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Meet the king on Arbantone famed for Digii hit – Mr Tee

One of the most intriguing rising stars in the Arbantone music scene, Mr Tee, born Tony Junior Makale, has captivated audiences with his infectious beats and charismatic persona. In this exclusive interview, Mr Tee reveals insights into his journey, from his humble beginnings to his meteoric rise fueled by the viral sensation of his hit single ‘Digii’.

Embracing his Kenyan roots, Mr Tee blends traditional musical elements with contemporary influences, showcasing a unique sound that resonates globally.

With a grounded approach to fame and a commitment to staying authentic, Mr Tee is not only making waves in the music industry but also championing Kenyan culture on the international stage.

How old are you?

Currently, 21 years old; (I’ll be) turning 22 in October.

Are you schooling?

Yes. I am studying Aviation at Wilson, a school called West Rift Aviation.

Why do you call yourself Mr Tee?

My real name is Tony Junior Makale, but I got Mr Tee from my friends who used to call me TJ. But over time, they narrowed it down to Tee. For a stage name, of course, I could not have gone with Tee, and so my friends suggested I add ‘Mr’ to the name Tee, to give it a firm masculine vibe.

Aside from music, what other passions do you have?

I am a footballer on the down-low, and I enjoy reading novels.

What inspired you to pursue a career in music?

To be honest, I released my song “Digii” just for the fun of it. But what made me want to pursue music seriously was the kind of reception I got from ‘Digii’, and also one of my producers, who after listening to my songs, encouraged me to keep up and continue releasing my music.

Have your parents listened to ‘Digii’?

Ha ha! My mum was one of the first people to hear it. But my dad came to find out after it went viral. My mum was a bit weirded out at first, but, at the end of the day, she was willing to support my craft. So was my dad. They actually help me a lot when it comes to business investments and guidance.

How did your upbringing in Kenya influence your artistic style?

I was born and raised in Embakasi and Imaara Daima, so I am well-versed with sheng, and “Digii” being one of my songs of course has a lot of sheng. So I would say my upbringing has had a lot of influence in the way I approach my music. ‘Digii’ has become a sensational hit, resonating with audiences worldwide.

Can you share the story behind the song’s creation and what message you aimed to convey through its lyrics?

I wrote “Digii” when I was in high school And in high school, adolescence usually hits teenagers hard. I am a very expressive guy, and at the time I was just thinking of a beautiful lady when I was bored during preps, so I wrote lyrics that would express my love and affection. Because, at the end of the day, it’s your partner’s happiness that matters. But, of course, the lyrics were explicit.

As a rising Arbantone artiste from Kenya, how do you navigate between preserving traditional Kenyan musical elements and incorporating contemporary influences in your music?

My producers and I sample beats from past music, and wrap it up in the new version of Kenyan music, aka Arbantone, and just add our own new and unique style so as to retain the original Kenyan sound. Your rise to fame has been quite rapid since the release of “Digii.”

How do you stay grounded amidst the whirlwind of success and maintain authenticity in your artistry?

Having the right team, and advisors. Even without the fame, not much has changed in my life. I still do me, work hard, and keep pushing so that I don’t end up being a one-hit wonder.

Many fans have connected deeply with your music. How do you approach songwriting, and what emotions or experiences do you draw from when crafting your music?

Love and affection are the emotions I draw my creativity and craft from. As for the lyrics, they come to me naturally. I can’t say I have a specific ritual which I perform when trying to come up with new songs.

Being in the spotlight comes with its own set of challenges. Have you received any backlash yet?

Yes. Two of them were very serious. One was from Nigerians, and the other from Kenyans for my latest song.

How do you see your role as an artiste in contributing to societal conversations and promoting cultural pride?

“Digii” being a song which is now international, I would say I have taken it seriously, and my goal is to put Kenya on the map. That’s why my collaborations at the moment are mostly with international artistes, so that we can raise our flag high. Being one of the first Arbantone artistes to go international, I take it as my responsibility to hit the Nigerian market and make them want to listen to Kenyan music even more.

What do you enjoy most about seeing people engage with your music?

When I see people cramming and learning the lyrics to my songs. It makes me so happy.

Looking ahead, what are your aspirations for the future of your music career?

Staying on the grid. I know once I manage to stay on the grid long enough, more opportunities will come up.

Which artiste do you look upto?


This interview was first published on Buzz, Sunday Nation