Beryl Owano, 25, credits her Dad for success in music. “My Dad sings more than some of the artists in the indusrty,” Beryl begins, as she shares how her music-loving family inspired her to pursue music. She also says that her mother was a choir mistress in the local church and that inspired her to kick-start her musical journey as soon as she joined primary school. She would sing at any chance offered by her teachers. At church, Beryl often volunteered to lead other children in singing. At the time though, Beryl only sang to entertain her classmates and the faithful in church.
Like every school-going child, Beryl had a dream to be a professional someday. Her first dream was to be a lawyer, but this later changed to being a journalist by the time she joined high school. Beryl says that her interest in Journalism and communication helped her develop confidence and better her grammar skills that would later become very helpful in her music career. When she completed high school at Nakuru Girls High School in 2012, Beryl joined the Kenya Institute of Mass Communication to pursue a diploma in Journalism.
When Beryl recorded her first song, “Hot in Jesus” soon after completing high school, the reception was so poor that she almost gave up in her career. “People, mostly friends and family, told me to give up on the song. I ended up abandoning the song and quit music temporarily.” In retrospect, she admits that the production quality of the video was poor. She plans to redo it one day. However, she opted to relocate to Nairobi in the hope that it would help with her career. Her uncle and aunties who lived in Embakasi housed her. “My hopes would soon be dimmed by numerous challenges I faced as I tried to get a good label to record with. I had come to Nairobi without telling my parents, and so I never even asked them for financial assistance,” Beryl adds.
“My biggest challenge when I came to the city was catering to basic needs. I had no friends to help me get food and transport. I had to hustle my way out. The few professionals I met were cruel to me. Some wanted sexual favors in exchange for recording my music,” Beryl narrates. In the midst of her struggles, Beryl met a music producer, Omae Lion, who would help her record her “Mafisi”. The song became famous, garnering thousands of views on YouTube within the first three weeks of September 2016. Soon after recording “Mafisi”, Beryl got inspiration to write another song that would later become her signature: “Slowly”, featuring Matonya. “When I wrote “Slowly”, my intention was to appreciate the men in my lives. But before I could shoot a video for the song, I sent it TV host, Willy M Tuva to ask for his views. Coincidentally, Matonya was in the studio and he happened to listen to the song. Later he called me and asked for a collabo,” Beryl says.
Beryl, who says that she now pays all her bills with music, has a lot of local musicians she looks up to. “My favorite Kenyan musician is Sanaipei Tande because of her writing skills and her relaxed vocals. I also love Yemi Alade’s style of music. I would love to do a collabo with her someday,” Beryl says. Beryl’s biggest singing platform so far was the 2017 Miss Tourism Kenya event held in Vihiga County. She charges Sh35,000 or more per event. She hopes to become famous and influence millions of Africans with her music. As an artist who overcame sexual harassment in the music scene to be where she is, Beryl tells upcoming female artists to uphold their dignity in their struggles until they make it into the music industry. “For ladies who just joined music as a career, keep your dignity however much it will take you to breakthrough,” she says. Beryl offers vocal coaching freely, mainly to friends and people with interest in music as a way if giving back.
This article was originally written by Benson Macharia for nation.co.ke