Today on Mics And Beats we feature Charles Righa aka Rigga. Rigga is a Rapper, Singer, Songwriter, Recording/Performing Artiste from Nairobi. His musical content and world view is heavily influenced by his Christian faith as he seeks to create content that edifies the youth of the African continent.
Rigga’s maiden project was the highly acclaimed debut album titled “The Awakening” released in December 2007. This album was produced by David “Blackman” Muthami while under the Kijiji Records stable and had notable hits such as “Ibada Yangu” and “The Tongue.”
After a long hiatus, Rigga made his comeback to the music scene as an Artiste / Assistant Creative Director on the “Freedom Mixtape” (alongside Jaaz Odongo in 2012). This was an internet based initiative that had 12 free for download songs featuring a collective of musicians.
In December 2012, Rigga released his sophomore album project dubbed “Urban Prayers“. This album project features the production talents of Jaaz Odongo, David “Blackman” Muthami & Patrick “Saint P” Mbaru. The singles from Urban Prayers include “Sina Chorus” & “Ring Finger”.
Rigga has received numerous nominations from a host of award schemes over the years including the 2013 Annual Groove Awards, where he was nominated for Album of the Year & Hip Hop Song of the Year (for “Urban Prayers” & “Sina Chorus” respectively.)
Artistes that he has collaborated with include: Kanjii Mbugua, Neema Ntalel, Astar, Atemi Oyungu, Bupe, Noel Nderitu, Lisa Oduor-Noah, Dan “Chizi” Aceda, Kato Change and a host of others.
When and why did you start singing/rapping?
It all began in third term of Form 1. I would spend the end of my evening preps writing lyrics for song ideas that I had. It was my way of relieving stress from the pressures of life in boarding. I then performed some of those ideas to my schoolmates who were very encouraging so I kept at it all through high school. Immediately after high school in 2005 I got a record deal with Kijiji Records and ever since I’ve been a recording and performing artiste.
Singing was something I ended up developing because of being in church circles. While in campus I consistently took vocal lessons at the Kenya Conservatoire of Music which greatly improved my singing.
Do you play any music instruments?
No I don’t really play any instrument. I have a very basic understanding of keys and guitar (which helps me in songwriting) but I wouldn’t say that I play an instrument.
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?
Early on in my life I didn’t pay much attention to the music around me. I was too engrossed in academics and cartoons. My mum did try and take me for piano lessons early on but I didn’t stay long (I guess it wasn’t time yet). So other than the songs I heard in animations (like the Lion King) and the songs I heard in church, it’s hard for me to remember music from my early childhood.
What musical influences did you have a child?
Later on, in my upper primary school years, we didn’t have a TV for some time so I spent a lot of time listening to my Mum’s tapes. These were albums from artistes who were household names in virtually every Christian home in Kenya: Ron Kenoly, Don Moen, Alvin Slaughter & Andrea Crouch were on repeat. I think I wore those tapes out.
Soon after, we were able to get satellite TV and it’s like my head exploded. Channel O and MTV introduced me to popular music of the time (which came mostly from the States). I ended up listening to DMX, Eminem, Fabolous, Usher, Limp Bizkit, Blink 182, Sum 41, Coldplay, Daft Punk, Moby and lots more. The popular music of the late 90s & 2000s now serves as my earliest reference point to when I took a keen interest in music.
Has your family supported your music?
I’m an only child from a single parent home. My mum and I are very close and she’s been super supportive of my musical journey from its onset. I wouldn’t be here without her encouragement and blessing. And now I’m additionally blessed to have my wife (who is my best friend) who believes in me and supports my music 10,000%.
How is the music you used to listen to different from what you listen to now?
I would say that my musical palate has grown. As I continue on my musical journey I have kept meeting people who open my eyes and ears to things I haven’t heard/considered musically. I can confidently say that I’m an eclectic. I look for good music everywhere. I’m still learning and growing daily.
What made you first realize that you wanted to pursue a career in music?
After high school and all through my campus years I had the benefit of being signed to a record label (Kijiji Records) that allowed me to record an album, perform at live shows and do high school and university tours. Though I enjoyed what I studied in campus, I realized I was (and still am) passionate about music. I love the art form and I also love that it’s a powerful way to share life, joy and hope. It only makes sense for me to pursue my passion and what I believe to be my purpose.
Who are your favourite musicians now?
With the wide variety of music I listen to, I can’t pick favourite musicians. I like many songs from very many artistes.
How do you handle mistakes during a performance?
I don’t like making mistakes but they can be a good learning experience. I practice hard to make sure I don’t but even so, once in a while I fumble in front of an audience. However, I believe it’s how smoothly and quickly I can recover that makes me better on stage. It helps me grow more comfortable on stage.
What advice would you give to beginners who are nervous?
After 10+ years of recording and performing, I still get a little bit nervous before a performance. I encourage any young artiste to be diligent in the rehearsals and preparation, to be genuine and authentic in the creation & presentation of their art and to learn from the successes and mistakes of themselves and others.
How often and for how long do you practice?
It depends on whether I have a recording or a show coming up. I like to over rehearse until whatever I’m doing becomes second nature to me.
Are you mentoring any musicians?
A few… mostly within my church circles. It’s exciting to offer insight to those who come after you and then see them succeed.
How would you describe your music to somebody who has never heard you sing before?
Afro-urban! Whether rapping or singing that’s who I am and that’s what I sound like.
What can people expect to see at your live performance?
You can expect to see me and my band mates having a blast on stage. It will be fun, it will be deep and thoughtful and hopefully it will leave a mark.
Out of the songs you have performed which is your favourite song?
I honestly can’t pick. Since I write 95% of my music, all my songs come from a very personal place. That’s like making me pick a favourite child!
What do you think your biggest break or greatest opportunity has been so far in your musical career?
There are so many opportunities I’m thankful for: multiple award nominations over the years, being able to perform all over the place (Kenya, Uganda, Botswana, Belgium & Scotland) and sharing a platform with international acts such as Deitrick Haddon, Israel Houghton & Kirk Franklin. I thank God for my ongoing music journey… and I know the best is yet to come.
Do you write your own music?
Yes I do. I even write for other artistes. I am now also inviting other artistes to write with me for my own projects.
If you had a chance to change something in the music industry what would it be?
I would change how our CMOs (Collective Management Organizations) are run. I long for honesty, transparency and efficiency in the handling and remission of artistes’ royalties.
What are your other interests outside of music? What do you do to relax outside of music?
I am a movie buff. I don’t only watch movies, I also read up on the geeky stuff: the behind the scenes, how they accomplished certain special effects, the budgets, the box office results, the critic reviews, the general audience reception. I love everything about the art of film making.
What keeps you going as a musician?
As much as I passionately love music, it’s not just about the music. It’s about what God is doing through the music. I often get emails and inbox messages from people who God touched through my music. So even when I feel like giving up, those testimonies remind me that I mustn’t. I was wired to do this.
You have some new music out/coming out. What can people expect?
My latest release “Above It All” is a good indicator for where I’m headed musically.
You can expect a fusion of international sounds and styles with sounds and elements from my urban Africa.
Where would you like to see yourself within the next five years as an artist?
In 5 years I’d love to have a captive audience across the continent and to be a Kenyan (and African) export to the rest of the world.
What are your long term career goals?
To make timeless music that touches and moves people and glorifies God. I would also want to pass on my experiences to younger artistes so that they can accomplish even greater things than I ever will.
If you were to perform with anybody/group in the world, either dead, alive who would it be?
It would be great to perform with Lecrae & the Reach Records crew.
What are your up to date performance plans? New releases? Tours? News
For now enjoy the latest release “Above It All” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wHvJ__MjX20 and I will keep you posted on upcoming show dates.