Julius Owino (Juliani), 35


Juliani was an unknown rapper in Dandora when he appeared in the ground-breaking “Kilio cha haki” album by the Kenyan hip hop music pioneers, Kalamashaka and the Mau Mau camp in 2004. Today, he has transcended the confines of one genre to become among the most influential contemporary music artists in Kenya.

He has remained true to the consciousness of the music by writing songs that capture the reality of critical moments in Kenya like “Bahasha ya Ocampo” released in the aftermath of the post-election violence of 2007/8.

“I used that dark situation in Kenya as a reference to the day-to-day struggles and fears of a young Kenyan and the sound was also revolutionary with heavy guitars and drums, influenced by my live performances which are always backed by a band,” says Juliani.

Away from the stage, he has also been an outspoken champion of justice and good governance as expressed in the 2013 hit “Utawala” (Leadership).

He used his influence to rally slum youths in areas like Dandora to embrace environmental conservation. After the success of his third album “Exponential Potential”, he took a two-year break from recording.

He used the break to pursue other activities in the creative world like setting up the Dandora Hip Hop City mentorship programme with the objective of building a sustainable model for monetising the arts.

He says we should be working towards creating an environment and opportunities where artistes can concentrate on their music full time without worrying about other jobs to put food on the
table. In 2018, Juliani released his fourth album “Masterpiece” which deals with topics like mental health and religion.

“My intention is to create music that can spark conversations over a period of time,” says the father of a four-year-old daughter.

“Music is the only thing that I am good at because it gave me an identity, it gave me meaning and it gave me a living.”

— Bill Odidi