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EXCLUSIVE: Saxophonist Gerry Wainaina: My dinner with President Ruto and Joe Biden at the White House

Gerriey Wainaina, a multi-award-winning Kenyan saxophonist and founder of MkenyaMarekaniTV, recently had the rare opportunity to dine with President William Ruto during his historic state visit to the United States.

Based in Seattle, Washington, Wainaina’s platform focuses on empowering Kenyan and African immigrants in the US.

In an email Q&A with Nairobi News, Wainaina shared his experiences and insights from his meeting with President Ruto.

Asked how he became part of President Ruto’s delegation, Wainaina credited the outgoing Consul General Amb Thomas Kwaka, popularly known as Big Ted, for suggesting his name.

“I received the invitation letter from Ambassador to the US Meg Whitman in collaboration with the Kenyan Embassy in DC,” he explained.

Gerry Wainaina
Saxophonist and vlogger Gerry Wainaina with US ambasaddor Meg Whitman. PHOTO| POOL

Wainaina described the experience as highly motivating.

“Just stepping into that environment, which is not only black-owned but one of the biggest studio spaces in America and the world, was incredible.”

Reflecting on the potential impact of the visit on Kenya’s creative industries, Wainaina highlighted the media buzz and potential collaborations between business and the arts.

“Steve Harvey, who already has shows in Africa, has promised to work with people in Kenya. This is a big win for Kenya,” he said.

Wainaina also acknowledged the mix of positive and negative reactions to the state visit online.

“Some concerns are valid, such as the cost of the whole trip, which is way beyond expectations,” he said.

Speaking about the highlight of his tour at the Tyler Perry Studios, Wainaina described the facility as magnificent.

“Being owned by a black man means that colour has nothing to do with success. Even in Africa, we can be successful in the arts,” he said.

Gerry Wainaina
Saxophonist and vlogger Gerry Wainaina with award winning Kate Actress. PHOTO| POOL

He also touched on the studio’s restrictions on photography due to copyright issues and praised the high number of black American women working at the facility.

“You can’t take pictures because you’re pre-empting their film sets and copyrights, but Wakenya ni nani… so many black American ladies work there too, I saw it as a form of pride as a good thing,” he said.

Comparing the resources at Tyler Perry Studios to those available to creatives in Kenya, Wainaina stressed the need to turn talent into a business.

“We have to take our talents seriously to put money in our pockets,” he said.

Wainaina supported the idea of an exchange programme between American and Kenyan creatives, suggested by fellow creative Vivian.

“It will lead to more collaborations with international artists. We should also encourage Kenyan-born young people to go on an exchange programme to Kenya so that they do not assimilate into America and forget their traditions,” he added.

Gerry Wainaina, ruto
Saxophonist and vlogger Gerry Wainaina with President William Ruto. PHOTO| POOL

During the visit, Wainaina had the opportunity to network with several Grammy-winning producers and singers.

“Among Kenyans, we have gifted musicians like Mercy Myra and King Kanja who were also there,” he said.

Sharing lessons from his experience, Wainaina stressed the importance of consistency, citing Steve Harvey’s journey from homelessness to success.

“Be consistent. The world is a global village with social media platforms. Brand yourself, even if you only get one like. Over time, you’ll build an organic following.”

Wainaina advised Kenyan creatives to embrace social media and remain consistent.

“Imagine meeting Steve Harvey and he asks for your Instagram, only to see you posting local memes. Consistency is key,” he said.

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