Man Around Nairobi: Gilad Millo

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Today Our Man Around Nairobi is one of my favourite musicians Gilad Millo. Gilad Millo is an international musician based in Nairobi, who records and performs soulful reggae music together with The Superband. Gilad’s lyrics are fused with Swahili and English, in what has become identified as ‘music for the soul’. Gilad recently founded and is the CEO of Harmony Africa, a company focused on Gilad’s 3 passions: Music, Creative Brand Positioning & Africa.

Gilad is a former Israeli Diplomat, TV Journalist and Corporate Executive. Gilad’s debut single ‘Unajua’ featured Wendy Kimani and in mid-2015 shot to the top of many Kenyan charts immediately after its release and has remained popular since. Gilad has since followed up with 6 successful singles among them ‘Sema Milele’, which has turned into Kenya’s unofficial wedding theme song and ‘Nakuahidi‘ in memory of Kenya’s Fallen Soldiers, a collaboration with Dela Maranga. Read more about Gilad’s musical journey here.

Gilad Millo performing. Image Credit -  Dave Photography
Gilad Millo performing. Image Credit – Dave Photography
  1. Did you grow up in Nairobi?

I was born in Israel. As the son of a diplomat I grew up moving from country to country every few years. By the time I was 18 and returning to Israel to join the army I had lived in Bonn, Germany; London, UK; New York, USA; Ankara, Turkey and Jerusalem. We lived in Israel 3 times during that time in three different houses. Growing up I remember loving the change as we moved to new countries and discovered totally new cultures, music, food, scenery, customs and people.

Growing up in pre-internet days when color tv or any tv was a luxury, we spent most of our childhood playing outdoors using whatever was around as a toy and lots of imagination. We used to play in the hills around Jerusalem – hide and seek, tag and such as younger kids and when we got older we would ride bikes. We also played football, American Football, Basketball or baseball depending on the country we were in at the time.

I visited Nairobi for the first time as a tourist on summer break during my second year of University at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.  That was 20 years ago and I was 25 years old.  Since then Nairobi has somehow stayed in my life in one way or another, whether serving here as a diplomat, or coming for visits while serving in Los Angeles.  My addiction to this amazing city finally grew to a place, where I took up proper residency and started declaring myself a ‘Nairobian’ sometime about 10 years ago.  I have definitely grown as a person from the many lessons I have learned living in this unique city, so I can somehow say I have ‘grown’ in Nairobi.

One of the things I remember is about my first visit to Nairobi in 1996. Israel Airline ELAL still had direct flights to Kenya in those days and would land during the night. We came as backpackers so we got a ride from the airport and asked to be dropped in town and we were, right in the middle of Tom Mboya Street at 2:30 AM. We were four naive mzungus walking around at night with backpacks, ready to start our adventure, not something you see every day.  Kenyans were very helpful and we found a place to spend the night safely.

What made us want to stay here was the fact that we fell in love with Kenya and Kenyans, simple as that.  We returned for two years in 2003 to serve at the Israeli Embassy and came back again in 2008, to work in private sector.  Today Kenya is home, we have no plans to leave.
I have chosen to express my love for this amazing city in a soon to be release song entitled ‘Nairobi Yangu’, which Superband and I have already performed live on several occasions.

  1. What you love about Nairobi?

Sometimes that thing that you love is not something you can put your finger on, it’s a ‘vibe’, an energy, it is tough to explain, but Nairobi has plenty of it.  It is obviously one of the greener cities I have visited, at the same time the buildings and skyline that make up the city mix beautifully into the natural scenery that surrounds us.  Most of all, the people! Nairobians are generally are cool people.  They hustle non-stop with a smile on their face and everyone is open to a conversation, question, or a good laugh.

Nairobi is a bustling city full of life and action going on somewhere always.  It is also a very beautiful city, where I have found inspiration in many different places. As a musician or artist inspiration is key to being able to create.  Nairobi inspires me and I have found myself writing music again after I hadn’t for many years.

  1. What would you change about Nairobi?

A couple of years ago when the rains were drowning the city, or so it seemed, I tweeted that if we could harness all the wasted water flooding our city, we could irrigate hundreds of shambas and feed thousands of people.  I still believe this is true today.

In most countries the Capital city or largest city is often the best place to put on any kind of a show as that is where one usually achieves the biggest audience. Nairobi is strange in that regard as it is harder to draw a big crowd in Nairobi than in other cities in Kenya.

  1. As a professional how is it working in Nairobi?  Is Nairobi open to what you do or what could be better?

Nairobi is always bustling and there is always something going on.   Working now full time in two favorite areas, music and public relations, I find Nairobi to be the perfect setting for networking, especially if the people to people relationships you look for can be done from a good coffee shop, restaurant or bar.  Nairobi offers so much diversity in terms of the ‘backdrop’ you want to choose for your work environment.

Almost anything that happens in Kenya passes through Nairobi and this means the city is a wonderful platform for widening one’s network or exposure to opportunities.

  1. If you had a tourist friend coming in from outside the country what three things would you say to sell them the idea that Nairobi is worth visiting.
  1. The people are the most fun loving, authentic and humble you will ever meet.
  2. Nairobi has a vibe like no other city in the world.
  3. Nairobi nightlife is unique and unmatched by any city.

If you would like to interact with Gilad on social media you can find him on twitter at @giladmillo, on Instagram and Facebook. Find out more about Gilad in his Mics And Beats interview.

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