In Summary
  • She studied law in both the United Kingdom and the United States of America; but she has stayed away from the courts, preferring the theatre and the music recording studio instead.

By the 30th second, you are convinced that this is an imported rhythm and blues song, the kind that radio stations play at sunset.

At the one-minute mark, it is apparent that the song is delivering a heart-breaking message to the singer’s lover, and the slow beat accompanying the voice captures the mood:

“You’re just not the one for me/

Sorry, sorry, sorry babe/

I’m gonna have to ask you to leave me/

I really don’t want you to hate me/

It’s just a case of mistaken identity.” 

After telling the lover why they should part ways and assuring him that he will find his love some day, she signs off in a near-whisper.

“That’s all I got to say,” she sings, concluding the song Mistaken Identity.

It is a voice that is familiar in Kenya’s social scene. And after 20 years of singing at weddings (more than 350 of them, she says), performing at Nairobi recreation spots and rubbing shoulders with the captains of the Kenyan music industry, Ms June Gachui will be releasing her first album on Tuesday — and "Mistaken Identity" will be one of the 12 songs.

“I’ve been spending most of these 20 years singing other people’s music and now I feel like I’m ready to share mine without fear or favour,” says Ms Gachui, who is a lawyer, singer and actress rolled into one.

The 38-year-old told Lifestyle that the album, titled Twenty Years, is more of a diary than a collection of songs.

“It’s a mixture of experiences, a mixture of good times and bad times because for me, music has always been a point of release. It’s been a stress reliever, the way that I communicate when words fail me,” she says.

It therefore comes as no surprise, for example, that "My Forever Song", one of the tunes in the album, relates to the 2010 death of her father James Gachui, who got into business after retiring from his engineering career.

When the album is finally unveiled in a concert at Kenya National Theatre in Nairobi, it will be a crowning moment of sorts for Ms Gachui, who believes she will introduce a breath of fresh air in the local music scene.

“I don’t think there’s anything like it in the market right now. It’ll be a breath of fresh air, I think,” she says.

NYUMMY MUSIC

She has christened her genre “Nyummy Music” and hopes the album will help her sing her way into Kenyans’ hearts.

“Some of my songs are rock, others are funk, others are neo-soul. But the one thing all of them have is that nyummy feeling in them. That’s why ‘Nyummy Music’ is the phrase we have coined,” she explains.

But it will not be an ordinary singer dropping hit after hit in the podium during the launch.

On stage will be a lawyer, now in the 10th year since she was admitted to the Roll of Advocates, with a Master’s degree in Intellectual Property Law from the George Washington University in the US.

Though she has done very little practice, she is viewed as a legal authority among artistes in Kenya, many of whom have paid to have her as a consultant in copyright issues.

She says the conduct of judges shortly before she was made an Advocate of the High Court demoralised her.

“We could go to court and after four hours, you would have done nothing. You’re looking for the judge then you find that he has moved because he didn’t like the way the sun was in his eyes – you know, some strange reason,” she tells Lifestyle.

“I just felt frustrated, like I don’t want to be that lawyer who is billing clients and nothing is happening. So, I looked for firms that were doing commercial practice. That’s where I started.”

She had a short stint at Salim Dhanji & Company Advocates but left.

“I said, ‘No, this law firm thing is also not working for me,’” she recalls.

After that she was hired as an in-house lawyer at Total Kenya, a post she held between 2004 and 2007. It was during her stint in the post that former Chief Justice Evan Gicheru admitted her to the Roll of Advocates.

“Soon after I got admitted, I realised I didn’t like litigation. It’s not my thing. I keep saying that litigation is the last 10 per cent of every relationship. It means everything else has failed,” says Ms Gachui.

She adds: “It means your meeting to negotiate failed. It means your contract drafting failed. It means your arbitration and your dispute resolution failed. By that time, these people are not even talking to each other.”

That notion informed her decision to form a training and consultancy company for artistes who needed guidance in copyright matters.

The firm’s operations were interrupted in 2010 when she was appointed the general manager of the Kenya Association of Music Producers (Kamp), a title she held till 2014.

Besides being a lawyer, Ms Gachui has starred in more than 20 local plays, among them the Threefold Cord staged recently at the Kenya National Theatre.

“I have been acting professionally since 2003 when I starred in my first play at Phoenix. On average, I would do at least two or three plays a year. By now I have taken part in maybe 20 or 30 productions,” she says.

Ms Gachui has also acted in films including Project Daddy and Nairobi Half Life.

“My very first movie was by Judy Kibinge and Njeri Karago and it was called Project Daddy. Bruce Odhiambo was in it, alongside Wangechi Murage and Damaris Agweyu,” she recalls.

She has also been a presenter on TV and radio shows, notably the Franco Fun programme on NTV and Kazi ni Kazi alongside singer Wahu on Kameme FM.

She thanks her brain for her ability to execute her many assignments with finesse.

“I think I’m blessed,” she says. “I don’t know how it works but I think I’m just blessed like that.”

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