“I eat a lot of food – and don’t gain weight. Music is my passion. I don’t drink or smoke, I don’t club and I am non-confrontational. He was that child who did all his chores, finished his homework and was at the right place at the right time,” laughs Wyre, asserting that what he just said was not fiction.
“I grew up on a farm in Athi River. So I can milk a cow, slaughter a chicken, a goat and skin it,” says the artist – awash with perfection tendencies. Our one-on-one with him finds him gentle, careful, meticulous. He has an easy way with language – has the exact word for whatever situation. Additionally, he is the typical Nairobian. He knows how to be the boy in the hood – catching up with the crew, his sheng doesn’t disappoint, at all.
Best New Entertainer
He is undoubtedly one of the most hardworking music artists in Africa, well known for his electric performances. “There is no stage we cannot conquer,” he says of himself and, Ian, his choreographer. And has consequently bagged awards: Best New Entertainer – International Reggae & World Music Awards, Best Ragga – two years in a row, Ever Relevant Artist among others.
Nations have beckoned, he has honoured their invites and left reverberating effects. They keep calling. His music fad and strategic acumen have also born the Love Child Records studio which is known for high end music productions and also where he supports the take-off of young music artists. But there is more to Wyre – aka Kevin Waire.
Wyre broke the news that he saw himself doing music
“My dad, then Mechanical Engineer with Kenya Breweries, woke up at 4am every day to deliver milk to Kenchic Company before coming home to drop us at Thika Road Christian School. He was a workaholic – for all the right reasons,” the musician recounts of his dad who opted for the not so white collar occupation. Their basic and secondary needs were well met, he indicates. Discipline – both by the rod and the talk were well applied. They had treasured road trips, courtesy of him. It was the easy farm-city life with a wealth of Christian tenets.
And then Wyre broke the news that he saw himself doing music as his full time career to a father who hailed from the generation that venerated co-curricular occupations. Crestfallen, gritted teeth, clenched fist and a terse tone were NOT part of his response, however. In his very calm demeanor he said, “Son, believe in what you do and stick your guns.”
The words that a father speaks to his children in the privacy of home are not heard by the world, but, as in whispering-galleries, they are clearly heard at the end, and by posterity. ~Jean Paul Richter
I made him proud
It all pieced up. Wyre remembers his dad calling out his brother and himself to treat their guests with their latest work of moonwalk, breakdance and funk…
“So it paid off. I made him proud,” Wyre smiles. Visiting home, now with family, I’d find him and my mum in our former bedroom listening to my music while having a drink. Sometimes he’d say, ‘Hey I heard this other new song. I don’t have it – where is it?’”
His wife is an amazing woman
Well, if history has a way of repeating itself, it’s doing its next round in the Wyre household. He is married to this gentle, caring, real and happy person – something akin to what he sees in his mother. The special qualities that facilitated a good environment for his dad’s efforts to thrive; they are neither disappointing in this era.
Hanifa, his wife is an amazing woman, he projects. No lady held a candle to her in the eight years they dated. “There’s a level of realness I couldn’t get anywhere else,” he says. And coming home to her thereafter has always been at the top of Wyre’s happy list.
Her not so pleasant pregnancy experience
There is the long story of her not so pleasant pregnancy experience that Wyre would not like to relive. The most he can divulge is that he read tonnes and tonnes of pregnancy and parenting material that season, and would keep asking her, “What can I do to make it easier for you?”
Come D-day, he did the traditional pacing along the corridors, pleading for a miracle. Cutting to the chase, he was soon holding his little miracle. Locking eyes with his son for the very first time, the words that floated around his head were, “…You are a Lion – like your father…” I suppose compounded with other adjectives the big cat is known for: ‘A lion is called a ‘king of beasts’ obviously for a reason.’ – Jack Hanna and ‘… the righteous are bold as a lion.’ – Proverbs 28:1
The homesickness is real
So now when he is away on tours, the homesickness is real, he says. Wyre misses waking him up at 6am every weekday and prepping him for school, he misses their daily catch up to school. Additionally, he misses waiting up for him when school is over or watching him make for the goal posts and scoring when he has a sports afternoon. “He is sportier than I was. He scored three goals in one tournament!” Wyre beams.
All inspiring his latest album
He misses their drive back, intently listening to him rambling how his day had been. His doing homework, his saying the grace before the meals, and the ‘I love you’ chime before he ambles to his bedroom to sleep. Wyre misses watching his son head straight to the guitar every time they walk into a toy shop over the weekends – “I go like YAY!”, he punches.
He misses watching the very thing he saw in the little man’s eyes when they first met, manifesting – ‘…Lion like your father….’ All inspiring his latest album – LION.
I heard their voices and broke down
“I have to talk to my wife and child every day,” the artist confesses. There was this time he had travelled for 36 straight hours. He says he was feeling finished and frustrated. And no sooner had he checked into his hotel room than he was told an audience was waiting for him. No amount of negotiating warranted time for him to recoup, catch up with his creative juices and warm up to his performance front.
He said, “I thought of home and how many thousands of miles it was and I found himself asking, ‘What am I doing here?’ That’s the point I called my family. I heard their voices and broke down,” he recalls, the very emotion sneaking through his face. By the time they were done talking, he says, he felt better.
Minutes before a performance I usually have some me-time
“That’s when you remember why you are even there in the first place; and you go outdo yourself,” he avers. “Minutes before a performance I usually have some me-time. I sit in a corner by myself with a bottle of water … psyching up myself to give nothing but the best – regardless of the size of the audience.”
Who is the disciplinarian? The mom does most of that, he laughs adding that he uses all other modes of discipline before he picks the stick. Even then he has to later deal with the feelings of ‘I-hope-he-didn’t-take-that-personally’. “I am more of the paranoid type,” he laughs on. “I am the one who keeps him off sweets. I don’t like him falling. The mum, being the calm one, usually tells me, ‘You need to chill. He is OK,’” he relays laughing.
They keep me sane
“So after the stage lights are out, family are the one thing you want to run to. The minute I open the house door and I am received in their arms, the pressure to stay relevant leaves,” the artist sighs. “They keep me sane,” he asserts.
Would he do the Lion jingle for us? He says an adamant “NO”, opting for another song. “I have been choking up… tearing on that song,” he says shifting on his seat and gently clearing his throat.
My dad had been sick for three months
It has been a few months since his friend, ardent fan, lead supporter – who first projected to him the very image of lion – passed on. “My dad had been sick for three months…. Seeing the whole process was psychologically draining. I have tough flash-backs. It is still very difficult…” he mutters. “My wife has been helping me a lot,” he appreciates. “So I can’t sing Lion now… I’ll choke up.”
The musician has since learned the importance of investing in memories. The memories (which he so verily cherishes) with the Senior Lion is all he is left with. He therefore makes sure the Young Lion gets nothing less than the best of him. The best of his hours and attention. The happy fuss.
Sometimes it’s too rowdy
“I wish I could go with them everywhere,” he says about his wife and kid “…to all my gigs – but circumstances don’t allow,” he says, “I have to check out the kind of audience I’ll be performing for. Sometimes it’s too rowdy. I can handle the rowdy ones,” he says gently lifting his hand – indicating he bars his precious hearts from such.
Prayer is at the centre of their home
Is the boy already taking up Wyre’s ways? “I like adding margarine to my food before I eat. I now see him doing the same!” he laughs. “And he was the academic top student in his stream this term! I’m so proud of him!” Wyre shares.
A man’s desire for a son is usually nothing but the wish to duplicate himself
“I want him to grow up to be a noble man of integrity.”
On that note, just like in his young times, they don’t miss out on church – and prayer is at the centre of their home. “Little Lion so far does it before eating time, before we sleep and before I travel.”
As we pack up to leave at the tail end of this interview, the words of Helen Rowland linger: “A man’s desire for a son is usually nothing but the wish to duplicate himself in order that such a remarkable pattern may not be lost to the world.”
I also begin to concur with the Talmud – “When you teach your son, you teach your son’s son.” The Young Lion cannot help but be like his big favourite – if not outdo him.