Lang Katalang': Living in the ghetto changed my life

Lang’ Katalang’. (Courtesy)

Jacob Okumu Otieno aka Lang’ Katalang’ has risen to become one of the most sought-after Luo and Swahili Hip Hop rappers in Kenya. His genres of music, however, cut across Genge, Swahili Hip Hop, and Luo Rap.

Katalang’ is also a songwriter, events organiser, art creative director and film production executive.

“I owe my entertainment career to both the streets and Maseno University where I graduated with a BA in Drama & Theatre Studies with IT and I will soon enroll for a master degree,” he says.

He is also the founder of Vetfarm 86 which is a brand that houses music, film, and construction.

“Mine is a story of a brave but cheeky young boy navigating through the hurdles of life, especially after losing my mother at the age of seven. Although now he is an established artiste, Katalang' remembers his early days in Nairobi with much nostalgia.

“I have a number of versions coming to Nairobi for the first time, but the very first time, I was surprised to see tall, elegant and attractive buildings was in 2003, Esir had released Boomba Train and it was all over the streets,” he says.

Although he says he has some good memories of his early days, it was not until he fully relocated to Nairobi that he came face to face with the rough Nairobi life. Coming from Kisumu, he had sold all his belongings with the hope of buying new stuff.

“The unpleasant thing was getting a good house on Riverbank (Nairobi River) on the other side of Dohnholm, behind Jacaranda grounds. The environment was messy and smelly due to the raw sewage,” he says.

Katalang’ tried to survive in the filthy environment but finally moved to Kariobangi North after about two years. “Waking up every day was all about a different story. If a robber had not been slain by undercover officers, then he was a victim of armed robbery. I witnessed guys get robbed in broad daylight. An incident I will never forget was one evening while at the bus station when I saw a street boy hit by a vehicle and it disappeared.

And what caught my attention more was just how a police vehicle came by and fellow street boys loaded the body of one of their own with utmost somberness.

I shed tears because I knew the poor boy's body would be dropped at the City Mortuary and no one would claim it. Walking was an option when I had no bus fare to commute in Eastlands.

At some point, I did a song known as “Nairobi Hakuna Manzi Ya Mtu” to shed light on how prostitution is being used for survival and also the fact that every man is for himself in the city,” he says.


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