News / Arts & Entertainment

Kenya Hip Hop Artist Remembers His Roots

24 year-old Henry Ohanga, also known as Octopizzo, may be one of Kenya's fastest-rising hip hop stars
24 year-old Henry Ohanga, also known as Octopizzo, may be one of Kenya's fastest-rising hip hop stars

Multimedia

Henry Ohanga, otherwise known as "Octopizzo," is one of Kenya's hottest hip hop artists. He says his most satisfying work is helping fellow youth in Nairobi's so-called "informal settlement" of Kibera to turn away from drugs and crime and instead make a living from their talents.  

Born and raised in Kibera, Octopizzo started a youth self-help group called "Young, Gifted and Black" to help members develop their singing, dancing, and other abilities.  And he has also created a tour company and a business that sells T-shirts and watches to fund the group.

Octopizzo may be one of Kenya's fastest-rising hip hop stars, but Henry Ohanga will never forget where he came from - Kibera, one of Africa's largest informal settlements.

And he says he is taking his fellow Kiberians along for the ride. "You have the ideas and the networks that you have for everybody to get something, for everybody to get an air time. So that’s how I work," he explained.

24 year-old Henry Ohanga is Kibera's jack-of-all trades. He is best known by his stage persona Octopizzo, which he created before cutting his first CD in 2008. But while producing his second CD one year later, Octopizzo remembered the friends he lost touch with after the country's post-election violence and the many Kibera youth traumatized by the experience.

To bring healing and development to his community, Octopizzo set up "Young, Gifted and Black," a group in which members train to be singers, dancers, poets, artists, and athletes. "The idea was just to use art to change the youths,” he said. “Nowadays you can't go and preach to a youth and tell him, change or you will not get to heaven - they don't care. The youths want to be entertained first, then you put yourselves in their level and you share the same stories that they are going through."

As he teaches young people rap and other skills, Octopizzo drills into his students the importance of education and living a drug- and crime-free life.

"We call it 'edutainment' - you educate as you entertain. As you educate and entertain, you should be professional. You should go to school. Hip hop is not for people who are drop-outs. I tell them every day, 'Don't think that if you drop out of school, you can rap.'"
And that approach has made all the difference to hip hop singer Slum Dog, who used to do drugs and steal. Kibera is perceived to be a very bad place - violent, dirty place, people robbing people and all that. But we as youths and YGB (Young Gifted and Black) crew, we are reformed. We used to be bad guys, most of us, and now we're trying to live a better life. We are transformed," said Octopizzo.

Octopizzo had his own demons to battle. Orphaned in secondary school, Octopizzo turned to his musical talents to support his four brothers and sisters. He says he first sold his music for $1 a CD.

"I was just networking as much as I can, trying to record my music and sell them everywhere, selling them for cheap just to get more funds and then that's when I can raise it when I already have more funds," said Octopizzo said.  

He says his greatest joy is to recognize and nurture talent among the youth of his community.

Octopizzo says, despite the grinding poverty, there is a lot of creativity and goodwill in Kibera and other informal settlements. "People are living there, people are working hard, and every house, outside the house somebody is doing something in the streets. Nobody is just sitting, crying that they are poor," he said.

He denounces hip hop lyrics that glorify violence, sexism, racism, and other social ills. He says that most people living in Kibera have experienced violence first-hand and are looking for a different way to live.

Octopizzo says he plans to expand Young, Gifted and Black to other informal settlements in Nairobi.

You May Like

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Persian service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win More

Video Russian Anti-Corruption Campaigner Slams Putin’s Crackdown on Dissent

In interview with VOA Alexei Navalny says he believes new law against 'undesirable NGOs' part of move to keep Russian president in power More

Video On The Scene: In Ethiopia, 'Are You a Journalist?' Is a Loaded Question

VOA's Anita Powell describes the difficulties faced by reporters in fully conveying the story in a country where people are reticent to share their true opinions More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Wayne Casey – “KC” of KC and the Sunshine Band – comes to VOA’s Studio 4 to talk with "Border Crossings" host Larry London and perform songs from his new album, “Feeling You! The 60s.”