A Beautiful African lady, laid back and humble…she considers herself as an introvert, but when it comes to music,Valerie is wild,she stops at nothing! Just like Oprah quotes ‘ Energy is the essence of life. Every day you decide how you’re going to use it by knowing what you want and what it takes to reach that goal, and by maintaining focus’, Val is one Kenyan lady who gives music a touch of class with her unique genre, and yes she keeps us guessing about her personal life… In My Opinion She dreams big,achieves it,and continues to pursue it… Be inspired!
I must commend you for being the very few of the Tusker project fame contestants who are actually doing something with their talent…
Thanks Corrie, it’s been quite a journey, but here I am, still living my dream. I’m grateful for it all.
So when did you start singing?
When I was little, my grandfather would drive me to school in an old pick-up truck and I remember we would sing Kikuyu hymns on the way there; it was almost like a ritual. On the way back from school, after all the other kids had been dropped home, I would sit at the back of that same old pick-up truck singing at the top of my voice all the way home. And once we got home, when it was bedtime, we’d always sing ‘early to bed, early to rise…’ I’m not sure how far back those memories are from, but I’m guessing I was maybe 6 or 7. Those are my earliest “singing” memories and some of my favorite as well.
In primary school I was almost always among the girls called upon to lead the school in choruses and in high school I loved leading the songs at mass. I remember auditioning for a high school musical once and just as soon as I was done singing the first line of the song, everyone cheered madly. It was at high school that I knew what I had was a gift.
Professionally speaking though, my music career began after I won the first season of TuskerProject Fame (TPF) in 2006.
Kindly share a little bit about your background-social and education?
I’m very introverted. Growing up I was very quiet and reserved, a little shy as well. The only time I stood out was when I was on stage, singing or performing. Academically I did well; in fact I was a bit of a bookworm (to this day my best friends tease me for ‘saving’ me from the Dean’s List). By the time TPF came around, it was absolutely the wildest thing I had ever done- completely out of character for me. My friends and family (my aunt Rachel in particular) told me that there was this singing competition, Idols-esque, and that I must absolutely try. They obviously believed in me. I just tried it for the sake of trying. I had no idea how much it would change my life.
Tell me about Tusker Project Fame, it is the one that you a spot light and path to this world of entertainment?
Absolutely, TPF opened up my world and literally accorded me my wildest dreams, dreams I didn’t even know I had. The idea that I could make a living out of singing, acting and performing, something that came so naturally to me, just didn’t exist in my reality. For this, I’m truly grateful to TPF.
I was studying communication then, I was going to be a news anchor and I would have made a great one I believe, but the stage is where I really belong and what makes me truly satisfied.
Here’s the thing though, it’s not enough to be in TPF, or even to have won it. I am where I am because I have worked hard for it and have used the opportunities God has given me the best way I could. Nothing has been handed over to me for free; neither has it come easy. Everything, from the two KORA awards, to the New York Music Festival award, every stage I have sang on or acting role I have landed has been as a result of hard work and God’s favour. That really is a winning combination.
You really perform in many concerts both in Kenya and outside the country , who does your music, is it locally done or…
My first album ‘Baisikeli’ was very experimental; I played around with many different sounds that I enjoy listening to- jazz, benga, rhumba. This record is a true classic for me, something you keep as a collectible because I worked with several stellar producers and respectable musicians to create it. One of the songs on my album (Ndotoyangu) is being re-done by the most recent TPF winner, something I find quite flattering. Other producers I enjoyed working with are Theo of the popular South-African group Mafikizolo and brilliant Ugandan musicians who were formerly of a group called First Love as well as a truly respectable Ugandan artist called Maurice Kirya. Here at home, I truly appreciated working with the exceptionally gifted musician called Winyo who helped me pen some of my music and a great Kenyan legend Kasongo, who has written unforgettable Kenyan classics.
Other than ‘baisikeli’ should we expect another album release soon?
Absolutely, as soon as I’m ready and I feel it is the right time. I don’t like to rush the art of producing music and I fight the need to produce albums for sake of producing them.
Your genre of music is unique, jazz, how do you manage to get it out there in the industry since most people in Kenya are into the so known as ‘hype’ music?
I have to say, I put on a great show! And that’s me being modest. I play with an exceptional band that understands me and get what experience I am trying to create. And every single time we play, I like to believe we leave with many converts. There are many people here itching for a great musical experience. I’m glad to be part of the Kenyan artists who can provide that.
Acting, you were the nice and polite ‘chiq’ in Shuga, how did u land a role in that series, and is that it for you in the acting scene?
I’ve been quite fortunate to have had the opportunity to land amazing acting roles over the years, some of which have had quite a significant impact on the Kenyan entertainment scene. Some of those roles (including Shuga and Mo Faya) are definitely some of the highlights of my acting career. For Shuga, the casting agent scouted me as I was shopping at one of the malls; he asked if I would be interested in auditioning for an MTV production. Was I interested? Of course I was. I just didn’t have any idea how huge that series would be here; I just arrived at the audition and put my best foot forward. (Looks like it’s a good foot )
Tell me about ‘Valerie’s’ concern’- your foundation
My vision for valerie’s concern began after TPF. I had a huge desire to be more than just a reality-TV star because I understood that there’s more to what you see on TV. There are real-life issues out there and I have real-life issues of my own that I deal with.
I always wanted to find a way to reconcile the platform of fame I have with impacting positive change around me. Valerie’s Concern stems out of my own life, my own struggles and concerns. Through all of these, I have come out on top because someone took the time to empower me. Sometimes all we need is a little inspiration.
I am a believer in self-development; I have had opportunities to connect with many young girls through my foundation and share my own lessons of self-development with them. It’s very fulfilling to give back.
Over the years now, as I grow, the vision grows as well. It’s as if I have been in incubation since TPF, trial-by-fire, and as I come out of it, stronger than ever, I have even greater plans to inspire and develop my generation through the work that Valerie’s Concern does.
A while back media was all up in your business tarnishing your name, but you pulled it through, what would be your advice to rising stars who would get themselves in such situations, whether it is fabrication or the truth?
I pulled through and I believe I will continue to rise above challenges life throws my way because I believe that life is a test; sometimes we pass and sometimes we fail. But if I had to re-sit the test, I wouldn’t make the same mistakes and that’s what counts. I live and learn. For me, that is what life is about, moving forward. It’s not about what people say or think. That’s where we (I, included) get stuck sometimes. It’s what you make of your situation, good or bad, what we tell ourselves along the way, and what choices we make. It’s not always easy to face the truth, but it’s the only way we grow. And growth, however painful, always leaves you at a higher level than before.
Being a mother and a musician, you have alot going on for you how do you manage with all these?
With a lot of help. I have a great support system, great family and great friends.
I need your opinion here, you made it in music after TPF but other contestants in the other seasons, most, ventured into other careers what is your take on this, doesn’t the music industry appreciate talent, because that is the whole point of the academy, or are contestants there just to get the fame and that’s it… your opinion…
My opinion is that being famous is not the same thing as being successful. I sometimes think that people run to be a part of TPF thinking that all you need is to be famous and the rest will work itself out. Nobody tells them that they need to work double hard and that fame is only the beginning. Whether you win or not, nothing is handed to you. You have to earn it. It’s not that the music industry does not appreciate talent; it’s just that talent alone is not enough. I don’t consider myself to have made it yet, but I am definitely on my way. I just don’t give up!
Best moment of your career?
When I put together my aLIVE! Concert.
What do you do for fun, besides music
I love to ride horses (imagine) though I don’t do it often enough. I love the movies and the theatre. And sometimes, when I’m inspired, I bake.
Our music industry is focused on popularity and fame, what would be your advise to rising stars and also those who want to get to this industry?
You know, everyone is in it for different reasons. Some are in it for the money, some are in it for the fame, and some are in it for the love of it… You just need to know your reasons and be ok with it. Otherwise there are too many people (like me) with opinions. Bottom line is, no one else can be you and no one else can bring what you bring to the table, so just be you. Whether people understand it or not, like it or not, appreciate it or not. There’s always someone who does get you, like you and appreciate you and your art. If there’s absolutely no one who does, and I mean absolutely NO one, IN the whole wide WORLD, then maybe, I don’t know, you should consider looking into something else? Maybe. I’m just saying.
What is it that people do not know about Val?
That I make my own clothes for my shows?
Who is your role model?
People who seem to have found what they were put on this earth to do and are doing it so well. Like Oprah, and my mum.
What are you working on now? Any new projects?I’m getting ready for the biggest two years of my career…
Three words to sum up what you have achieved so far?
Seriously? Seriously. Seriously??!!!!
|Baisikeli album cover