CLEARING THE AIR: Female rapper Keko was recently in the news with claims she had lost her mind following her deportation from Nairobi as a result of drug abuse. Edgar R. Batte sought out the singer, who admits she was booked into rehab, but was not mentally-ill as it was portrayed.
Let’s get straight to the point. Kenyan media reported that you had gone cuckoo in Nairobi while shooting the Coke Studio Africa show. That you become a nuisance and you were kicked out, hence spending the night at a fuel station.
You media guys like writing concocted stories. What I heard that I was sedated and I slept at a fuel station in Nairobi, yet I was flying business class to and from Entebbe.
Was there any truth in the story?
To be honest, everyone has degrees of craziness. Some people are crazier than others. It is just that they want me to look crazy but I am not crazy at all. If anything, I am crazy good. My crazy is cool. It is not bad.
Then there were reports that you had been checked into a rehab…
Yeah, and there was that too.
Have you struggled with drug abuse at any one time?
Not drugs necessarily. Cigarette smoking.
Are you saying you have not done drugs in your life?
In my earlier days, like two years ago. I have smoked marijuana and drank alcohol.
How did you start smoking marijuana?
I was just hanging around different people because when I started my singing career, I used not to drink or smoke. It was group influence but again, I cannot blame them because we all make our decisions at the end of the day.
What was the experience of smoking marijuana like?
Ha ha ha ha. I cannot explain it. It was different and interesting and I wanted to keep on doing it, but as time went on, I realised it was doing more harm than good.
What is the worst thing marijuana has done to you?
It made me lazy and not want to go to record music. I just wanted to stay home. As a young person, you try everything and know what works for you and what doesn’t. There are so many kids out there doing drugs and they don’t know how to stop. They think it is a fun thing but at the end of the day, drugs do more harm than good to them.
For how long did drugs keep you down and lazy?
For about a year-and-a-half. They made me lazy and I don’t like being lazy. I like doing stuff- wake up in the morning and go do this and that.
Did you get any medication or rehabilitation?
Yes, I actually got rehabilitation. My family took me in because they knew the person I was and the person I had become. I was checked into a rehab facility on Entebbe Road called Serenity Centre. I was there for about three months. To tell the truth, it changed my life.
What is it that you experienced there that changed your life?
Meeting other people in my situation. I met kids, the coolest kids probably and it was like high school all over again. We were looking forward to food, and breakfast and lunch time and dinner time. It kind of took me back to the place I came from and it was a good place to start.
Apart from interacting with other people in the rehab, how else were you helped?
There was counselling where they wanted to find out why and how I started doing drugs. They wanted to help. They ask questions just like shrinks do and there is confidentiality as well, so I got to let out things that I would not tell anybody.
What are some of these revelations you made out to the counsellors?
No, I cannot tell you that.
What went through your mind as you underwent counselling?
What was going through my mind is that I need to get back to Keko, the sober Keko, the Keko that I used to be. That is why I was willing to go through that process.
How hard or easy was it for you to quit using and abusing drugs?
It was not easy because when I got out, I went back to it again for a short time until I got to a point when I was no longer enjoying getting high. I was like, I am not enjoying this, then why am I still doing it? I gave it up and for about six months now, I have no drop of alcohol or drugs in my body or anything detrimental to my mental state.
You have a stick of cigarettes in your hands now, what is stopping you from quitting completely?
I quit smoking marijuana, the cigarette, it is the nicotine. I am going through a series where me and my doctor are trying to find solutions. We are trying to reduce the number of cigarettes I smoke in a day.
What is the highest number of cigarettes you take in a day?
About five a day so we are trying to reduce them to four or three a day and eventually none.
Where do you get the urge to smoke?
I am type A. I am a very anxious person. If I am not doing anything, I have to be doing something. I am a Gemini. My mind is working 24/7, so it is always anxiety.
What message would you have for young people or people generally out there, and battling drugs?
The message is drugs are not good. They seem good for a moment but they eventually harm you, health-wise. We need to live long to see grandchildren and great grandchildren. When you do drugs you cannot live that long. Your career will not go anywhere because it made me lazy. If you want a good career, then you have to consider that instead of a few moments of fun. A night out is just a couple of hours, but the repercussions are worse.
Can you quantify how much you lost as a musician?
I haven’t lost much. It is just friends because now that I don’t smoke or drink, I have cut some people out of my life. It is for a greater good anyway.
Who are these people?
I cannot mention. You do the maths.
So how do you plan to make a comeback as an artiste?
I have a couple of songs coming up, and these include collaborations lined up by Sony Music which I am still signed to despite reports that I was dropped.
That did not happen. I am still signed to RCA Records Africa and we are releasing a new single with R2Bz from Ghana. I have changed my whole team and I am looking at new horizons.
Who is managing Keko at the moment?
Magic Touch Entertainment.
Who is behind Magic Touch?
It is a group of young people that believe in the same things that I do. We are very hungry people. We look at leaving a mark on the music industry.
Away from music, do you have any other plans?
Oh yeah. I plan to open a clothing line. With my team, we are working on merchandising and building the Keko brand and eventually I want to be a movie director after the album with Sony drops. And we will see how we go from there.
Have you released any album before?
No album. I have about five singles, imagine, since I started my career.
How rewarding has music been to you?
Music has taken me places that I never thought I would go. I have just co-hosted the annual Namibian Music Awards, I have performed at Selam Music Festival in Ethiopia and I am lined up to perform in Denver, Colorado, and South Africa for a Supersport endorsement of my This Is How We Do It single. Music has put food on the table, and I am able to support my family, so I can’t complain.
How many people do you fend for?
I fend for almost the entire family. The ones in the village are always calling me because they think I am in Kampala with loads of money. They are like ‘Joselyn, we don’t have money, for cousins, sisters, aunts and a grandparent.
What is your full birth name?
Joselyn Tracy Keko.
What is your surname?
Keko. It means early in the morning. It’s the dawn. I was born at dawn so my grandmother felt right to give me the name Keko.
Who are your parents and what kind of family do you hail from?
Actually, I have no parents. I am an orphan. My mother is a Jopadhola from Tororo and my father is a Jaluo from Kisumu, Kenya, but I was born and raised in Uganda.
So I refer to myself as Ugandan most of the time.
I am pretty much Luo. My mother died when I was in (P3), which was a very hard time for me because she is the only parent that I knew. I never got to meet my father even though he died when I was at university. It was partly that moment that triggered my career.
How many siblings do you have?
My mother had three children, all girls, and for my father, we are five.
What kind of child were you?
A stubborn, intelligent child. I was very playful and running around with the boys.
Didn’t the boys hurt you?
They always liked me and it has been that way up to today.
Are you in a relationship?
Yes, I am in a fresh relationship and I rather not talk about it. I don’t want the media to get involved in it.
What does the guy do?
Ha ha ha ha, I knew you had to ask that. The guy is a good guy.
There were rumours that you were lesbian, how is that?
I think it doesn’t matter if I am lesbian or not. What matters is if I am happy and in love
Are you one?
I cannot mention. That is personal.
What traits do you look out for in a potential lover?
I look out for maturity, caring, intelligence, confidence and focus. I like a career person- someone that already has something going for them. I like someone that can be on my team and stay on my team.
A message for your fans?
Fans should not lose hope. There is so much coming from the revolutionary Keko. They can expect the best because it is yet to come.