Anyiko Owoko has risen from being just a girl next door to one of the most respected and sought after Entertainment Publicists in Kenya and beyond. Not only is she BET Nominee -Sautisol’s Publicist but the CEO of her own Public Relations Firm-Anyiko PR that has more than 8 established musicians spanning across Africa, from Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda to even as far as Nigeria. Recently she was hired as the first ever Entertainment/Music Publicist for Coke Studio Africa. It’s because of this unending stream of success that I felt obliged to source her out and get a glimpse into her ever busy life.
Getting a sit down with Anyiko wasn’t easy, between running communications for her artists, juggling her new role at Coke Studio Africa, travelling and blogging; it wasn’t going to be easy. But in the entertainment industry you have to hunt. She even admitted it was unusual for her to be on other side of the curtain, because normally she does the chasing. I caught up with Anyiko one Monday afternoon just as she was having lunch with long time clients and personal friends Sauti Sol at Coke Studio Africa offices off Ngong Road. They were about to shoot a Thank You video message to their loyal fans for voting their song “Sura Yako” as Best Song in East Africa at the recently concluded Kilimanjaro Awards. So as the boys went to get some fittings done, Anyiko and I sat down for the interview.
I quickly registered that she is an easy person, very easy to talk to and takes her time to listen and answer you with as many words as she can. The established arts and culture connoisseur you see today took ages to mature into her own. In fact it’s been seven years since her first job, back then when she interned as a Broadcast Assistant at BBC’s international NGO – WST. She studied Journalism and Media Studies at The University of Nairobi, and she was quite a brilliant student, so much so that she landed her first ever TV role as the presenter of Grapevine on KBC (the oldest entertainment magazine show on Kenyan Television) in her 3rd year in campus. She also doubled up as a Features Editor for ANVIL – a school newspaper at University of Nairobi’s School of Journalism where she studied.
While in university, Anyiko was torn between majoring in Print or Broadcast Journalism. The decision to major in Broadcast Journalism was a hard one for her. She had much love for both fields. Though she loved writing more she decided to go into Broadcast Journalism simply because she felt writing came naturally to her and she did not need so much specialization to express herself.
True to that fact Anyiko Rosemary Owoko still runs the blog Black Roses –which she set up six years ago as a school project. Her blog is diverse and documents her life in addition to articles on arts and culture. Being one the longest serving Kenyan bloggers, she says the media and general public has for long tried to box her in one category as is the norm in today’s blogging scene but Anyiko maintains that her diversity cannot be put in one box, today she reviews a book tomorrow a movie and the next she curates an exhibition or even decides to do poetry. Yes! There are all these lovely roses but she simply is the Black Rose, with undying yearn for success and a drive that seem to be on steroids like I always say.
The last born of five has a lot going for her, always on the move and paving new roads to success, her new company Anyiko PR seem to have gotten off on a great start. Anyiko has been working in PR for more than five years now. Her firm thas been around for six months, and since represented several artists including all the 28 signed to the new season of Coke Studio Africa, and others like Amos and Josh (Kenya), Jaya (Kenya), Atemi (Kenya) and Lynxxx (Nigeria). She admits that it’s not an easy task, always chasing deadlines and balancing quality work and satisfying the client. She says her job is so involving she rarely finds time to hang out with friends or even go out on dates let alone cook at home. She narrated an incident on how one day she visited a friend of hers after a long day’s work only to blackout out of exhaustion and wake up on her friend’s bed the next day in the morning.
Her best friend Chimano comes to our table, they are set for the shoot, and we are forced to stop for a while as I join them for the shoot. It wasn’t my first time seeing Sauti Sol but it was my first time meeting all of them individually. They are one happy family and work as a unit evident from the way they followed Anyiko’s instructions on the shoot. Moments later they are done and off they go leaving Anyiko and I to resume the interview.
I felt it was the right time to delve into her relationship with Sauti Sol. Today she is one of the most successful Celebrity Publicists in Kenya or even Africa. Sauti Sol who is her oldest client has quite a resume and a string of awards: Nominees MTV MAMA 2015 Best Group & Best Song, Nominees BET Awards 2015, Winners 2014 MTV EMA Best African Act and 2014 MTV EMA Worldwide Act Nominees. With such a resume to your client, Anyiko is definately one sought after publicist. Little known to many Anyiko has been with Sauti Sol long before the world knew them – way back when they went by the name Sauti or even long before Chimano introduced him to Bien and Delvin, Long before Fancy fingers joined the fray. She has seen it all, the start, the hustle, the chase, the disappointments, the breakthroughs and finally the success. When they started off she was the most vocal about Sauti Sol’s music, pushing their songs to anyone she could back then, their ever first performance together at the Alliance Francaise was only attended by a few friends and family. But today they fill up arenas and do continental tours. Her trumpet days are finally paying up. You simply can’t mention Sauti Sol and not mention Anyiko, it’s like serving a bowl of rice and forgetting the spoon.
I wanted to know how she juggles her firm, job and blog all in a seamless way. “First by the grace of God,” she says, then she mentions dedication and love for her job. Her typical day begins as early as 7:00 a.m – filled up with hundreds of e-mails, press releases to write and communication liaisons. She says she has learned and accepted the fact that in her line of work she can’t please everybody, gone are the days when she’d change her hairstyle for disgruntled viewers on her TV Show Grapevine (nominated at 2015 Kenya Fashion Awards for a Media Fashion Award/Best TV program with the Best Fashion Segment). She has mastered the craft of the entertainment industry and earned the connoisseur tag by all means. When I thought we had gone through her professional life upside down in and out, there were still a few notable works in the Anyiko’s closet. Many people who attended the much hyped and publicized Mos Def concert recently held in Nairobi did you know that Anyiko only recently started to handle Publicity for Nairobi Rapsody (the guys who hosted Mos Def’s first show in Kenya). It seems like everything she touches turns to gold and her new merge with Nairobi Rapsody is set to get better. She reveals that there are plans to bring Redman in Kenya. Kenyan femcee Sugar is set to launch her album soon (June 25th 2015) at Nairobi Rapsody at Ebony Lounge. She is also currently working on a collaborative project with Tubaba (the artiste formerly known as 2face Idibia) and Fally Ipupa – a project that will be announced in due course.
If you recently watched “The Last Fight” on KTN then am happy to let you know Anyiko Owoko was behind the publicity of the first Kenyan film on the demise of Kenyan boxing.
Amsterdam remains her favorite travel destination and when it comes to food – she is a lover of Osuga (a very sweet Luo delicacy) and Ugali. Anyiko is a lover of music and listens to almost every genre depending on her mood. She is however big on hip hop and still believes that E-Sir is still the best that ever was from Kenyan music. She feels Kenyan music is lagging behind in terms of composition or even production quality and frequency. She says our number and quality of videos is not enough to put up with the level of competitive and growth similar to other entertainment industries from other African countries and continental airplay on channels like Trace or MTV Base.
Our generation needs to stop looking for shortcuts; Anyiko started as an intern and today she works with international acts and has CEOs giving her a listening ear when she speaks. She has turned the word Entertainment Publicist into a well paying job in Kenya. She made something out of nothing with grace of God, dedication and drive as she puts it. Tik Tok!