Connecting to my roots through music
The Kenyan music industry remains one of the most competitive on this side of the region.
Beside the fact that there is an unending trickle of talent that is always popping, it is also one of the biggest market spaces for international music.
For musicians, it’s never about releasing one hit song, but about working on the craft and ensuring your fan base is always served with the best.
Many artistes who leave the country for greener pastures as a matter of fact find it hard to keep up with the pace.
United Arabs Emirates (UAE)-based Kenyan dancehall reggae musician, Harun Mugenya also known as Mic SyndyKate is one artist who has managed to stay top of the charts.
Aside from his recent release Allow the Ganja, a controversial song that advocates for recreational use of marijuana, which has been trending top 10 on Twitter, he has other hits such as; Rainy Daze (Hustle), Money Man ah Pree, Ride It, Act.
This also is due to the fact that he has one of the best producers in the Kenyan market and older brother, Mark Mugenyi, popularly known as Makavelly The Realest, of Telaviv Records.
Though Mic SyndyKate relocated to the UAE in 2018, the geographical differences has not been a hinderance to either their family relationship or the smooth running of their business.
“A bad person is a bad person and a good one is good, period. There is no correlation between the two and business.
So, I would say we relate cordially and professionally. None of us is confused about who does what in the business,” shares Mark.
As Mark shares, SyndyKate has always been an intelligent and determined individual.
He attended Kenyatta University - Parklands Law School, where he graduated in 2017, and travelled to the UK for further studies at 1 Training Institute for a Post Graduate Diploma in Business and Administration Management before joining the Gemological Institute of America to pursue a degree in Diamonds and Gemology.
As Mark shares, their journey in music started in the 90s. The fact that he is older than SyndyKate made him a pace setter for his younger brother as well.
I grew up in the 90s watching Trace and MCM, so I was hooked onto music early. I realised early enough that I could memorise and internalise multiple music tunes and create mash-ups in my head.
By the time I sat my Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE), I had already formed a powerful mind library of music variations from my favourite jams.
In secondary school, I began writing my own lyrics and even managed to form a rap group that did a couple of performances in school.
When I completed secondary school, I joined a dance crew called D-Loaded that was choreographed by the able Paul Muiruri of ArtZone Entertainment.
At this juncture, we hooked up with Carena Sounds as a group and produced our first hip-hop gospel song titled Fire from Heaven out of the legendary HoodStuff Records in Githurai 44, then owned and managed by Tony HoodStuff.
Being in the studio and seeing Carena work out his magic hooked me onto production.
I got my first Sony Acid software from ArkishPro and began my music production journey, initially just doing our own dance music mixes, effects and original compositions, before graduating into full-time music production,” intimates Mark about his early steps in the industry.
His brother, he says, was a staunch hip-hop and RnB head. However, when he went to secondary school, a lot changed in his music perspection and he began to notice a lot of Caribbean music, especially dancehall promoted by the Gully Versus Gaza phenomenon.
Even when he was still in secondary school, SyndyKate would attend and participate in a lot of Black Supremacy events, becoming well known to Simple Simon and the vibrant urban dancehall fraternity.
“Mic SyndyKate’s music journey is tied majorly to my own journey. From what he has told me, he got a hand of my old lyrics notebook and I suppose, became inspired to follow in what I had began.
At the time, I was making my switch from rapping and dancing to purely producing.
I introduced him to some of my producer networks and he released his first mixtape in 2013 thereabout.
Later, I introduced him to ArkishPro and he did Ghetto Gospel together with Fasbolt, which was well received online and offline.
We officially began working together in 2014 and though he still makes music with other outfits, I remain his main producer with him as the flagship artist of our music production label Telaviv Records,” he says.
Music has always been in the family. “My dad introduced us to church choir where we honed our singing skills.
My family has always been supportive of our career choices. It was my older brother, Enoch, who accompanied me on my first studio hunt.
It was my father and mother who gave me credit for trying out the Kiss100 road to fame competition more than twice and encouraged me when I failed utill I finally won one.
It was my father and mother and Enoch who encouraged me when I went to Kisumu to try out the MTV VJ search and later also the Nairobi edition of the same.
Our parents have always encouraged us to be the best we can be, as long as we earn an honest living,” he shares.
SyndyKate has had a colourful background as a selector, a performer and now an established recording artiste.
He has a unique capture and projection of the Jamaican patois. He is also a proper lyricist as well as an intelligent songwriter.
Like any relationship and business, they have had their fair share of challenges.
“Music is a capital intensive business and sourcing for funds was a challenge initially.
On the other hand, just having the right equipment is not enough—there is always a need for creativity, compromise and deference when working in the studio.
So I believe the key is to be open and have brainstorming sessions frequently to remain on the same page creatively.
Also, it is important for the producer to assume other roles other than have a technical outlook alone; one that encompasses mentoring approaches so that you can be able to craft a long-term music vision for the artists you are working with,” he shares about the business ethics that have helped them stay on top.
He also admits that there was a brief lull when Mic SyndyKate relocated to the UAE.
Luckily, at the time, his move coincided with the establishment of their recording studio and label and this is what filled up that gap in time.
They managed quiet well and Mark handled all label related issues such as scheduling, photo shoots, media releases and so forth based on consultations with his brother and enabled by technology.