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Steo and Simo are both struggling musicians. Though their challenges are very different, when they meet each other in Kenya in the summer of 2009, they find a common language though music.
Simo lives under a tree in a field close to one of Nairobi’s biggest slums. His only income comes from picking through the bins outside houses early in the morning. He looks for plastic that he can sell on to be recycled. From this work, he can make about a euro a day. He’ll also take what he can – old clothes that he can wear or sell at the market, or old scraps of leftover food that he can take back to the field, reheat and eat.
Simo is not from Nairobi originally; he was born in Turkana in the north of Kenya, and was part of a cattle-herding tribe. As a boy, Simo was out collecting firewood one day and came back to find his village under attack from a cattle raid by the neighbouring Samburu tribe. On his mother’s instruction he ran from the village and eventually ended up in Nairobi. To this day, he does not know if his parents are still alive.
He cannot read or write and he has no family and no home, but against all the odds, Simo has managed to produce a CD of his music – using a mobile phone to record his voice. His lyrics focus on God, peace and issues like HIV. The CD is called Nimebadilika (Swahili for "I have changed").
He dreams that one day he will be able to make a living through music.
Stephen Gunn – Steo - comes from Santry in Dublin’s northside. He fell in love with rap and hip hop as a teenager when he became mesmerised by Yo! MTV Raps on television. He feels that having music in his life has in some ways kept him on a more stable path.
Steo is also MC Konchus Lingo and is part of the hip-hop group The Infomatics. In 2008, The Infomatics released their debut album “Kill or Create” which was lauded by music critics. The group’s live credentials include on-stage performances with the best of hip-hop talent, including NAS, Soul II Soul, ICE-T and De La Soul. Their most recent achievement was becoming The Raw Sessions Sony Ericsson Artist of the Year 2009.
Steo’s dream is to one day throw in the day job and become a full time musician.
Over the week that Steo spends in Nairobi, he gets to know Simo and sees every aspect of his life, from the daily struggles of trying to get by to the importance of both religion and music in his life.
Together, the idea for a music track comes together, and they spend hours developing the concept, experimenting with lyrics and beats and finally, producing “Fire”, a track that they feel represents them both.
“Song from the Slum” is broadcast on Saturday 16th January 2010 at 6pm on RTE Radio One.
"Song from the Slum" was funded by the Simon Cumbers Fund
Compiled and narrated by Brian Kenny.
Production supervision by Nicoline Greer.
Sound supervision by Mark Dwyer.
First broadcast January 16th 2010.
An Irish radio documentary from RTÉ Radio 1, Ireland - Documentary on One - the home of Irish radio documentaries.
Projects featured in this programme are:
The Mukuru Arts and Crafts Project:
Mukuru Arts and Crafts is one of Mukuru Slums Development Projects based in Lungalaunga Nairobi.
The project is a partnershiop between Irish NGO VMM and DKA in Kenya. This project offers free arts and crafts training for a year long course followed by a one year exit programme aimed at assisting the youths with marketing and entrepreneurial skills.
A holistic approach is taken to the youths education and the course is custom made to suit the needs of youth living in the surrounding ghettos.
U-Tena Performing Arts Group:
For more information on the Infomatics, see:
And on Simo's music: