Nothing could silence my patriotic son

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2020 00:00 |
Dr George Gitau, Eric Wainaina, his wife Sheba Hirst and his mother Margaret Wangari during Wainaina graduation ceremony in the US in August 2002. RIGHT: Man of the moment, Eric Wainaina. BELOW: His father Dr George Gitau. Photo/PD/Harriet James and Courtesy

Though Eric Wainaina’s dad, George Gitau wanted him to become a doctor, he doesn’t regret allowing him to pursue his dream career in music

Harriet James @harriet86jim

The year 1998 marked one of the most tragic years in our country’s history. More than 200 people died in the US Embassy bombs attack and more than 5,000 were injured.

In the midst of the pain and anguish, one musician sang a song Daima Mimi Mkenya, that has forever lived to unite Kenyans even in the country’s worst moments. 

Over the years, celebrated award winning artist Eric Wainana’s music has brought forth messages of peace, patriotism as well as social transformation. 

When his father, Dr George Gitau Wainaina heard the song, he was proud that his son was talented enough to write such a song.

Wainaina was at that time a student at Berklee College of Music, USA. The events that were taking place in the country inspired him to write a song that would unite the country. 

“The song lifted the hearts of many Kenyans. A local TV station adapted the song as the theme of its news hour, which made it even more popular.

I was proud of my son. During the first anniversary of the bomb blast, he was requested to come to Kenya to sing it during the commemoration on August 7, 1999,” his father narrates   

During the commemoration, his father wasn’t present, but kept tabs with the events of the day like he had always done in all of Wainaina’s affairs. 

Man of the moment, Eric Wainaina. Photo/PD/Harriet Hames and Courtesy

As soon as Wainaina was done performing, he received an invitation from the Kenyatta family to perform at the 21st anniversary of the late president Jomo Kenyatta on August 22 of the same year.

“They asked Wainaina to stay, but he couldn’t because he had exams. The Kenyatta’s sent him return air ticket and requested him to come back after his exams,” says Dr Gitau.

During Kenyatta’s anniversary. Wainaina’s father sat next to the high and mighty in the country, something that still brings a smile on his face when he thinks about it.

As he watched his son perform in the midst of dignitaries, he felt it was worth it to have allowed him to chart his own path. 

Offer rejected

Later on after this event, one of the dignitaries desired to give Wainaina a scholarship to study music, but he turned down the offer fearing that he would be muzzled not to sing about the issues that mattered to him.

His father knew this was the reason after Wainaina released the song, Nchi Ya Kitu Kidogo in 2001.

“Most of his music is about patriotism and addresses the ills in the society. I love the fact that this keeps the government accountable.

It further opens the eyes of Kenyans in understanding what’s affecting them and know how to address the vices,” he says.

Wainaina returned home from Berklee in August 2002 after his graduation with two degrees in Songwriting and in Music Production. 

So inspired was Dr Gitau by his son’s music that he began an organisation in 2005 to unite the country and fight tribalism.

The organisation dubbed, ‘One Kenya One Nation’ became more relevant during the post-election period and Dr Gitau traversed the country spreading the message of peace. 

His father Dr George Gitau. Photo/PD/Harriet James and Jourtesy

“I felt that Kenyans needed to be united. I needed to pass the message that all Kenyans are equal no matter which tribe one is from. We have managed to reach all counties,” says the businessman.

Dr Gitau is happy he gave his son all the support he required during his journey.

Wainaina, 47 is the last born in a family of two. Having come from a huge family, Dr Gitau didn’t want to have many children to free his sons to pursue their desired careers. 

Father’s dream

“I always desired to study medicine, but because I had eight siblings behind me, I quit school soon after secondary school to enable my younger siblings study.

I didn’t want my children to go through the same. That’s why I was contented with just two children,” he narrates.

Wainaina and his brother have a four-year age difference. When Wainaina’s brother, Simon, was in Class Five, he requested his dad to buy him a piano.

While Simon was a quiet chap, Wainaina was noisy and playful. Wainaina ended up using and playing his brother’s piano. 

Wainaina’s interest in music continued during his schooling at St Mary’s, Nairobi from 1979.

Here, he once won the first prize in tenor solo in the Kenyan Musical Festival.

Even with his exemplary performance in music, Wainaina was still great in sciences something that gave his father hope that his son would one day be a doctor. This way, he would live his father’s dream.

His brother had already left for the UK to become a footballer. Though Wainaina passed his exams, Dr Gitau was heartbroken when he told him that he had no interest in becoming a doctor. “He said that he wanted to be a teacher,” he says.

At home with music

Dr Gitau gave him a nod and Wainaina went to Daystar University in 1989 where he studied for a year.

However, Wainaina changed his career again. He told his father he wanted to be a musician because he had the world as his audience.  

“I agreed. He desired to study at Berkelee College in the US and though it was not easy getting there, he managed to be admitted and pursued what his heart yearned for,” he says. 

Over the years, the father-son duo have a close bond. Their relationship is not just a father and son one, but they are also best friends and share everything that happen in their lives.

They even play golf together once in a while.  During this Covid-19 period, they call each other and send WhatsApp messages just to keep in touch.

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