The kissing bandit goes wild on podcast
Alfayo Onyango @O_Alfayo
A breezy Saturday morning finds me at an Art Café restaurant in Nairobi where I am meeting the tall and lanky dark chocolate gentleman with nerdy spectacles and cornrows, John Telewa.
As he nears my table, he is stopped midway by a beautiful petite yellow-boned lady with a sparkly smile with whom they exchange pleasantries. The two then share a selfie, a kiss and then let go.
Such charm and savoir faire is what may have propelled him to earning countless smooches for a world record, and he is still radiant from a little run-in with his acquaintance.
“Do you get that a lot?” I blatantly ask as we shake hands firmly.
“I’m used to it by now,” the semi-celebrity jokes, a wide smile covering his face.
This is the first time I am meeting Telewa famously known as The Kiss Bandit, so there is no much catching up to do. We place our orders and we get right into business.
Attaining a world record
Born in West Pokot, this working-class 31-year-old living an ordinary Nairobi life as he describes himself is a prudent timekeeper.
Growing up in an assortment of areas, partially Eastleigh—but mostly Kiambu, he is an unpredictable combination of a city-boy with country roots.
Having an explorer like edge pinned in his upbringing has contributed majorly to his personality. He went to primary school in Tala and Nakuru and then somehow landed in Vihiga High School for his secondary education.
“I still haven’t realised who I am because I learn something new every day, meeting new people, and this keeps me evolving.
I’m a completely different person from what I was last year and that’s what I love about my life.
Anybody who says they know who they are can please pass by my podcast for a discussion because scientists are still trying to figure out how humans are capable of doing what they do,” he laughs.
It has been five years after achieving the berserk world record of most kisses accumulated by a single person, managing a staggering 7,523 out of his one million set target, and still counting.
His unreserved creativity led him to wanting to claim something that has never been done before, so he dived into a part of his brain and figured out smooches was a task he could tolerate and be remembered for.
“It’s actually the only record that hasn’t been claimed or attempted and that’s why the story stood out or rather went viral in more than 70 countries,” he remarks.
While some would call it absurdity, his unadulterated ambition now sees him accredited as one of the few and far between record breaking Kenyans in the Guinness World Records.
The only wish he is left with is a tycoon-esque individual sponsors his mission just as Kenyan marathon runner Eliud Kipchoge was by INEOS to help him further his ambition, and add a little flavour to the quest if not his bank account, and watch him oust his set goal.
Oddly enough, Guinness World Records only rewards the participants with a certificate to appreciate their effort, something he was clearly conscious of while pursuing the fete.
He, however, thinks that Guinness could do a little better than a certificate.
Ironically, as he was busy breaking records, he actually had a professional career and was knee-deep in the advertising industry when he broke into something ‘more exciting and challenging’ as he phrases it, and this is where his current love found a name.
The Kisscapades Podcast is the latest gig online. It is slowly shaping up to be one of the most enthralling informative programmes in the digital space.
The freshness, novelty and rawness of his shows threatens to displace if not disrupt traditional media broadcast status quo.
So far, digital streaming platforms are where this magic unfolds and is available at your disposal, namely Apple Podcasts and YouTube.
“I think everybody knows in this new millennial era, podcasts are the new books and I’m on a mission to fill a library full of books that will impact people,” he says about his podcast that focuses on the four pillars of life; health, wealth, love and happiness.
“These are things we relate to and affect us differently, so I feel I will never run out of content,” he adds he takes a sip of his beetroot smoothie.
His ingredients consist of an ambient, hospitable Art Café restaurant, his advanced audio-visual recording equipment.
His charismatically curved out self essentially, as well as his industrious effort, is what has kept him ever so occupied.
He records, edits and eventually packages his programme for viewers in a palatable manner, making him one of the most desired hosts that celebrities and personalities alike have found a broad affinity for.
“Podcasting is the future with TV and Radio slowly fading out due to digital competition.
In Kenya, the epiphany is gradually slow, but soon advertising agencies and marketing managers will smell the coffee and shift to podcasts to advertise. Content consumption has changed rapidly with technology.
So far, he has attracted a multitude of guests including Victoria Rubadiri, Maxine Wabosha, Mkamburi Chigogo, Mutua Matheka, and a host of influential Kenyan professionals in different fields from past and present epochs that continue to excel.
Even with podcasts projected to generate one billion dollars in revenue by 2020 according to a study from Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and PwC, the space is only going to continue to grow.
The industry slowly gained traction since former Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduced the word ‘podcast’ in 2005.
“I do get and at times not get work because of my reputation as a Kiss Bandit, and this has had an effect on my opportunity cap, especially in the corporate world, but I’ve handled it maturely and learnt that I have to have room for disappointment because things will not always go my way,’’ Telewa recalls with a grin.
He hopes to one day host the likes of Chris Kirubi, Caroline Mutoko, Vanessa Mdee, Jay Z, Joe Rogan and Jada Pinkett Smith on his trail blazing podcast.
With a tightly booked schedule, his rapport is turning into a great affair and he is relishing every moment of this new step in his career and life building a trustworthy brand. “The support is great.
When clients, guests, or influencers want to sell their products or agendas in Kenya, they have been exposed to the show and factor me in as part of their media tour and that is encouraging.
“Right now my schedule is tight, and I had not expected or anticipated any of this frankly speaking. My rate card just keeps escalating,” says a buzzing Telewa.
He also urges creatives to take care for their Intellectual Property and value their ideas with great respect and beware of people who are profiting mercilessly from other people’s ideas.