GOING BEYOND BORDERS NOT IMPOSSIBLE:ANNA MWALAGHO SPEAKS
Anna Mwalagho Croons For Justice On American Stage
She started as an Economics graduate but along the way took a turn to try her hand at acting, storytelling, singing, dancing and reciting poetry in the USA. This was the beginning of a fulfilling career as an artist.
Meet Anna Mwalagho, a former student at Catholic University of Eastern Africa and one of the founding members of the local theatre group Heartstrings Kenya, which was referred to as Heartstrings Ensemble during her days.
Ms Mwalagho’s stage talent bloomed at an early age. “I started singing with my school choir in Mombasa’s Star of the Sea primary school at the age of 8 years. I was one of the lead soloists. At one time we made it to the nationals and travelled to KICC all the way from Mombasa,” she said.
Ms Mwalagho is no longer member of a school’s drama club. Instead of gracing schools’ drama competition stages, hers is now a common name at world-renowned venues. She is invited to perform at The Kennedy Centre at Washington DC, Washington Convention Centre, Smithsonian Museum of African Art and during events such as the US Africa Business Conference and at Bowie International Festival among several others.
Thanks to an award for the best performing actor/actress in Kenyan Universities, Ms Mwalagho found her way to the USA ten years ago. She has never turned back and instead has concentrated on building her career as a professional artist.
“I was ranked the best actress in all the universities in Kenya through the International University Arts Achievement awards. The winners were to travel to the USA for a media/ arts workshop in Hollywood, California,” she added.
Through Mwalagho Productions, she is competing with other establishments in the America’s art and music industry. Her genre is world music, spoken word, Afrobeat, Afrofusion, motivational and justice music.
We caught up with Ms Mwalagho during a short trip she made to Kenya and her excitement over having shared a stage with popular South African jazz legend Hugh Masekela in Washington D.C was evident.
Shortly before that, she had also gotten a chance to collaborate with Oliver Mtukudzi in her poem ‘Flavoured World’.
Ms Mwalagho’s philosophy is simple. There is no shortcut to a successful and fulfilling career. It must start with identifying one’s talent, followed by efforts to hone those strengths.
This, she believes, has helped her sustain and grow her company in a country where competition in the music industry is especially stiff.
“The truth when it comes to pursuing a career in USA is you have to know your niche and work hard. Basically if you come from Kenya as a rapper, it will not be easy for you to make in the US because here rappers are “born” so be original and authentic,” she said.
She sings and writes poems in Swahili, Kitaita and English.
“I have carved my work to represent the plight and success of the Diasporas from all corners of Africa and Caribbean. That way, whenever there is need for an African poet, singer, storyteller, actress or even an African dancer I stand a high chance of being contacted,” she said of her niche in the American market.
Her basket of awards includes those garnered during her performances as a student and during professional performances in the USA. She has been performing for 20 years, 10 of which have been on professional stages.
Although she appreciates Kenya as the foundation of her career, Ms Mwalagho says the country’s consumption of theatre and stage talents is yet to reach to the level of developed countries, citing Europe and America.
Low consumption of talent
Her experience with the Kenyan market is that of an artist performing for the love of her work although she says the performances never pay well for fulltime artists.
Unlike in the US where people regard any form of talent as a job, she says in Kenya and by extension in most places around the African continent talent is just viewed as a cultural thing, thus people assume it is for free; a factor that has led to low consumption of talent and almost retarded artists.
And what does she consider her greatest achievement? “I believe starting my business Mwalagho Productions in the US. Then having a website and releasing two CDs as an independent musician. That really makes me believe the sky is the limit,” she said.
Written by Immaculate Karambu (email@example.com)
Pictures Courtesy of http://www.annamwalagho.com