By: ISSA KHALID
I am Samuel Mwangi. My friends call me Sam. I am the lead vocalist of RASH; a Kenyan rock band. I’m also a student at USIU-Africa pursuing an undergraduate degree in Journalism.
RASH? Why ever wouid you name yourselves that? Are you new to the Kenyan scene?
We officially became active in 2013, around September. I know you’re are probably puzzled as to why we would name ourselves after an itchy skin condition. Yeah, I had the same reaction.
Haha! when I joined the band, Max, our lead guitarist, explained to me that he wanted our music to be so good, it would result to our audience getting some kind of inflammatory reaction; goosebumps, which lead to RASH.
Got it? So, disclaimer: It’s RASH with an ‘A’ not ‘U’.
How did the band come about?
Max (lead guitarist) and Abedi (rhythm guitarist) met each other at USIU. Funny thing is, Max really wanted to form a rock band so bad but USIU is full of R-n-B singers and rappers.
Fortunately, he came across Abedi strumming his guitar to “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica. So they hooked up and jammed for a while with Sebas (Max’s brother) as the bassist.
That was a year before Abedi found me singing to an R-n-B song. Yes. I sang to R-n-B, stop judging. As for Gakosh (drummer), Abedi knew a friend who knew a friend and was introduced to him. Sebas unfortunately had to go back to Argentina indefinitely so Jona Mwendwa came on board.
What influences your style of music?
We are influenced a lot by 70s and 80s type of music. And you can tell when you listen to our music.
So AC/DC, KISS, Guns n Roses, Metallica, Bonjovi et cetera. We however don’t wear loudly colourful spandex clothing, don’t have bad poodle hair and don’t wear mascara.
Back to you, your plate looks full, how do you keep your vocals fit?
I try as much as possible to find time to do have a warm-up session every morning using the do-re-mi scale even if I don’t have a show that day. I practice a lot, especially with the band.
I watch a lot of YouTube tutorials and listen to a lot of music. I try to learn something new every day and also try to drink lots of water to keep my vocals in tune.
What kinds of music do you listen to? Do you have favourite bands?
I grew up listening to R-n-B, Boyz 2 Men, Jodeci and Keith Sweat and the like. But normally I listen to everything that appeals to me. Rock music is thrilling.
I love Sevendust, Disturbed, RED, AC/DC, Halestorm, Killswitch Engage, As I Lay Dying, Tremonti/Alter Bridge, Dreamtheater; I could go on and on.
What are some of the highlights of your young career?
Being featured in a French Documentary; Un Monde De Metal with Mortal Soul and Last Year’s Tragedy. Also performing on national television on the Citizen Breakfast Show was a thumbs-up.
All in all I have had fun performing for our fans.
Memorably, the Rift Valley Festival was one of our more awesome experiences.
What are some of the challenges you have experienced so far in trying to push RASH?
We all have very tight schedules, some of us are still students with school responsibilities, early morning classes and assignments. Abedi has a 9 to 6 job.
So we sometimes practice at odd hours, sacrificing weekends and sleep. Shifty promoters will be the death of the local rock scene I tell you!
We still struggle with the rock band stereotype label. We are not angry delinquents misguiding kids with a chockfull of obscene lyrics. I urge people to be open-minded.
Do you have pre-performance rituals that you observe before a show?
I drink a lot of water throughout the day to make my throat moist. I try to relax before the show. I’m usually quiet but that’s probably because I’m freaking out!
Final words to up and coming stars?
To all aspiring musicians out there: Be consistent. Practice! Practice! Practice! Don’t sit on your talent. Form that band and be disciplined in terms of practice. Keep learning.
Don’t be complacent. Don’t sit waiting for opportunities- go out there and find one. Be patient. Lastly, have fun!