In recent weeks, Ohangla music sensation Prince Indah has been the talk of town since the release of his hit song ‘Adhiambo,’ featuring former gospel singer Kevin Bahati.
The song, which Prince Indah, whose real name is Evans Ochieng Owino, describes as ‘zouk marinated with Ohangla sound’, had over 679,000 streams on Boomplay, an online music streaming application, as of last Friday.
When the well-choreographed video featuring Starehe MP Charles Njagua ‘Jaguar’, his Embakasi East counterpart Babu Owino, comedians Felix Odiwuor “ Jalang’o”, Terrence Creative and Eric Omondi was first released on YouTube, it became the number one trending video in Kenya in less than 24 hours. As of last Friday, the video had amassed more than 3.7 million views.
Even though Prince Indah is now considered the biggest Ohangla musician, his recent collaboration with Bahati that is attracting a wider fan base could be the reason his phone cannot stop ringing as he sits down for an interview with the Sunday Nation. Many artistes and their agents are asking for talks on working with him, he says.
Among those who have reached out recently to pursue the possibility of a collaboration are Willy Paul and Akothee but Prince Indah says he is not making any such decision now.
It’s a warm afternoon as we meet the Ohangla superstar at a restaurant in Nairobi.
“I am not supposed to be here. In fact, I did not want to leave my house but it’s Pius (his manager) who convinced me to come,” says the 27-year-old soft-spoken artiste as he takes his seat.
The vocalist had been performing since Thursday the previous week, and as it has become the norm in the last few years, he takes a break from any engagements from Monday until Wednesday.
“Those are my rest days after a long weekend of back-to-back performances,” he says
Our conversation inevitably goes back to collaboration. In the Kenyan music industry, it has become a culture where whenever there is a new kid on the block, established artistes scramble to feature them in their songs to remain relevant or trend as well.
What this does in most cases, is that it ends up diluting the new rising star’s art. Prince Indah perfectly understands this trick.
“It’s taken me blood and sweat to establish my brand that is now gaining momentum and traction. I am not against collaborations but I also know some brands will always be out there to kill new ones. This is why I meticulously plan what collaborations to be on,” he says.
Listening to Prince Indah, you get a vivid picture of an artiste who has grown in stature and has taken his rightful place among the most sought after Ohangla musicians since he began his music career in 2015.
“The journey hasn’t been easy. I released my first song Cinderella in 2015. In December 2016, I launched my Malaika Ohangla band with 18 members. I was the youngest bandleader at the time.”
He went on to release a number of hit songs such as Mama Watoto, Weche Hera, Chike Hera, Nyar Migori and Nyar Joluo that are very popular in Nyanza.
Over the years, Prince has not only refined his craft but his brand as well in an effort to target partnerships with corporates. Malaika has expanded too, to being a 25-member band now.
Unlike a majority of Ohangla veterans most of whom have had a short lifespan before withering, the likes of his uncle and mentor Emma Jalamo, Prince has incorporated a number of strategies to not only stand out but last.
For instance, Prince Indah has embraced and invested in fashion. His stylishness has added appeal to his Ohangla career to match the evolution of the genre that was once a village ritual gig but now is an urban mass entertainment.
He also does not pose for photos or selfies with brands that he isn’t into partnership with.
In April, Boomplay took notice of him and started to promote his craft. They placed billboards in Kisumu and booked interviews for him. In return, the streaming platform witnessed a surge of its app download. Indah’s numbers have also increased on Boomplay and currently stand at 3.1 million total streams putting him in the same bracket with the likes of Bahati, Nadia Mukami, Otile Brown and Nyashinski. Currently, Adhiambo is the number one trending song on Boomplay.
Indah is the first Ohangla artiste to be awarded YouTube Silver Creator button, an award to channels that reach or surpass 100,000 subscribers.
“Since day one when I started, I knew I had to come up with strategies that would make my brand unique. If you listen to my sound, it is different from others. My first song Cinderella was in Swahili. I incorporate Swahili words in my lyrics. This is intentional and I believe it’s the reason I pull huge crowds in any given show. Every time I have a show, 60 per cent of the attendance will be people from Nyanza and the remaining from the other regions,” he says.
“And now I have started doing collaborations. There is one with Khaligraph Jones (a rapper) not yet released. Also Samidoh (a Mugithi artiste) and I have agreed to hit the studio once he is back from his USA tour. We have never heard of an Ohangla-Mugithi collabo. It’s time,” says Janabi (another of his aliases) .
Heading to an electioneering period, Indah has received a number of requests as well from politicians who have taken notice of his influence over his legion of fans. They are willing to pay him handsomely to draft campaign songs in their favour.
Even though a number of mouthwatering offers tabled to him by politicians have been in the region of hundreds of thousands of shillings and some in millions, none is yet to convince him.
“I made the decision not to do political songs a long time ago. This is something I sat down and took a moment to reflect on. The moment I start politicising my craft, it will kill my brand that is for sure. Even if Baba (Raila Odinga) approaches me, I will not refuse, but I won’t do the song.” Prince affirms.
The God-fearing Indah who happens to be a teetotaler, is a third born in a family of five.
His life took a twist when his father, their sole breadwinner passed on when he was in Class Three back in 2003. He started in his uncle – Jalamo, Ramogi Ohangla Rhumba band as drummist and later became a backup singer.
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