Despite research showing that there is a connection between music and its effect on various illnesses, a number of artists have continued to suffer depression, drug addiction while others go to extends suicide. GEORGE D. MWENDWA delves into their untold stories and their private lives that are not as rosy as their public life seems.
Since renowned gospel artiste Papa Dennis passed on a few weeks ago after falling off from the 7th floor of a building in Ngara under unclear circumstances, the conversation of the silent struggle musicians go through became a subject of discussion.
The first person to break the news on Papa’s demise on Instagram was popular comedian Terence Creative. “Rest in peace bro. It’s so sad and may God protect us artists. Something must be addressed,” part of his post read. This could have been the beginning of a national artist outcry most of whom who took to social media to parade their silent frustrations.
In an interview with The Buzz on 21st July 2019, Papa Dennis said that his former management, Maliza Umaskini, had been barring him from a lot of freedom that he needed to grow his local fan base through charging very high performance fees. “I had to walk away though it won’t be easy to run things on my own since the management was in charge of all my bills but I know I have the support of my fans,” he disclosed.
Papa Dennis’ contract ended at Maliza Umaskini and upon leaving the stable, he had nothing to show after living a lavish life displayed in his videos and social media posts. Close friends believe he fell into depression after realising that things were thick and he couldn’t manage to live his usual lifestyle on his own.
“When Papa Dennis came to my studio in December, he looked weak and depressed. He clearly was going through a hard time both emotionally and financially, recalls Mr Bloom, CEO BM Records.
Studies have shown music to slow heart rate, lower blood pressure, and reduce levels of stress hormones yet the health of many artists and other music professionals is dire.
Even just the act of trying to break into the industry can be so stressful that it can have a massive impact on an artist’s health. Today, Nicki Minaj is regarded as one of the best rappers around, but in 2011, she recalled to how she had suffered from suicidal thoughts after being turned away time and time again.
“I kept having doors slammed in my face,” she said. “I felt like nothing was working. I had moved out on my own, and here I was thinking I’d have to go home. It was just one dead end after another. At one point, I was like, “What would happen if I just didn’t wake up?” she reveals.
It’s easy to understand how sudden fame, or a lifestyle built around creating music and live shows, could lead to drug and alcohol abuse, or even cause serious health issues. Jimwat is a good example and doesn’t mince his words on the truth of how he fell into drug addiction.
Jimwat has held on to his new sober life and even opened up a foundation to help those struggling with drug abuse.
If you turned on any music player in the early noughties, you couldn’t help but notice the mellowed voice of Mr. Nice the Kikulacho hit maker.
While at the top of his career, he relocated to South Africa and was given a lavish mansion by a recording house and was riding high on lucrative performances.
It wasn’t long before Mr. Nice began to fall prey to the bottle and it slowly drowned his once lavish lifestyle to a pauper who needed charity.
Fed up with his antics, the South African music stable evicted him from the massive house. Mr. Nice downgraded to a maisonette and sold off his cars and in the end was deported from South Africa. His once blossoming music career had hit a snag.
Banjuka hit maker DNA as well had his own share of frustrations. The artist admitted that it’s very easy to get lost because success brings along many fake friends and negative influences especially because this fame took him down the road of alcoholism.
DNA also confessed that while at your peak no one is willing to tell you the truth of the matter that you are headed in the wrong direction. Most people in your circle tend to cheer you on because you are on top of your career. He missed concerts and even fell off with his recording label in the end losing a career that was once at its peak. He ended up in a rehabilitation center and began to recover from alcoholism.
The same narrative hit Kenyan veteran rapper the late Kantai who took a break for music citing personal affairs. He had always shied away from speaking or acknowledging the issue of alcoholism. The rapper however rubbished rumours that he had hit rock bottom after his career went south.
“I think most artistes don’t know their way around the industry and little knowledge as they say is dangerous thus they end up struggling. Those that make it too fast are not safe either because the fame easily shifts their focus. Being disciplined and getting the right team is what has kept many icons afloat. Again, invest in your own art, that way, you will have control over your vision,” shares Justus Kioko a Kenyan music fan who has watched icons come and go for over 30 years.