For a long time, Nairobi has been in the spotlight with its rapidly growing music scene. The world got a sneak peek of the country’s scene from legendary Nairobi drill artists Buruklyn Boyz in “BBC” featuring Big Yasa and Mombasa’s very own Double Trouble and Young NC. Elsewhere in the balmy Mombasa weather lies Kisauni, a constituency that can only be described as menacing. Ohms Law Montana, a native of these perilous streets is a celebrated icon. From owning the coastal airwaves with his hip-hop numbers to encouraging the youth to use their voice, Ohms Law Montana is taking advantage of his hip-hop prowess with a self launched initiative, #Achagunshikamic.
After receiving recognition from the Internal Security Cabinet Secretary, Mr Fred Matiangi, who promised to sponsor the initiative, we initiated a conversion with Ohms Law Montana, a young man who is using music to the community’s advantage.
What led to the inception of #Achagunshikamic?
Kisauni is one of the most dangerous areas in Mombasa county. It’s a major crime hotspot infamous for violence, radicalization and extremism in Kenya. It is also a hotbed for great musical talents such as Ukoo Flani Mau Mau. I want to give the youth a cool alternative to street life preventing the romanticisation of crime. When I was growing up, gangs were seen as a rite of passage and to the youth, crime looked fashionable. It was also a way for them to make money through errands such as selling drugs and theft. I lost most of my friends through mob justice and shootouts with the police. For me, music has always been a safe haven, especially hip-hop. It enabled me to express my thoughts and eventually make money. After losing a close friend in 2022, I decided to encourage the youth to turn away from crime and be creative to make money. This led to #Achagunshikamic which translates to “stop crime, hold the mic”.
What are the goals behind this campaign?
I want to see a peaceful and collaborative society that is free from juvenile gangs. It is unfortunate to see children involved in this dangerous lifestyle. I want the youth to feel encouraged enough to make a change in their community. Through Acha gun Shika mic we hold workshops and seminars that encourage the youth to be positive forces in the community. I also want the youth to actively participate in the issues affecting them in society. Especially through hip-hop so as to create social impact. In some cases, there are reforms that affect the youth but you find there is no youth interest. I want to enable Acha Gun Shika Mic to educate the youth on this and empower them to have a voice.
Hip Hop is heavily associated with crime. How have you been able to beat this narrative?
If you look at hip-hop from a historical point, you learn it was meant as a way for the youth to express themselves and speak about what was happening in society. That is why you find political leaders heavily associating themselves with hip-hop because it preaches against social injustice. In keeping with the original purpose of the genre, Acha Gun Shika Mic strives to make sure that minute things which trigger violence are never presented before our audience. Our lyrics are listener-friendly with no cursing or inciting works. We also ensure that we have an actual message which we pass to the youth cutting across all gender, tribe and social class. We also encourage our artists to live a positive life by ensuring they keep a lifestyle that is a reflection of our beliefs and values.
In what ways do you support the youth to use their voice for change?
We mostly encourage the youth through practical initiatives as they are the most successful campaigns. Recently we had the #changechallenge where we collaborated with rising musicians from Mombasa county to create an album that shuns crime and violence. The album was named after the organization, Acha Gun Shika Mic.
There was #Formnikurefom which basically means, “it’s cool to reform”. It was a peer education program engaging the youth in conversation with leaders and stakeholders in the community to discuss and find solutions to the problem they are facing. Finally, we have had #Skillstransfer which was a mentorship program when we assigned various youth to businesses within their area of interest such as woodwork, plumbing, mechanism, etc. This is a way for the youth to disassociate from crime and focus on work.
Raised by a single mother and surrounded by three brothers, did that impact the inception of the movement?
Yeah, they did a lot. Growing up in Kisauni with my bros and mum wasn’t easy. Kisauni is one of the major hotspots of crime, violence, radicalization and extremism. Anyone could be a victim. I feared a lot for my small bros. I made sure they didn’t engage in any hideous behavior. They say to be the change you want to see, through the sphere of influence, I had to show a good pace for them to follow. Now everyone has their career, including our third born who plays professional football. I really appreciate my late mum, she paved the way for us and really supported my initiative.
What partnerships has Acha Gun Shika Mic been endorsed in?
I’ve partnered with different organizations including Mombasa County, Human Rights Agenda (Huria) and International bodies such as Young Cities & ISD (Institute for Strategic Dialogue) from the United Kingdom.
You were nominated for changemaker of the year at the UnKut Hennessy HipHop Awards, how has that impacted the movement?
That was a great feeling. The nomination has brought about more exposure as currently more people are aware of the initiative. This has brought about upcoming collaborations which will be made public in the near future. The essence of these collaborations is to create a safe artistic space for the youth.
Who has influenced you on this journey?
The legendary E-Sir Mmari. I feel Esir’s spirit in me. Ukoo Flani also influenced me and later on King Kaka & Octopizzo.
How do you ensure the movement is active on a daily basis?
We heavily utilize social media as the world is a global village. This pushes our message to the public in a fast and effective way. We also engage with the community around us through community outreach programs while scouting for young talent.
Any last words?
It is important for the youth to have an active role in society. They can do this by participating in the governance process as it is the only way we can find a lasting solution to issues facing us. Our government, leaders and business community also need to collaborate with the youth to enable decriminalization…. #formnikureform. Finally being an election year, the youth should strive to preach a message of peace. We should not be used by political leaders to bring unrest during this period. #vijanatusitumike