Session #16 with Wambui Kay. Listening to yet another episode of The 47 Frequency, a conscientious and wavy podcast hosted by Eugene Gecaga, aka EXGXNX GXCXGX is the last thing I’d done the night before this interview. The podcasts intro, “Channeling eclectic sounds and higher vibrations” aptly describes what your in for once you tune in. Well-curated and exceptionally mixed playlists, stylized by R&B, hip-hop and rap sprinkled with 80’s and 90’s funk and soul, are interspersed with honest, organic and relatable conversation. This particular session touched on trusting the universe’s process, spirituality, knowing yourself and staying true to that person. By the time the episode had ended, I was feeling raw. But not in the painful, ugly, uncomfortable way. No. I felt like I had just exfoliated away all the stresses and anxieties plaguing my mind and exposed a new, fresh layer of consciousness.
DJ, writer, director, curator, and host of The 47 Frequency podcast, Eugene Gecaga is spreading positive vibes one session at a time. Born and raised in Thika, a town just outside of Nairobi, music has always been a huge part of his life: “Music helps me to escape, to center and find myself”. Influenced by 70’s/ 80’s funk and soul, and the 90’s era of conscientious rap, and fueled by a desire to spread positivity whilst elevating Kenya’s creative scene, he created The 47 Frequency in early 2017. Since then, he continually puts out good vibrations through his installations of the ‘Sessions’ series and ‘The Lost Chronicles’ series on the podcast.
Light-hearted and full of laughter, yet deeply consciousness and wise, EXGXNX GXCXGX openly discussed his journey, opinions on Kenya’s creative landscape and live views.
Let’s start with some background, introduce yourself
My name is Eugene Gecaga. That’s the same as my artist name. It’s just the fact that I took out the vowels and put in x’s. That was my way of transitioning from being someone people knew me to be to being someone I understand myself to be. For me my name is the most important part about me because of what it represents. Every one of us knows what we want ourselves to be it’s just that society makes that slow. So I think it’s upon us to create ourselves how we want to be For me that was the first step.
How did you get into music?
It stems back to my older brothers. We have a huge age gap. Between me and my eldest brother is a ten years. I’ve been around grown people for the whole of my life and they put me on a lot of grown people music. From The Busters to Nas - you know before you’re even ready for that sh*t. From the first mixtape my eldest brother made for me, I was hooked onto music. It was hip-hop at that time. I remember Missy was a huge part of my growing up; Busta Rhymes; The Fugees.
That initial interest led me to rap and I made a B tape. When I finished with that, I lost my laptop - it was stolen. You can imagine that! I sat back and I was just like, “Come on God? You know what I’m trying to do here!”. How am I going to start the process of saving up for a new laptop and starting all over again? That’s when I started DJing. I figured, lemme become a complete artist. Lemme dabble in everything as I head to my destination. DJing was the quickest way for me to do that. Lemme learn what people also vibe to so when I get behind my laptop to start producing again I’m making music that resonates with the people.
Then I was like lemme start a podcast ‘cause I want to speak. The podcast became what I think God gave me. I’ve been through enough sh*t to be who I am right now. I’ve been to rehab, I’ve been on meds, I’ve been through sh*t just because I chose to look at life differently. From all of that I figured if I can put my life on record, someone somewhere will find a place.
I really vibe with your podcast. What’s your thought process behind putting every session together?
One, the playlist is key. I start with diving into music depending on what I’m feeling. The ‘Sessions’ are twice a month and then I slide in ‘The Lost Chronicles’. My ‘Sessions’ are about conversations. I never really have to think about my next guest. Take it as you may but God finds a way of bringing in the person who’s gonna bring out whatever it is that I was thinking or feeling to perfectly translate to that session. For example, Session 16 with Wambui Kay, we’re meant to have done it a month ago but things didn’t work out because of scheduling. But the moment we sat down and I opened my mouth, it’s like I knew what we were going to talk about. It became about trusting the process. So the music comes first and then the topic. I like making it as organic as possible.
I saw the short film that Ukweli did that was part of The 47 Frequency. That was really cool. Are you going to put out more visual stuff like that?
What is crazy, and I love that you peeped that, is all the videos that you see, I co-direct those videos. I sat down and was like I really want to end up doing movies. I want to direct movies at some point in my life. And so for me, doing the visuals was a way for me to translate my visual experience of the world. It was also another way for me to branch out. But yeah, I want to start doing more visuals. And most of those visuals are based on the conversations I’ve had from the podcast.
So many people have this stereotype of African music being one-dimensional and tribal. How would you describe music scene in Kenya right now?
I can break it down to two sides: there’s the mainstream and the people like me who put in the effort to discovering new music. You’re finding that artists are becoming more comfortable to explore and do music differently. You’ve seen you’re Dizzy Wrights; you’ve seen your Kehlanis; you’ve seen your SZAs do things the way they want to do them. You have the mainstream which is pushing us creatives down because no one is appreciating that you can do something different. For me NuNairobi is more than a hashtag, it’s more than a cool thing to say. It’s people putting the effort into one, improving yourselves, and then also helping the culture change. NuNairobi is about having new hearts, new ways of thinking, new outlooks. Just everything has to be brand new, from the human being to the music to the culture. That’s how you change the whole scene.
I read somewhere that music from the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, you know soul and funk has had a huge influence on you. Can you elaborate on that a bit more? What specific artists or albums?
Yeah! I remember growing up my dad would make us travel a lot. Every time we’d get into his red Datsun, he used to play a Tracy Chapman tape. I will never forget that tape. I didn’t understand because I was like she sounds like a dude but she’s not a dude. So Tracy Chapman was a huge influence on me growing up; Phil Collins because of my mum; a lot of the Fugees; Hugh Masekela came in once in a while. You can hear all these early influences in my playlists. You’ll find I’ll pay a 90’s song but it’s been flipped. For me it’s all about that. You can hear something and know it one way but the moment it’s been flipped it’s a new experience.
There’s such a stigma against being a creative in Kenya. We’re all expected to become a doctor, lawyer, engineer... When was the moment you realized being a creative is what you wanted to do and you’re going to have the conviction to follow through?
I think that came when I was in my second year of uni. I was studying economics and statistics. I mean I love numbers but it got to a point where I was like, “Why am i doing this course?”. And I figured it’s just because this is what society/my dad/my family is telling me to do you know. So I took a step back and I’m like am I really going to live my life like this? It’s my ship but I’m going to let someone else steer it? That’s when I started diving into my spiritual side because I was just like the world hasn’t given me the answers. I’ve done everything I was told to do per the books and it hasn’t worked. I’m not happy on the inside. So second year I was just like I need to start being happy. I figured I have a voice with this experience that I’ve gotten. With the understanding that I’ve gotten let me put that down on record to tell people this is how we can live. So that was me. I was just like f*ck it, lemme just do me.
I know you’re working on the podcast mainly but are we going to see a project/compilation of mixes/album anytime soon?
What I want to do privately is work on my website ‘cause I figured lemme build a following of my own. Do a visual. Do a video that’s as real as my life. Get shots of me with my family, shots of my day to day life. ‘Cause I feel like my reputation precedes me most of the time. But I Want people to put a face to what I do. When you hear The 47 Frequency, you’re able to put my name there. So that’s what I’m working on. I’m also doing collaborative merchandise with Bongo Sawa.
What’s been the most fulfilling part of you creative journey so far?
It’s when someone DM’s me or texts me and they’re like, “ Oh my god, I listened to your podcast and it made me feel so much better”. Just someone genuinely telling me that it helped them. I have a homie who called me one time and he was like,”That sh*t made me cry”. That touched me. For me, it’s not about the plays or the people sharing it. It’s just about someone saying it touched them.
Besides music, what other stuff are you into?
I love watching movies, like old school movies. I’ve watched Pulp Fiction 20 times. Also Hotel Budapest for me was a beautifully shot movie.
I love watching TV shows because I want to learn how to direct. I’m really into music reading and a lot of philosophy: you’re Aristotle’s and Plato’s. Yeah, I try and read. And meditating, that’s something I do regularly. Just taking the time to center yourself more. And then I try and spend some time with my family. Because aside from everything else I do, those are the only two people I can turn back to, they don’t know me for what I’m trying to do on this other side. I always say every superman needs a Clark Kent moment and I try to look for Clark Kent moments.
Okay, now it’s time for a quick fire round.
Who are your top five favourite artists of all time?
Number one is J. Cole. Like no doubt. J. Cole is number 1, 2 and 3. And then Goldlink for sure. J Hus. He’s new to the game but he’s going to become a...I just like his style. He’s authentic. Missy is up there. Outkast as a group. And then Tupac.
That’s a good mix.
This might be hard but top five favourite albums?
The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.
The Warm Up.
Nothing Was The Same.
If you could put a music super-group together, who would you choose?
I’d be the DJ.
Then I’d bring back Bob Marley.
Who are your favourite Kenyan artists?
Kiwango, he’s one of my favourite’s. I feel like he’s so underrated but the guy has depth and he puts in the work. Hiribae of EA Wave cause I started with him, I’ve seen him from the jump. Sichangi, he’s hard as f*ck. And Janice Iche. Underrated so bad but she’s fire. Yeah, those are people who are repping it... Then Karun of course. Karun has been consistent, I love her.