Nina Ogot and Winyo on how they met

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The couple arrived in Kigali yesterday ahead of the Live and Unplugged Kigali concert to be held this evening at the Ubumwe Grande Hotel. (Courtesy)

The trademark aura of Rwandan hospitality ushered them to Kigali. Within minutes of setting foot in the Rwandan capital, they could not hide the joy of feeling at home away from home. That is how Ogot and her husband Winyo described Rwanda shortly after jetting into the country ahead of their Live and Unplugged Kigali concert at the Ubumwe Grande Hotel, this evening, July 14.

 “We’ve been here a very short time so we’ve only seen a very small portion of Rwanda, but what I can say so far is the people make the place. It’s not the place that makes the people. I find that the people are super friendly and very polite, whereas where we come from people are very aggressive … we go at it very hard sometimes,” said Nina Ogot at a press briefing at the Ubumwe Grande Hotel on Thursday morning.

“Right from the airport people are very kind, they’re smiling and the city is very clean. This is one of the cleanest cities I’ve been to,” Winyo chips in.

The Kenyan couple met through music five years ago, tied the knot shortly after, at a secret wedding in 2012, and have since been working together on a joint album titled Yote yote, some of whose songs they will unveil to their Rwandan audience during the Friday show.

“Winyo is not our Sir name like many people think,” Nina explains; Winyo is his stage name. We’re actually the Onyangos. He’s Polycarp Onyango aka Winyo and I’m Nina Ogot.”

How they met:

“We wanted to collaborate, and initially our intention was to make just one song and when we started out with that song it led to a relationship (laughs) and then we got married, and five years later we have an album together,” Ogot explains.

“We were going to do only one song and I ended up writing a song just about her. As I sang the song something was talking to me and I fell in love and the rest is history,” 

“We did not finish the song because we ran off to get married. The song was about a man who is working and loving his woman and I mentioned her name in the song and then she realized that I’m mentioning her name in the song, so the chemistry started from there. It was just about a man who was lost and looking for love, and Nina saw that.”

Ogot started off as a fan of her future husband, liking his music even before meeting him in person.

“He was competing in a French competition called RFI competition and at the time I was working for RFI in Nairobi and I heard that he was among the top ten. I was intrigued because I’d never seen an English speaking person compete in a French competition,” she says.

Curiosity sent her looking for Winyo’s music, which she listened to and was “blown away”:

“I was like I have to look for this guy, and when I eventually got to meet him it just made sense that we should collaborate.”

Winyo describes Nina as one of the best lady musicians from Kenya.

“Working with her made me realize and notice her music. I listened to Ninairobi and it was beautiful and pure and I was wondering … where has she been all along? I also fell in love with her artistic world, how she creates music, how she views the art of music, and the purest feeling of her creative music bonded with mine.”

The couple’s latest album, Yote yote packs in nine songs, each speaking about their life experiences as individuals and as a couple. Through the songs they tell stories about their lives, and give advice to other young couples. 

“There are love songs in there, songs about heartbreak, how to overcome challenges … Yote yote in Swahili means everything, so we’ve given everything in there,” says Ogot.

The couple is renowned for their authentic Afro fusion styles, with Winyo curving out a niche in his contemporary Benga-infused style:

“My style comes from a genre called Benga music. I take the old Benga and make it fresh and new; I put jazz in it, I put some blues in it, and it works with what Nina does because she also derives her stories from cultural backgrounds and we share the same tradition,” he explains:

“Benga is the original genre of Kenyan music. It comes from Homa Bay County in the Western part of Kenya. I would describe Benga as a genre that came out of a traditional lyre instrument called Nyatiti. When the old musicians wanted to translate the music, they took out the old Nyatiti songs and translated them onto guitar, which made it groovier.”

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