Today on Man Around Nairobi we feature Joseph Wambua. Joseph Wambua aka Jemedari is a musician, voice artist, biker, furniture designer and chef depending on who’s asking. He’s been in and out of the city of Nairobi constantly since his teens, pushing the gospel of music and creativity. He is now fully settled in the city as an industry practitioner in music and the arts in general. To find out more about his music check out his Mics And Beats interview.
- Did you grow up in Nairobi?
I grew up outside the city of Nairobi. For me, Nairobi was the city we visited on school holidays, usually in transit between Nakuru and Mombasa. My true connection with Nairobi came by after high school and during my college years. I looked the city right in the eye and from that day forth, we’ve had a great relationship.
I grew up during the “hustling phase” for my folks who moved from Nairobi to Nakuru. My entire extended family has been spread out to different towns so apart from Nakuru and Mombasa, I can say I have had a very well travelled childhood. The bulk of my childhood was in Nakuru though. I grew up in between the walls of Egerton University. My greatest memory of my childhood was being a scout and participating in the music festivals at primary school level. The thing I remember most about Nakuru is that every Saturday we would go eat chips at Gilanis restaurant. Nothing tops that memory.
In terms of games, I stuck to anything that involved me going with my bike. Some kids once challenged us to ride our bikes outside of the campus walls, a feat that had only been heard of at our age. We attempted to ride to a place called Mau. I say attempted because we ended up being rescued by our own parents in the dead of the night, suffering from exhaustion and mostly frustration.
I came into the city for a university experience so my first exposure involved the nightlife. Hanging out in Town, Parklands, Westie, Mlolongo, Park Road, Banana, Kahawa Wendani, and Nairobi West! My first impressions of Nairobi was how little sleep people had. All this gradually expanded to food, cuisine, cultures and religions.
- What do you love about Nairobi?
My first fascination with Nairobi is the pace at which it moves. When the city sleeps, it’s asleep. When it’s awake, it comes alive and gets more vibrant by the minute. My biggest win for Nairobi is the mix of cultures and races. People from all walks of life meet here and mix their minds, practices and beliefs to produce this cross-cultural punch that cannot be found anywhere else.
People are open minded and receptive to music. Above the loud horns and hustle and bustle, the most common form of entertainment and ambient sound in most places is music. There’s plenty of space for creativity and there’s a market for everything!
- What would you change about Nairobi?
Security and transport would top my agenda. An efficient transportation system coupled with a great secure environment would make this city such an amazing place to live, work and play… all day every day.
Nairobi needs more creative and recreational spaces. If I was in charge I’d make sure there’s a garden after every ten buildings. It’d really help with improving the greenery and the air quality in the city. These are the open spaces that would be used for popup shows, experiential concerts, etc. Plus, somewhere guys can just chill and wind down.
- As a professional how is it working in Nairobi? Is Nairobi open to what you do or what could be better?
Working in Nairobi is a bitter sweet experience especially if you are not originally from here. In my field of work, which covers different aspects of the creative industry, Nairobi has been more than welcoming. A few challenges still exist especially in the socioeconomic balance but I feel that the growth curve spells nothing but positivity. The county could definitely use more event venues… Not clubs or bars. I mean more galleries, auditoriums, performance arenas, studios and rehearsal spaces.
Challenges are common as with many creative ventures. The markets are super segmented therefore making it a plus for niche products and services, but almost impossible to scale up because these segmented markets all share different tastes and preferences. Scaling up would mean becoming super diversified and sometimes losing out on your original product/service identity.
With the emergence of social media and acceptance to a new culture of music and content discovery, I feel like there are endless opportunities as far as music and art are concerned. The kicker is to remain innovative and aware.
- 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?
Love to travel? The Nairobi is the perfect spot as both a destination and anchorage point to access the rest of this beautiful country.
Want to dance and enjoy amazing food? Call me up! I know a guy who knows a guy whose dad works for a “jamaa” who owns a joint. Yes, when it comes to getting the hookup, everybody in “Nai” knows somebody.
Are you a history buff? Well, you’re in luck. There are museums and historical buildings, and you can get simple narrations about the origin of certain buildings and families, Nairobi has it all. Your mind, notebook and your camera will thank you for visiting Nairobi.