Saturday, January 12, 2019

Did you know Jalang'o used to be a househelp in a relative's home, inspiring story of how he rose to stardom, anything is possible.

Did you know Jalang'o used to be a househelp in a relative's home, inspiring story of how he rose to stardom, anything is possible.
By Shem Beverton.

The glossy black Land Rover Discovery barrels down the highway with a hum towards the city, effortlessly taking on the seemingly endless stretch of asphalt. It's been a long journey but it's about to come to an end. Jalang'oo, born Phelix Odiwuor, sits comfortably in the driver's seat, one hand on the wheel, the other on the arm-rest. Soft music drifts from the powerful speakers as he nods tunefully. The sky is an endless canvass of hard blue. Serenity and order is the vibe.

He's coming back from a gig in which he featured as the MC, the organisers were keen to tap into his inimitable ability to put a smile on people's faces. Just months ago, he'd had the pleasure of welcoming President Barrack Obama onstage to inaugurate projects initiated by the former president's sister Auma Obama. That photo of him shaking hands with President Obama while maintaing contact went viral. For Jalang'oo, MCeeeing for the world's most admired politician was something of a validation of his long-held claim of being the best in the game. It is a high point in his career that will remain seared into his memory like words written on a silver plate.

Getting to this point was quite a journey; one riddled with tears, toil, sweat, shame and what not. Getting an education was quite a struggle. That he managed to get an education at Barkanyango and later at Nyangoma Boys was nothing short of miraculous, he says. He remembers with vivid clarity the day his old man, as he fondly likes to refer to his dad, came to school with a sack of cereals as payment in kind for his school fees in the full view of his school mates.

Straight from secondary school, he ventured, head first, into fishing, selling his catch to women waiting on the shores of Homa Bay. It's the life he embraced to eke out a living. To make life somewhat bearable. He'd wanted to join university but his father had no means. "My son you've seen how I struggled to pay you secondary school fees. I have nothing. I wish I had the means, " the old man told him. It broke him but there was nothing he could do. The cold, hard reality was his father lacked the means. That was that!

A day came, with the blessings of his old man, he left for Nairobi where he was hosted by a relative at Lavington. He was quickly turned into a househelp, washing the relatives kids, cleaning the house... This is not the life he wanted so he left and went to stay with another relative called Ochieng' who stayed at Kware in Embakasi, an informal settlement. While he stayed at Uncle Ochieng', he would do some menial jobs at construction sites and earn some coins. Uncle Ochieng' was a man with a big heart; every morning he give Jalang'oo fare to go to industrial area to look for work.

Staying at Uncle Ochieng', Jalang'oo had a passion for acting and he would go to Kenya Theatre where he would audition and later rehearse for plays with the renowned Jicho Four Cast known for staging plays based on high school set books. He was not part of the main cast and so he would miss out when the plays were staged for high-schoolers. But one day, a member of the main cast failed to turn up after a nightly drinking spree. Jalang'oo was given a chance and he took it with both hands despite reservations about his ability by the play director. Jalang'oo made the director eat crow, confounding him with his impeccable performance. And with that performance he earned a slot in the main cast. For every play he participated in, he would pocket 300 shillings. It was not much but it was something nonetheless.

Later a position for a radio host opened up at Kiss 100. The criteria for eligibility was very clear: You had to have a degree in communications for you to be eligible. Jalang'oo had none but he showed up during the interviews. Many people came. "If you don't have a communications' degree, please leave. Don't waste your time," the announcement came, delivered with unmistakable finality. Almost half left but he remained behind. When he appeared before the interview panel, he was forthcoming: "I don't have a degree but I think I am the guy you are looking for," he said. Impressed by his incredible confidence, he was hired.

As I write this, Jalang'oo is Kenya's highest-grossing MC. His pockets are flush with legal tender, money that has enabled him to build a palatial mansion, buy a guzzler and take care of his family. It's been quite a journey that many would abandon on the way.

Lessons:

1. Don't squander opportunities when they present themselves. Give it your all as if your entire life depends on it.

2. Follow your passion wherever it leads you. Don't allow distractions to prevent you from realising your dream. Anything that distracts you from achieving your dream cut it off.

3. Have confidence in your own abilities. People believe in your abilities when you believe in them first.

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