Publicist-journalist-model-writer-and-more, Anyiko Owoko radiates. She is the kind of person strangers actually really walk up and stop just to tell her she looks amazing (we have seen it and more than once). And its not just her enchanting physical appearance, it’s a certain kind of strikingly dynamic air. You just know when you see Anyiko… 1) that you want to keep watching and 2) that she gives really good conversation. She has something intelligent to say about everything from politics to music and art, from fashion to Life and will always leave you inspired by her precise stringent observations and verve. Anyiko is confident, creative, ambitious and very warm-hearted – we fully understand why she has become a role model for many young people.
MiKE loves Anyiko Owoko and we are so happy this super-busy colorful woman of wonders took the time to share some thoughts with us. We hope you enjoy this interview, there is so much good stuff here from art and literature advice to great Nairobi info. Even for those of you who are very familiar with Anyiko from Kenyan media there are probably some new discoveries!
Anyiko, you are quite well-known in Kenya because you have been a successful media personality for a while now. But how would you describe yourself to someone abroad who has not heard about you?
AO: I am somebody who is extremely passionate about telling stories, especially those related to arts & culture. I feel that I am at a point of understanding the power of journalism and that bestowed in me by my career. A lot of people don’t have voices to shout out loud on top of buildings but through us, journalists, we can tell stories that can enlighten and empower. I am multi-talented. I am TV producer, writer and host. I am also a writer with various publications. Lastly, I am a blogger and also Publicist to one of Africa’s biggest bands Sauti Sol.
Why do you love doing what you do?
AO: It is who I am and comes effortlessly. My motto: writing makes me live and love. To see people get touched by my stories gives me validation that I am doing the right thing.
Let’s start with something about your personal style. How would you describe your personal style? Does it differ private/work?
AO: My style is funky, colourful and eclectic. It differs with my mood and work. I dress up according to the theme of where I am going. If it’s a wedding or a poetry gig or some kind of concert or I am going to record my TV show – I’d have different outfits for these. It’s just to ensure that you are dressed appropriately for all events and you still maintain a part of your style.
How do you think when you incorporate African/Kenyan in your style?
AO: African prints and jewelry are colourful and funky so it fits me just well. Adding something African to your outfit always changes the outfit’s whole vibe giving it a touch of authenticity, I am into Maasai stuff. Got a lot of that.
Where do you go shopping in Nairobi?
AO: I shop everywhere all the time. There aren’t places as amazing and organized to shop like for example in Europe. So from the flea markets to any shop in town, I just shop all the damn time.
Tell us about your work related to the music industry. And what led you to working with music
AO: I work in music entertainment because I am a music lover so I am naturally drawn to different kinds of music, artists and exploration of the same. I enjoy it because it takes me to a place of no pain but sharing of emotions through words or simply chords. I primarily work with Sauti Sol as their Publicist. They are huge rising African stars and I manage all their communications. It can be a tad tiresome but the fruits we reap are too sweet. For some Sauti Sol beats to step to do check their latest video to “Sura Yako” (where Anyiko also makes an appearance).
Can you give us some recommendations – where should someone who doesn’t know Kenyan music start exploring?
AO: Oh my goodness! There is so much to discover about Kenyan music. Let’s just start with the legends like Sal Davis and The Mighty Caveliers. Olden Kenyan artists were so cool and funky, there is actually a documentary: Retracing Kenya’s Funky hits. When it comes to the urban sound, check out E-Sir, Nameless, Wyre, Mercy Myra, Camp Mulla, Sauti Sol, P Unit and rappers like Abbas, Octoppizo and Rabbit. World music artists like Suzzana Owiyo, Mutinda and Winyo, there is just so much Kenyan music to check out.
(MiKE: While we were working on this interview Anyiko took an initiative in social media encouraging for people in Kenya to unite and support Kenyan music. Her action received much support and positive comments. This is something that has been a heated topic for a while and also Sauti Sol have raised it on a high level. Kenyan artists experience that DJ:s and radio stations are not supportive of local music to a sufficient degree and that this affects the domestic industry in a negative way. For more of Anyiko and this topic do check out this article that she wrote for Kenyan Daily Nation. Also speaking of Anyiko’s role as a guide in the world of African music – great interview with Malian World Star Habib Koite on Anyiko’s blog here!)
Tell us about Grapevine, how long have you been doing the show? Do you have any particularly unforgettable Grapevine moment to share? And where can people outside Kenya see it?
AO: When this year ends, I’ve been doing Grapevine for 5 years. AO: My goal with Grapevine is to elevate local arts & culture seen. The show can be watched via www.YouTube.com/GrapevineKBC Unforgettable grapevine moment was meeting and interviewing Fally Ipupa, he’s so sexy. Also Anthony Hamilton (watch that interview here), he’s so down to earth. That was a life lesson. And then there was Philip Bradley, the creator of the world’s longest running soap opera The Bold & The Beautiful. There are so many other local moments but because the show is weekly, it’s even hard to keep up. It’s just a fun and great show to work in.
Sauti Sol always have very elaborate dynamic campaigns around the launch of a new single. How does that work?
AO: Creativity and sleepless nights plays a central role. We all come up with ideas to pimp releases. Social media is life. Nobody cares as much for your website than your Twitter and Facebook. So it has to be current and consistent. We’ve got our game on.
What new steps or projects are you looking forward to at the moment?
AO: I would like to graduate into producing TV Shows full time. I am working on bigger PR Projects as well. Already working on a Lodwar conference this month. That’s so exciting.
You are a true book lover. Can you recommend some Kenyan writers to MiKE:s readers?
AO: You have to try Yvonne Owour Adhiambo, Binyavanga Wainaina and Ngugi Wa Thing’o. The classic writers and history books on Kenyan history are always a favourite.
You are also an art lover. Can you give us some suggestions on where an art lover should go in Nairobi?
AO: Check out the National museum and Nairobi museum for some old cool art. For some funk, check out ShiftEye Gallery and for some modern African art check out Paa Ya Paa Arts centre. There is also the GoDown Arts centre and Kuona Arts Centre, they have some great artists and art.
How does a visitor to Nairobi generally do to best find out what is going on in the city?
AO: Just check nairobinow.wordpress.com and upnairobi.com some cool sites with event listings. Also just check out the French and German centres: Alliance Francaise and Goethe-Institut they always have stuff going on.
(MiKE: Anyiko wrote an interesting article for Goethe-Institut about the value of archives and libraries, you can read it here.)
Last question, our classic MiKE question to each person we interview. What do you wish the world knew about Kenya?
AO: That Kenyans are awesome and Nairobi is a very dope cultural city. We don’t just run the tracks but a whole lot more too.
(MiKE says: Oh yes!!)
Thank you so much Anyiko for taking time for MiKE!! You are truly awesome.
There is a gazillion things to talk about with Anyiko, this is just scratching on the surface. One thing we would definitely like to do a whole separate post on with Anyiko’s perspective is the theatre scene in Nairobi. In the meantime we recommend these two articles by Anyiko, one on the first local play about Westgate and this one on the role of vernacular on Nairobi theater stages. For more of Anyiko Owoko we suggest connecting with her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as well as following her beautiful blog where you can experience a more personal version of the eloquent Anyiko.
Oh… Ok. One more thing. How about… Anyiko and Erykah Badu. How cool is that. For both of them.