Born in Burundi in 1974, Jean Pierre Nimbona, popularly known in East Africa as ‘Kidum’ fled the country in 1995, after it was thrown into turmoil following a civil war. He moved to Kenya where he later launched a successful music career and became a household name.
As part of efforts to contribute to peace in his home country, in 2001, he participated in a peace concert at the invitation of the country’s former President, Pierre Buyoya. Rwandan President Paul Kagame has also invited him to perform at a peace concert. The crooner, who sings both secular and gospel songs, has also performed in Belgium and London, amongst other locations. Kidum is still connected to Burundi in many ways.
For instance, with a keen interest in farming, he is a productive subsistence farmer in Burundi. Though he still lives in Kenya, he aspires in future to play a greater role in changing the social economic sectors of his motherland. In 1995, I was forced to flee my home country, Burundi, following a long running civil war. Fearing I might join the fighting, my father gave me USD 60 and told me to flee to Kenya and pursue my dream as a musician there.
Upon my arrival in Kenya, I teamed up with a Tanzanian national, Saidi Kinyunda and we formed a band and performed in various entertainment spots. For three years, recording studios turned us down and in 1999 we formed Hot Rod band and approached a Nairobi based producer, Maurice Ayado, who agreed to record our first hit ‘Yaramenje’. It was an instant hit amongst the fans who were familiar with our genre of music. At the beginning life in Kenya wasn’t easy.
I got arrested many times in police swoops on suspected undocumented migrants. The swoops targeted urban refugees with an intention of soliciting bribes in exchange for our short lived freedom. Kenyans on the other hand, viewed us as petty thieves, cheats and miscreants. When I arrived in Kenya, the majority of Kenyans mostly listened to foreign music. So we started singing in Swahili, and within years, we became a household name.
I can proudly say I was one of the artists who made Kenyans listen to Swahili songs. Today, 90 percent of songs including mine that are sung or played in most entertainment venues are in Swahili. I was also one of the first artists to perform both secular and religious songs too.
But i also think that IT’S IMPORTANT THAT MIGRANTS SHOULD CONTRIBUTE TO THE HOST COUNTRY; THEY SHOULD PAY TAXES AS WELL AS CONTRIBUTE ECONOMICALLY. IN MY CASE, KENYA IS HOME AWAY FROM HOME.
I have tried TO EMPOWER BURUNDIAN MIGRANTS HERE IN KENYA through music. This is my fifth band, since 1995, most of the back-up musicians, are not only Burundians, but also Tanzanians and Rwandese. I use my music as a force for social change. Kenyans identify with my music and this is important.