Talking to Dennis, you get the sense of a man on a mission to build his own Colosseum, if not his Roman Empire. To do that, you need to be perspicacious, a strategist, and a technocrat. It’s how he has meticulously managed four brands in his care, including musicians King Kaka, Jadi, Femi One and internet personality Nana Owiti.
But his influence, he says, extends across the borders. He has had a hand in the careers of over 100 artists, launching the music careers of Pascal Tokodi, Avril, Timmy T-Dat, Arrow Boy, and Tanzanian artist Rich Mavoko.
Like a charismatic preacher, he says to be good in show and business, one must burn one’s passion.
“You must also learn how to convert that passion into a business. You strike the balance by continuous learning. My passion for music made me want to understand the business,” says Dennis.
"Having worked in the banking industry for four and a half years and then in insurance for another four, Dennis says he has done his time in the trenches and learned his lessons."
Business has given him a certain fearlessness that sets one free. He recalls starting with King Kaka in Eastleigh Boys’ High School, where he learned to create demand for the latter’s music.
“We would distribute King Kaka’s music through matatus and ask, for instance, DJ Mantix to play the songs at the beginning, the middle and the end of the mix. We’d also print stickers of the lyrics to the song. That is how people started demanding King Kaka’s music by calling into radio stations.”
Having worked in the banking industry for four and a half years and then in insurance for another four, he says he has done his time in the trenches and learned his lessons. Hard work beats talent. And he offers the same insights about Kenya’s music industry against the backdrop of the world: “Kenyans are very hard people to sell to. In Kenya, people don’t buy music; you sell them music,” he says.
As a man who can sell milk to a cow, have things turned out the way he expected at 36? “I wanted to run a business by 35. Most of the things I planned to do by 35 have materialised: Investing, growth and general happiness.”
Now, he says, he is learning to live fully and enjoy every moment. “In business, you are always working. I enjoy that success now, and the hard work has paid off.”
He credits consistency and the willingness to learn as the wind beneath his sails. “I started working when I was 19. I knew across the years that consistency will eventually pay off.” To illustrate this, he confesses that in January 2022, he weighed 95kgs. By November of the same year, he had trimmed to 65kgs. Putting in the work is the best advertisement for his abilities.
Now that it’s all paying off, what song best trumpets his life? “Swahili Shakespear by King Kaka. My life is poetry.” Aha. The poet in the Colosseum, yet still Dennis the Empire Builder.