Timothy Opoti is a renowned Maasai gospel artiste. He spoke to the Kajiado Star about the Maa gospel music industry.
Tell us about your background and how you got into the gospel industry.
I was born in Loitokitok 35 years ago, where I also obtained my education. Music is a talent I was born with, but I have also undertaken music studies in Tanzania.
This is my 16th year in the music industry. I have faced many challenges but persevered, especially due to a lack of finances and the fact that I was new and unknown. It takes time to get mentors and supporters, but God has been faithful.
I have focused on gospel music throughout my career. My songs have been in the Maa language so far, but I have now composed some songs in Kiswahili that I hope to get into the market before the end of the year.
Have you done any collaborative pieces?
I have not done much by way of collaboration. I have produced some songs with two young men who I am mentoring and promoting. I have also done a joint piece with Tanzania’s Rose Muhando for a song in Kiswahili, Mungu wa milele haubadiliki. The song was released earlier this year.
Who has been your role model in encouraging you to excel in the gospel music scene?
I have mostly looked out of the country for inspiration. Rose Muhando has been a mother to me. There is also Christopher Mwangila, who is also from Tanzania. I love his songs because they have good spiritual messages and inspiration. I would like to sing similar songs that touch people and change lives.
What difficulties have you experienced in your career?
I have gone through many problems. When you are starting out, it becomes difficult to gain acceptance by audiences. As you rise, you also get to face a lot of enemies; the opposition gets more severe as you rise. For example, I have been maligned on social media by people I don’t even know. Sometimes, it is fellow artistes who pay people to tarnish the names of competitors. Those who are paid sometimes come out and reveal what had been done in secret.
I have also faced financial difficulties. It costs money to make good productions and this is often in short supply. Above all, I thank God for the far I have come.
The public often imagines that celebrity musicians are swimming in money. What is the issue that some should be in financial trouble?
The Maa music industry is not as developed as that found in other major ethnic groups. Even though our people love God, their economic situation is poor and does not allow them to provide support.
Additionally, there are those before us who messed the public perception of the Maa gospel industry. Pastors are very careful with us; you will find them using gospel artistes from other communities while underpaying our homegrown musicians.
But there is hope and everything goes according to levels of growth. Once you get to a certain level, you get to enjoy all the perks that go with your fame. Once you become a national figure, invitations to perform at large gatherings begin coming.
Have you started getting invitations outside Maasailand?
Yes, I have performed around Kenya and outside the country as well. I have been recognized by religious leaders in Maasailand and now in other communities as well. I have not performed in large political gatherings, because that depends a lot on connections.
I have previously been invited to the United States but experienced problems getting a visa. I have an invitation to go there in 2023 and I believe this time I will be successful.
How can our leaders facilitate artistes like yourself to excel?
I urge our leaders to support local Maasai artistes. Artistes in other communities are able to do better than us because of income. Here, we don’t have much support. In Kikuyuland, for example, they utilize local artistes at public gatherings. Whenever we have large county meetings and as we invite external musicians, we should also include a few local artistes. We’re talented, but we’re not being supported.