The rise, fall and revival of COLLINS ‘COLLO’ MAJALE
Multi-award winning rapper Collins ‘Collo’ Majale exploded into the Kenyan entertainment scene as part of the hip-hop group Kleptomaniax. But 16 years into the game, the larger than life entertainer was struggling with alcohol, infidelity, unemployment and a fall-out with the love of his life and mother of his child. In a tell-all interview with ESTHER AKELLO, Collo and his wife Phoebe Ida Ayaya-Majale open up on how they turned around from unprecedented financial lack, the near crumble of their marriage and finding salvation.
Wanauliza kwani Collo ulienda wapi? Wengi hawajui nilishabanduka” (They’re asking Collo
where did you go? Many don’t know I’ve crossed over), are the words gospel rapper Collins ‘Collo’ Majale sings in his hit song Bazokizo.
While at face value they may refer to the public asking why he is now doing gospel music as opposed to secular music, they could also be in reference to his absence both physically and career wise from the game before Bazokizo smashed the airwaves in 2016.
So when during this interview the 32-year-old rapper and his 35-year-old wife reveal that they had hit rock bottom, it begs the question: how did the life of the undisputed King of Kapuka, MTV nominee and Copywriter fall from grace, and how did he find his way back? The couple narrates:
“Towards the end of 2013 and early 2014, the Collo that the public knew and recognised – loud, full of life and very proud – was a pale shadow of his former self. My life was literally falling apart and forcing me into a reluctant and painful turn-around.
It was this year that I met my Pastor, Mark Echakara and his wife Prophetess Purity Nekesa of God’s Kingdom Generals Assembly through my wife Phoebe. One day Phoebe came to me and told me she was going back to church and making a commitment to God and challenged me to do the same. I was blindsided.
My history in entertainment, and with most entertainers I dare say, is that because we have fame, popularity and influence, we feel invincible. We can handle everything. We don’t need anybody to help us along.
Her invitation to go back to church challenged not just my spirit, but also my ego and I had a huge ego! I blame that partly on African traditions and the fact that I’m just that guy, I’ve always been confident. But I learnt to be humble the hard way.
Humility sometimes is just about being able to sit under other people in authority and realising that they are simply better at doing some things compared to you.
Before I came to this realisation, I could sum up my life as one of lust, covetousness and deceitful riches. There were so many things choking me – girls, sex, alcohol, drugs, money and other forms of debauchery. We all go through battles. My biggest culprits were cigarettes and alcohol.
So here I was, in this state, when my wife invited me for a fellowship. I was livid! I didn’t understand why she was introducing very new and uncomfortable dynamics into our life.
My first question was whether I was required to ‘plant a seed’ in that church. For some reason, albeit begrudgingly, I went and endured the fellowship. However, even then, the pastor told me directly that I would be back. At this point Phoebe also started sending me Bible verses, which I ignored with relish!
One day during a work trip out of the country, I lost the company laptop. In the midst of explaining what had happened to it to my boss, I ended up spilling the beans on a cover-up regarding fake targets on a client’s project, putting myself in a compromising position.
My employer and I mutually agreed to part ways, as my pride would never let me beg for my job. I also swore off employment and went home to my wife and daughter. This was one of the hardest moments of my life. My humbling process had begun.
I had taken a taken a loan to buy land and now, had no way to pay it back, not to mention had partied hard (I’m talking alcohol, girls you name it), with some of that money!
I was flat out, never mind that was when the song, You Guy, a collaboration with the group P-unit, was still riding high on the airwaves, adding pressure to an already melting pot. It wasn’t easy.
Our lifestyle completely changed. We lost everything including the cars we owned and furniture. We moved to a smaller house and were still unable to pay rent. We tried to keep all of it under wraps.
My daughter Tawala would stay at home for spells of time because I couldn’t afford to keep her in school. Friends also scattered. Thanks to my ego, I didn’t want to look like I was not doing anything in front of Phoebe, so I didn’t ask for her help.
The truth, however, was that deep inside I was suffering from inadequacy. I had fear and I heard whispers in my head saying she’d leave me and that I wasn’t worth it. I was broke and God was not going to bail me out.
I tried everything, and it all failed. I felt useless. Something had to give. I decided to give this ‘God thing’ a shot. I now started posting the Bible verses that Phoebe was sending me on my social media handles. This didn’t go down well with some of my friends who kept questioning me and discouraged me from doing so.
In hindsight, I realise that I was the one who was lagging behind. This is my third year in salvation and the fourth for Phoebe. Four years later, my wife still stands in the gap for me.
Unfortunately, so many men don’t have wives who have that kind of faith. Phoebe’s faith and support restored my faith in Nairobi women especially in light of the ‘sponsor’ and instant gratification era. Some of the lyrics in Bazokizo go ‘Ilibidi niokoke ndo niwashe jiko’, simply meaning, I had to surrender to Christ to realise the power and sweetness of a (praying) wife. Before then, I took her for granted.
By 2015, I had surrendered my life to Christ but was struggling with fully crossing over from the secular world of music into gospel. Opportunities had also started opening up and cash flow though not steady, was materialising.
I definitely knew music was my ministry and I wondered if I could still be commercially successful. So I figured I would do non-offensive music but maybe still have some girls on the video who would bare just enough skin to cause interest but not cast suspicion as to my intentions.
Then I released my first song – Pasuka – as a gospel artiste. The song was a flop. At that time, I was also working on the bitterness I felt towards the Kenyan fan base, right from the days of Kleptomaniax.
See, when we invented the Kapuka sound, many people rubbished it. When the Nigerians took the sound and renamed it Afro-beat, everyone suddenly loved Nigerian music.
In my moment of frustration, I succumbed to my weaknesses and faltered on my commitment to Phoebe. But the guilt was too much, so I confessed my indiscretions to her and told her categorically that I was fully committing to salvation. No compromises.
That is when I wrote Bazokizo. The Bible says God cannot give you what you
cannot overcome. The moment I realised that I have a destiny through my Creator and for His glory is when I knew I wanted to change. It’s not easy. You have to cut out so many things.
However, when you get to that point where you are ready for a commitment and a relationship with your Creator, then you die to self.
I met Collo in 2009 three months after my mother succumbed to cervical cancer. I wasn’t in a very good place. My mum was everything to me including being my emotional and spiritual pillar.
She got saved early in life and while she attended church faithfully, the rest of us stayed at home. She nonetheless prayed for us. Just before my mum passed on, I had stopped my ‘party girl’ lifestyle.
But upon her death, I relapsed and even remember the night when mutual friends – Sylvia and Sheila – introduced me to Collo, I was nursing a hangover.
We eventually went on a date. He wasn’t what I expected. Definitely shorter than I pictured but our attraction and friendship was seamless and we moved in together before long.
That, however, didn’t mean we didn’t have our issues. Pretty soon we ended up in a vicious cycle where we would go out, have fun but end up in arguments. At one point, my life revolved around waiting for phone calls or tabloids reporting Collo’s indiscretions at some place or event.
The string that broke the camel’s back came in 2013 during one of his shows. We got into a vicious argument that spilled over into the public arena and I had it. I packed my bags, our daughter Tawala who was then two years old, and moved into my late dad’s house, much to my dad’s satisfaction.
He wasn’t exactly Collo’s fan. He was also not convinced Collo deserved his daughter – an advocate of the High Court of Kenya!
However, after a week and with Tawala’s constant prodding as to her dad’s whereabouts, I moved back to my matrimonial home. Collo and I never really discussed my return.
Our pride wouldn’t let us! We lived like strangers for a couple of days until one day I stumbled on a show featuring best-selling Christian author Stormie Omartian. She was talking about the power of a praying wife. I was transfixed.
A week after watching Stormie’s programme, my sister-in-law walked into my house with the same book, The Power of a Praying Wife! She never left with it. I bought it from her and started reading voraciously and slowly started praying for Collo. I then got saved at the tail end of 2013.
Thereafter, I took a leap of faith and invited Collo for fellowship at God’s Kingdom Generals Assembly. By then, I had started telling him in small doses that we needed an active prayer life and started sending him Bible verses. Three months later, I gave him an ultimatum.
Come hell or high water, going to church was not going to be an option in the Majale household. We were going to church and that was that. He responded by walking out of the house, angrily. I had prayed and fasted for that day and when he came back and said he would go, I knew it was God’s hand at work.
And then all of a sudden, all hell broke loose, again. Collo lost his job. Before then, we had never had a problem with money. We had everything and extras, including the money! In a flash it was gone and we found ourselves in debt.
Day-to-day living became hard. There were days we didn’t have money for food. That is when we started realising how far one can stretch as little as Ksh500. Other times I would just wish for Ksh200 because I knew that would sort us for the day.
I was now the sole breadwinner but it was a long stretch. The number of times we stayed without water or in darkness because we couldn’t afford to pay for these utilities was numerous. One neighbour even told me to let her know whenever I needed anything and she would voluntarily fetch water for us and drop it at our house.
That is when we started understanding the Word of God and getting deep into it – fasting, tithing and going to church. It was also then that Collo and I started knowing and loving each other deeply.
We couldn’t hide from each other because we were all we had. We were stripped before each other. None of our friends and family members knew how deep our situation was. In 2015, Collo re dedicated his life to christ. Seeing the man he has now become is one of the reasons I judge God faithful.
He is a committed Christian, father, husband, the priest of our home and my best friend. He prays faithfully and takes time to read God’s word. It was not easy, I had to cultivate the gift of patience and endure the pressure that came with the challenges.
I reckon those moments were more for me than Collo. God worked on me every single day and I had to pray for inner peace. I still do.
There were times I told God to give me a sign and I’d leave Collo immediately but the sign never came (God’s sense of humour), so I stayed put.
There comes a time you cannot continue to run from the life that God intended for you to live. Just because your life is a big mess it doesn’t mean that God has changed his mind.
Infact, God often uses our mess to create the most incredibly blessed life. Believe in God as God promises that as he has planned it to be, so it wil be. Waiting is not abandonment. Stand in faith and watch God’s grace bless your life.