Kenya’s most famous introverts

Posted In NEWS - By admin on Friday, March 13th, 2015 With No Comments »

We’re happy to be alone

Gospel singer Mercy Masika makes no bones about her ability to communicate with others: “I do not know how to put myself out there… even these social media things, I just started using them recently.”

Popular comedian Eric Omondi expressed similar sentiments last year when he confessed that sometimes “crowds just drain me”, and that he cannot wait for the show to end so that he can go home.

Why would a musician, stand-up comedian and actress be drained by crowds? Why would they be in show business if they are perpetually running away from people, and sometimes from the media like gospel singers Gloria Muliro and Eunice Njeri?

5Is it pride that makes them utter statements like; “I just want to be alone” even to the people they care about?

No, they are not being snobbish. They are just introverts, a group that includes some  of the biggest names in music today, like Beyoncé, award winning actor Johnny Depp, and author JK Rowling, author of Harry Potter.

Even Kim Kardashian, who shot to fame because of a sex tape and seems  allergic  to clothes as she is always posing nude, claims to be an introvert.

“I’m the girl who’s too shy to dance in a nightclub – maybe for one song, and  that’s it. The real Kim is very shy and reserved and not outspoken and loud like everybody assumes she is,” she once said.

It is not deliberate. Introverts’ brains crumble by overstimulation, and they find it easy to strike an honest conversation with one person rather than a group. Those who do not appreciate their individuality, including journalists, have erroneously labelled them snobs, cowards, and weird.

For instance, Depp, one of the biggest names in film,  says he hates fame.

“I’m shy, paranoid, whatever word you want to use. I hate fame. I’ve done everything I can to avoid it, he says.

Notably, introverts — those who choose peaceful environments over loud crowded ones — are not antisocial because antisocial people are those who are afraid of public disapproval.

Some of the most sought-after musicians in Kenya and the world are introverts.

Type-A personalities

1It has always baffled performing arts critics how introverts have confronted the ghosts that come with their personalities in a world programmed to type-A extroverted personalities, to remain platinum performers.

In an interview uploaded on YouTube, Beyonce said she had to choose the image she wanted to portray as an artiste hence introducing her fans to her other side “Sasha Fierce”

“For someone who is a lot more private, with vulnerabilities, I feel Sasha Fierce is a part of me that I have to turn to when I need to be strong…. I decided to give my fans what they are used to, what they see on videos and that is Sasha Fierce,” she said.

Eric Wainaina, who, despite denying that he’s an introvert, has the typical characteristics of one.

“There was a point in my life when I was religious, and that outward countenance was a cool, calm, quiet guy, but to those around me, I am actually a jinga, a comedian of  sorts”, he told Zuqka.

Wainaina’s song, Daima, is Kenya’s de facto second national anthem, more famous than the singer.

3Another well known introvert is singer Wyre, who, despite being one of the biggest names in local music,  has managed to live in near-oblivion.

You are unlikely to see him in a club unless he is performing, and he leaves as soon as he  puts the mic down. This however, tends to work for the singer’s image because his rare appearances make him a “hot item”, and people turn up for his shows.

2Another well-known personality in which this paradox is  seen is  comedian Chipukeezy. He says  he moved out of his uncle’s house when he had only a mattress simply because he was dying “to be alone in my own company”.

“I am the life of the party when I am at the event. After that, I  head home,” he  told Zuqka.

Notably, there is a large body of literature that explains why introversion fits so well with creative expression such as music and comedy.

Introverts prefer carrying out their own assignments, and when they agree to collaborate with others, it is normally with very few people, and with whom they are comfortable.

4Introverts get their motivation from achieving a bigger goal, which might  be something as mundane as “I want to give hope to one desolate person”, as opposed to extroverts, who would be more concerned by what appeals to the market.

That’s why Masika, who has been likened to American gospel artiste Martha Munizzi by international music critiques, can say this about her career: “Really, I just do what I love  — singing — because I know I will give an account of my gift to my maker. I have never paid attention to what happens to that music out there. I just sing, and that is it. Even these social media things, I am just starting to notice because of my husband. I find that very difficult… informing my fans of music, moves, that does not come naturally to me.”

Even with her reputation and vocal range, Mercy is comfortable with being a simple church member in the  Jubilee Christian Church, which is led by the flamboyant Kathy Kiuna.

American singer Lady Gaga, who wore a meat dress to the 2010 MTV  Video Music Awards, says she doesn’t easily fit in.

“I don’t really meet that many other artistes because I’m actually kinda shy. I might not be shy with people  I know but with people that I don’t know, I am very shy… I always feel shy on the Hollywood scene. I feel a bit like I did in high school, like I don’t really fit in,” she says.

Meanwhile, actress Nicole Kidman says people do not understand just how shy she is.

“It was very natural for me to want to disappear into a dark theatre, I am really very shy. That is something that people never seem to fully grasp because, when you are an actor, you are meant to be an exhibitionist.”

What most introverted artistes lack in personality, they make up for by perfecting  their craft.

In her book, The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, psychologist Susan Cain talks of introverts as people who often work slowly, deliberately focusing on a task at a time with the concentration of surgeon.

They are relatively immune to the lures of wealth and fame.

The lack of material showiness can be seen virtually in all of Eric Wainaina’s videos of hits which, while showing that great thought  went into developing a concept, have nothing showy or glamorous.

Selina was shot against a plain background, with Eric making an effort to dance with a few video transitions of the lady being sang about. Selina herself has very little make-up and does not conform to the usual malnourished image of video vixens.

The video for Dunia ina Mambo’s was an animation of the devil and God looking down on earth from the sky, while

Twende Twende, a collaboration with Zimbabwean musician Oliver Mtukudzi, shows Eric in a lacklustre Ankara shirt walking on the street to meet a crowd that dances to the song. When Zuqka complimented him the  depth of his messages, he reacted modestly, trying to shift attention from him: “I think you are giving me more credit than I deserve”.

Simplicity is the key word

Eric explains his simple, immaterial videos saying that it was a concept, some with the input of renowned video producer Clarence Peters.

“I will not deny that I am a simple guy. I do not know how to show off and I am  one person who will not wear goggles because I want you to see my eyes,” he said.

While Eric is  criticises musicians who write their songs guided by what the market wants, he quickly adds,  “Like every  musician, I write my music in obedience to the spirit at that particular time.”

He wrote the  single, Selina,  when there was a lot of discussion on gender-based violence in the media.

The closest people got to knowing about the personal life of Tanzanian songstress Christina Shusho was her interview with True Love magazine in 2012. But her songs have powerful lyrics, which people listen to and cram immediately.

With their  special, little-known preference for being alone, introverted artistes find themselves in trouble.

Their personality, with its attendant sensitivity and shyness, is now considered a second-class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a recluse.

Being outgoing and loud is an appealing,  and  society has morphed it into an oppressive standard, to which the introverted artistes feel they must conform.

A lot has been written about  Beyoncé, mostly by observers and music analysts who take time to study her music and fashion, but rarely is the Run the World singer’s active voice reflected in these articles.

Even as other artistes react to anything  written about them, Beyoncé’s response has always been silence.

Last year, when Olivia McFallar — a struggling rapper and ex model better known as LIV Can —  claimed in many magazines and blogs that  Beyoncé’s husband (Jay Z) approached her for a relationship, the singer remained mum.

That same year the singer’s father, Matthew Knowles, fathered a child out of wedlock with little-known actress Aleksandra Wright, who accused Beyoncé of living large as her younger brother languished in poverty.

The pressure that artistes experience trying to emulate the “extroverted ideal” plucks them from their solitary space where they are at their best, leaving them to  express this frustrations through their songs.

An extroverts’ response to critics would be ‘Is that the best you got?’ while the introvert would be frustrated, perhaps hurt at the intrusion on her privacy.

Rihanna’s single Cheers (Drink to that) lyrics shows defiance to her critics over poor choices of relationships.

She sings in the chorus: Cheers to the Freakin’ weekend I drink to that, yeah… don’t let the bastards get you down, turn it around with another round. In the second verse Rihanna acknowledges that she has critics when she sings people gon talk whether you doing good bad or good.

The reaction is almost opposite to Kenya’s sensitive and introverted Wyre to intrusion into his space.

In his single Chuki –Swahili word for hate—Wyre sings Sababu gni mwanitenda hivi, uwongo mwanena kunihusu mimi, hamnifahamu hamnijui, chenye nafanya maishani mwangu nyumbani (Why are you doing me like this, you are telling lies about me, you do not know me you do not understand, what I do in my life at home).

Beyonce Carter shows the same frustration in trying to fit into the extroverted ideal in her single Pretty Hurts where she sings: when you are alone by yourself and you’re lying in your bed, reflection stares right into you, are you happy with yourself… It’s just a way to masquerade the illusion has been shed, are you happy with yours.


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