Mombasa diary | Singing for hope

When giving a little goes a long way.

Aaron Wakese is 19 and has one sole dream. “My dream is to reach as many people as possible through my songs. I want them to get help when they hear my words. In my songs I talk about how anyone should struggle to make it in life.

Until two months ago, the young man was struggling to make ends meet. He counts his blessings as he recalls how his life changed from darkness to dawn.

“I lived in the rural village of Kitale which is some 12 hours away from where we are right now. We are six brothers and sisters. It was very tough. At times there was no food to eat. I lost my father when I was 7 years old. I had to quit school.”

At one point the family had no other option but to send Aaron to his grandmother. Another tentative took him back to school, but as he puts it he “was chased away” because his family could not afford to buy him books, uniforms and other stuff.

Then one fine day, he heard that many kilometres away from the village there was a talent show. He gave it a shot and a man spotted his talent straight away. The latter signed him on at the Youth Empowerment Centre run by DSW Kenya and Aaron is now doing voluntary work with the group.

The young man writes powerful lyrics in Swahili. Most of his songs talk about true HIV stories and diseases commonly affecting youth.

But Aaron has a personal dream to achieve. There is a slow waltz in his curly eyelashes as he shyly explains. He would love to find a job as a singer in a local hotel. But first he needs to compile his personal repertoire. He has already recorded three songs at a local studio but he does not have enough money to get the CD out of the building.

“Each song costs 4,000 Kenyan Shillings (€40). With a steep bill of 12,000 Shillings there is a long way to go. So far through the odd jobs that I do here and there I have only managed to pay 3,000 Kenyan Shillings – which makes it 1,000 Shillings (€10) short just to cover one song.”

My colleague forks out the note. In two days we’re following Aaron to the recording studio.

Julia Farrugia is reporting from Mombasa, Kenya.