band?
One of my greatest lessons that I have learnt in To Him Entirely is team work and humility. The fact that everyone in the band is as important as anyone in the band and that we need each other. It has been a tough lesson to learn.
What keeps you going as a band?
Our love for each other, our love for God, our burden for ministry and for the things of God. We all happen to have the same burden for ministry through music and seeing everyone grow and be the best version of themselves endears us to each other. Plus we are a family. There have been many times we fight and it gets ugly, but the friend in us always calls us back together and we laugh about those moments, dust off our shoes and move on.
Where would you like to see yourself within the next five years as a band?
First we would like to be done with our album which we are currently in the studio recording with Dominic Khaemba of Ageless Muzik and soon to start recording with Cedrick Kadenyi (Cedo) of Pacho Records Ent. We also want to do our live recording and our album tour.
Then we would like to ensure that we raise the banner of gospel music in the African scene. We would like to work hard to get to the point where we would be ambassadors of African music. So that when people have pride in African Gospel and talk about African musicians, the talk would not end without our impact being talked about.
If you were to perform with anybody/group in the world, either dead, alive who would it be?
I’d say Israel and New Breed, Marvin Sapp, Nqubecko Mbatha, Ntokozo Mbambo, Joyous Celebration, James Fortune etc.
What are your up to date performance plans? New releases? Tours? News
We are having a concert at the Michael Joseph Centre this Sunday the 24th of July from 2:30 to 5:30 pm. The event, Za Jadi, is a celebration of Gospel Music, all from the 80s and 90s. Unlike most of the other concerts, we are trying to bring to life these powerful gospel songs that were written from our early childhood days. The aim of the concert is to bring awareness to the need to get back to writing songs that are rich in the word, in truth and in sound doctrine. There shall also be interviews with veteran musicians who have over time written songs that are agelessness and we shall be drawing wisdom from them.
Tickets can be bought online by sending cash to the following M- PESA Number 0795453035. Advance tickets go for Kshs 400/= and Gate charges are only Kshs 500/=. For some of us it will be so nostalgic singing to these songs that we probably may have never heard about in the longest time. We have to give them an urban and funky twist, yet maintaining and retaining the lyrical content.
We are also going to be at Trinity Chapel Ruiru for an evening of worship the coming week on the 27th and soon after planning a tour down in Coast and one in Rwanda later on in the year.