By Margaretta wa Gacheru (30 January 2019)
Long before Eric Wainaina got involved in setting ‘Tinga Tinga Tales’ to music for the stage, the ‘Dreams in Stereo’/Daima musician was dreaming musical theatre.
It might have started while he was singing and acting at St. Mary’s School. The seed could also have been sown once he joined the a cappella singing group, ‘Five Alive’ in the 1990s. But certainly, once he went to Boston, USA to study song-writing and record-engineering at the world acclaimed Berklee College of Music, Eric must have had an inkling that musical theatre was bound to become a path less travelled that he would eventually traverse.
Proof that he was destined to be Kenya’s version of a writer and composer like Rogers and Hammerstein all in one came out in 2009 when his award-winning musical, ‘Mo Faya’ was staged for record-breaking crowds at the GoDown Art Centre in Nairobi’s Industrial Area. Then when ‘Mo Faya’ was invited to perform in the New York Musical Theatre Festival in September 2009, Eric was sold.
In fact, his starring role as DJ Lwanga in Mo Faya has stuck with him. So much so that he’s been developing another musical around the DJ ever since. Even now, ‘DJ Lwanga’ was one of the musical scripts that Eric shared during the recent Third NBO Musical Theatre Initiative Workshop. It was the one (of 15) musical theatre projects previewed last week that had only one songwriter, lyricist and storyteller, namely Eric.
Otherwise, during the Workshop’s finale performance one discovered that Eric is involved in the original creation of four musicals all at once. There’s DJ Lwanda, the radio DJ from Kwa Maji in Mo Faya. Then there are three more that he’s working on with three different teams.
In the black-brown love story, ‘Pani Puri’ Eric has teamed up with writer Aleya Kassam and composer-tabla drummer Rashab Nandha.
Then, in ‘Moonlight’, he is working with Wacuka Mungai to explore a bit of Nairobi’s musical history by centering their story around the old Starlight Nightclub.
Finally, Eric has teamed up with Mugambi Nthiga and Stuart Nash to develop the true story entitled ‘Three-Ten’ about Pastor Dennis who swindled his flock with a Bible-based scam. ‘Three-Ten’ is a title derived by Dennis from Malachi Chapter three, verse ten.
All four musicals are still in the process of becoming but they could be nearly complete in June when they’ll be showcased again.