Dennis Wambi of Wambi Bros at the Groove Awards held recently.

 Two brothers combine efforts and skills to start up entertainment outfit Wambi Brothers

Art and Law – two distinct professions – were meant to differently shape the destiny of two close brothers, Denis and Edwin Wambi. But that would never be.

One joined Mount Kenya University’s school of law, while the other was fetching for an artistic course, which would later put them together in the world of spoken word­­ in redefined art and in the spirit of brotherhood.

This is the story behind 26-year-old Denis and his brother Edwin, 25, the up and coming spoken word and hip-hop artists.

Their idea, rare in its own right, was conceived in a small room in Pipeline Estate, Nairobi and the two enthusiastic brothers are living their dreams, eight years on. “We are focusing so much on the spoken word as our niche market,” Kevin says.

Spoken word is an oral art that focuses on the aesthetics of word play and intonation and voice inflection. It is a ‘catchall’ that includes any kind of poetry recited aloud, including hip-hop, jazz poetry, poetry slams, traditional poetry readings and can include comedy routines and ‘prose monologues’.

The recording label organises spoken-word festivals, the latest having been held in June. “It all started in 2008 while I was still a student at Aquinas High School. That is when we recorded our first gig, though unprofessionally,” Edwin says.

The duo has, however, grappled to penetrate the industry year after year because spoken word has no particular fans base or at least a few care to listen. Like any other entrepreneurship venture, in the end, it is a business.

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Wambi Brothers is a tag name that the duo has come up with in memory of their grandfather. “Honestly it takes a lot of work to penetrate the market, a lot of work must be done to get there,” Edwin narrates.

Dennis Wambi (right) and a colleague, Tricia Wabito, during the 11th edition of Groove Awards Kenya.
Edwin Wambi (right) and a colleague, Tricia Wabito, during the 11th edition of Groove Awards Kenya.

“Success in this business depends on how you structure the business. If we give our fans a good product, we will obviously succeed,” he adds.

While the spoken word scene in Kenya seems to have gone down, with fewer and fewer performances taking place, Edwin says they are committed to stabilise the industry. “We got venture capitalists who believed in us and invested in us and so we are almost where we wanted to be,” says the outspoken poet.

It is always exciting to hear that a group of poets have come together and organised an actual show that is different from the usual open mic sessions. Such performances at the Alliance Françoise, with fans charged as little as Ksh1500 have been of immense help to the brothers– offering them sustainability.

Live for a purpose

As inspiring spoken word artists, their work balances informative topics and tackles many of today’s toughest issues that face the society, for instance, living a life of purpose. “Wambi Brothers, known for spoken word and right now after the Dreams of an African Kid, we are working with more artists to expand our content,” Edwin says.  Even though they have been in the industry for a while, the duo is beginning to build it into a business that could support them fully in the future.

He holds a lot of praise for his brother, Denis, whom he says has been very instrumental in their journey.

Interestingly, Wambi Brothers claim that in the entertainment world, talent is as good as nothing. “Talent accounts for 20 per cent, the remaining 80 per cent depends on how good you are at marketing,” he says, adding that spoken word is not novelty but a redefined form of ancient oral narratives.

But it is worth the effort!

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