A quick glance at Scott Kabugi and you can easily mistake him for a young man trying to grapple with the hard times that come with being a youth. His dressing is very modest and quite humble for an established violinist who has performing at grand events locally and abroad. His violin skills are topnotch and he has an astute understanding of his audience. He tells me it has taken hard work, sacrifice, tears and sleepless nights to get to where he is.
Scott the violinist, as he is popularly known, is the last born in a family of two. Together with his brother the famous DJ Protégé, they had to contend with a life without motherly love. He holds onto blurry images of his late mother engraved in his mind after she passed away while Scott was only six years old. This led to a sad awakening as they soon realised that most of those they called relatives and friends were only after their parents’ hard-earned property. What followed next was a taste of the hard times after they were forced out of their home.
However, their resilient and hardworking father, Professor Thomas Njoroge Mwangi, held the fort for his family ensuring that his children received the best care, education and exposure. He instilled in them values such as discipline, patience and respect to get them through the hard times. These have pushed Scott and his brother to the heights of excellence.
“Mum’s absence was felt at home. After her demise, there were many wrangles and we were forced to start life afresh. My brother was a bit older than me and he was able to handle the situation better than I did. We moved out of our home on Nairobi’s Ngong’ Road to Eastleigh Estate after our house and properties were taken away from us. I am grateful to have a loving dad who stepped up and took care of us quite well. We had to totally redefine family,” shares a visibly sad Scott.
Venturing into the art…
Scott honed his skills while in high school at Upper Hill High School, a school that lays emphasis on nurturing talents in addition to academic excellence. At the time, he was at a low point in life. With poor results and lack of motivation from his peers, he needed a distraction and he ended up with the violin, which he found unique from other instruments. He talked to his instructor, Philip Tuju, requesting him to help him perfect the art.
“Here is the violin, go and practice in that corner and come back after two weeks. Make sure you know how to play this song,” said the instructor. This motivated Scott so much that he decided to gather a few friends and have a go with them. His efforts paid off as he qualified to represent the school in national competitions playing not only the national and school anthem, but also other songs.
First time public performances tend to be a hectic and nervous experience for many people and it was no different for Scott while performing at the Tribe Hotel in Nairobi. To make matters worse, he came in late for the event. However, the experience was a teachable moment as it taught him the value of time keeping, importance of planning and how to handle clients while facing difficult times.
This performance opened doors for him to scale to greater heights including performing at the famous Four Seasons Hotel in London, which was a dream come true for him. The exposure brought with it more clients and cemented his place in the industry.
Nevertheless, appearances never lack embarrassing moments no matter how good one is. “I was playing in Nakuru for the Smirnoff Experience in 2011. It was my first time to do an out of town experience of its nature. I didn’t know what to expect. Unfortunately, the equipment I had wasn’t compatible with the deejay setup. Suddenly, the music went off just when the crowd was charged and ready to party. The wrath fell on me as they threw bottles on stage and all sort of trash, called me names and began demanding that I leave the stage,” he says with a grin on his face.
This situation taught him resilience, as he had to wait for the deejays to setup again despite the jeers from the crowd. What followed really motivated him to play on as the crowd slowly but surely started dancing to the tune of his violin.
Today, Scott has worked with some of the big names in the entertainment industry including comedian Dan Ndambuki popularly known as Churchill, various deejays including DJ Crème de la Crème, DJ Hypnotiq, DJ Joe, and local musicians Octopizzo and Sauti Sol in their song Nerea. In addition to this, he has worked with some of the biggest Asian deejays during his overseas tours. Tempted to Touch, Havana and Despacito are just but a few of the many violin covers that are attributed to his name.
A knack for spotting talent and wanting the best for the future generation has driven Scott to start sessions where he teaches mostly children on the creative art of playing the violin. With his website www.proviolinist.com individuals can enroll for classes and get to learn from the best.
Challenges shape you
In whatever area you wish to venture into, you will definitely encounter challenges. According to Scott, these challenges make one better as they seek to find a solution.
“Coming into the industry as a violinist who had no prior education was a learning curve of sorts,” he says emphasising that it is still a journey and learning is part of it.
He hopes that one day there will be a local professional body that can bring together individuals who play instruments and assist them in the early steps. When he got into the industry, getting a quality violin was really hard for him as they were very expensive.
“A quality violin cost between Ksh38, 000 to Ksh40,000 at the time unlike now where you can get one at Ksh15,000, though the quality is a bit compromised. This led me to use my instructor’s instrument whenever he came to school until I was able to raise enough money to buy mine,” he says depicting that nothing comes easy in life.
Lessons and advice to the youth
“Music unifies people,” Scott says. He goes on to add that we can borrow a lot from this and apply it to real life for unity to prevail irrespective of one’s economic, social or financial background.
The ongoing issue of mental health in the country makes him sad and he notes that depression is driving many youths into early graves, which he believes can be avoided if one understands that inspiration can be drawn from even the smallest of things.
“Find something to hold onto instead of focussing entirely on your weaknesses which can easily drive one into depression. My dad tells me that whenever he feels low, he looks at photos of my brother and I. He draws inspiration and finds strength in seeing the kind of men we have grown to be,” he shares.
Scott has a dream of establishing a music school and ensuring that he sets it right to have the impact he desires. He seeks to empower the beneficiaries so that they don’t face the kind of challenges he faced while starting out. His wish is to redefine the local music industry and come up with world-class violinists.
“I pray that I get into a position where I can equip people with the necessary skills and give them a new way of looking at this instrument,” he shares
As we conclude this interview, I ask Scot for his parting shot. “It doesn’t matter how slow you go, just don’t stop trying,” he says.