I once saw a Tweet by someone saying that Moji Shortbabaa is so little he should have just called himself Emoji Shortbabaa. Mean! But maybe that was the inspiration. Letter E was discarded, so he just remained with Moji.
That was a very wise name choice. He owned up to his lack of height. Now Kate and Annette can’t even talk badly about him. I have no idea who Kate and Annette are. Those names just sound like names of girls who like saying “Aki I don’t date short men.” Haha.
Names are crucial for artistes. That’s why a popular African-American singer known as John Rogers Stephens goes by the name John Legend. You actually thought John Legend was his real name right? His real name makes him sound like an upcoming country singer.
If he would have been introduced on stage by his real name earlier on in his career, he would never have become a star.
“Give it up for John Rogers Stephens!” the announcer would say. And there would be no cheering. The crowd would be as quiet as a Kenyan university student being invigilated by one of those strict lecturers who stand behind you in an exam.
And do you know Kendrick Duckworth? Sounds like a Disney cartoon character? No! That’s actually Kendrick Lamar.
Name selection is everything. Imagine if Moji had stuck with his real name James Muhia. Estimate the number of people that would be saying “Hako ka James Muhia hua hata hakanibambi.”
PEOPLE LOVE TO HATE
People love to hate but if you do certain things right, you can easily escape hate.
Despite being the size of a Smurf, Moji is super talented. He sings better than Bahati and Willy Paul combined. He is also very fashion-savvy. He loves sneakers, he loves good casual clothes and he is capable of beating Rick Ross in the finals of the World Beard Awards, if such awards ever existed.
He also knows how to make people laugh. When a person who has never heard of Moji Shortbaa looks at his social media accounts, they might think he is a model or a comedian.
He is also a songwriter too. So many things packed in one place. He is like an Oxford geometrical set. But just the way you use the 15-centimeter ruler or rubber more than everything else in the geometrical set, Moji prioritizes singing more than his other skills.
I must admit that when he left Kelele Takatifu, I was a skeptic. I felt that it was a bad move and he wouldn’t be able to do much after that. I didn’t believe he could make hits such as “Itakua Ngori” and “Baba Mbaya” all on his own. That was not to be. Immediately after parting ways with his high school friend Didi, he went on to become a true superstar.
As a solo artist, he has appeared in Coke Studio, won several awards and performed in more shows than we can remember. And he is not stopping. Moji continues to release hit after hit.
However, a majority of Kenyans keep insisting that modern-day Gospel artistes are not real. They just compose weird music and put a ‘Gospel’ blanket over it. So does Moji fall into this category?
I’d say he doesn’t. Most of Moji’s songs contain no controversial message at all. They are specifically tailored for the youth too. An older person would struggle to sing along to a song such as “Kuzitoka” or dance to “Vimbada” but a human full of wisdom once said “Know your niche and dive into it fully.” That’s what Moji is doing. He is targeting the youth.
Some might not like it that most of his songs have Sheng titles but Moji is actually the kind of Gospel artiste that the Kenyan youth need. He isn’t outrageous like Willy Paul. He doesn’t sing about being confused by women or feature a scantily dressed Tanzanian songstress in his videos. You can’t really question whether whatever he is singing is Gospel or not. It actually is. It’s just a different brand of Gospel.
The youth don’t like to be lectured about God and warned about brimstone and fire. That’s why they’d rarely listen to artistes like Solomon Mkubwa and Jemimah Thiong’o.
The youth just want to be closer to God but they don’t want to do it in a manner that seems boring. They want to be entertained. That’s where artistes like Moji come in.
Moji’s brand of hype Gospel might not be palatable to some but it is very necessary. He just needs to curb his enthusiasm a bit and not end up using every Sheng word like a song title. Otherwise, he’s good.
This article was originally written by Philip Etemsi for Daily Nation.
He recently launched his album in spectacular fashion and we were there to capture all the action.