Pulsating in a population of 500,000 amidst the Mathare Slums in Nairobi (Kenya) lives a mighty beat resonating in the heart of Moses Akhonya. Growing up in a rough atmosphere still cultivated beautiful culture. It is the seed that ultimately planted his percussive roots. With the constant struggle of gathering enough funds for everyday living, school and his passion for drums, Moses is rich with confidence, perseverance and creative energy. He is so determined to manifest his purpose in the palms of his hands.
When I came across Moses featured in a news clip on Instagram, he was being mentored by renowned Kenyan percussionist Kasiva Mutua. That impactful moment made me curious to know about his back story.
Samantha Hollins: How old are you? How old were you when you started drumming?
Moses Akhonya: I’m 17 years old and I started my journey of percussion when I was 13 years old.
Samantha Hollins: When was the first time you fell in love with the culture of rhythm?
Moses Akhonya: I fell in love with the culture of rhythm in the year 2017. There is where I had the affection for drumming.
Samantha Hollins: What story do you hope to tell with your drums?
Moses Akhonya: It has been my greatest dream to tell my drum story and my journey and the people’s story.
Samantha Hollins: As I watch you perform I see star energy. Tell me about how your background as a dancer influenced your presence on drums? You are so amazing!
Moses Akhonya: Before drumming I was a dancer; dancing traditional dances. It was not an easy task. Because I had no money to pay my fees and once I got a gig as a dancer I would take the money paid and pay my school fees because here in Nairobi, Kenya not all families are well financially. As time went on my love for drums began because I was seeing people playing and I would love for me to be in their shoes playing those drums.
Samantha Hollins: Music can be very healing and inspirational! What does drumming heal inside of you? What do you want your music to give to your culture and the world?
Moses Akhonya: The drum heals me in a very sympathetic way. Without music there’s no joy and without joy there’s no music. I take percussion as my job. It’s like any other job; just like being a surgeon. The only difference is that they use scalpels to operate on patients but for us we use drums to entertain.
I want my drum music to help me…to be one of the best percussionists in the world…to be one who attains the best gigs…to be a world touring percussionist and to continue with the same spirit paying out my fees through these cheap gigs because there’s no one who can support me through my education.
Samantha Hollins: You stated that “without music there’s no joy and without joy there’s no music”. With that in mind, I would like to know one thing that music has brought into your life that may have not existed without music?
Moses Akhonya: Music has taught me a variety of things. First of all I wouldn’t have known you if it weren’t for music. I have met some great percussionists like Kasiva Mutua. These are people I wouldn’t have met if it were not for music.
Samantha Hollins: You speak very highly of your mentors. What does it mean to have that element supporting your passion?
Moses Akhonya: It feels so fresh and fantastic having mentors by my side supporting my journey. They are there when I need them and they give me every detail and dynamics of playing the percussion.
Samantha Hollins: I’ve noticed that you play an array of percussion. What drums do you feel you connect with most?
Moses Akhonya: I play a variety of drums. For instance: djembe, conga, lead drums (bunde), bum bum and small percussions. I am still learning guitar.
Samantha Hollins: I have a 6 year old son name Jembé, who plays percussion and drums. I would love for him to jam with you someday. Can you give him and all the beautiful children that watch you words of wisdom? I can tell by watching your videos that children see something powerful in you.
Moses Akhonya: It would be very nice for me to jam with Jembé! Tell him that he should never give up. There is a long way to go…and to all the kids who want to be percussionists and drummers: what I can tell you is to focus and love it and then it will come slowly by slowly. These are words of wisdom by Mosse percussionist.
Samantha Hollins: I love watching your journey on Instagram. What can we expect from you upon your drumming journey?
Moses Akhonya: I would like you to promote me by finding me support through my education; to get somebody who can support me with basic necessities like food, clothes and shelter and school because I live in slums here in Mathare. My mother does casual jobs by which she cannot cater for my education.
Samantha Hollins: Tell me a little more about your background growing up in Nairobi, Kenya. How do you find positivity out of the not so good times?
Moses Akhonya: In our family we are made up of like 11 people. I stay with my grandma, my mommy, two uncles and two aunties. I have four cousins and one brother. I don’t have a dad, he abandoned my mother when I was still in the womb. My family feels so great that I’m a percussionist and that I have ambitions to achieve. They are always supportive of me. They know that one day I will go far and change their lives and rescue them from poverty.
I grew up in Nairobi, Kenya living in Mathare slums. It is the second largest slum in Kenya. I have been working with an organization called Slum Children Project. Sincerely speaking, without percussion I would have been a thief or a drug addict. Here in slums life is not easy. I have been going through hardships like paying fees, not so well clothing and not the best diet. I would sometimes get a gig and the money I get paid I take it and save so that I would pay my fees. I would find positivity out of these hardships through percussion and drumming. They could at least keep me busy. Percussion is my everything.
Samantha Hollins: If you could collaborate with any artist in the world who would it be?
Moses Akhonya: I would like to play with famous Gambian player Sona jobarteh, Fatoumata diawara and famous female percussionist in Burkina Faso called Melissa hié.
Samantha Hollins: Thank you so much for this interview. You are so amazing and I know you will be an inspiration to many. Play on for the world to hear!
It is so vital that we as a village continue to cultivate our youth. If you would like to mentor, sponsor or contribute to Moses Akhonya’s future in any form, you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To stay connected to Moses Akhonya music journey subscribe to his YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/0FHC2Ijk8_k
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