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HomebioBien: How My Childhood Shaped My Relationship With People, Money, And Githeri

Bien: How My Childhood Shaped My Relationship With People, Money, And Githeri

Bien Aime Baraza, better known by his stage name Bien, is arguably one of the most popular and successful musicians in Kenya. He is a member of the recently split afro-pop band Sauti Sol alongside Willis Chimano, Polycarp Otieno, and Savara Mudigi.

Speaking in a recent podcast, Bien shared how his family’s experience shaped his relationship with people, money, and githeri.

Here is his story as told by WoK.

A Life of Privilege

I remember my father vividly – an alpha male, both financially and in his masculinity. Our home was always bustling with his friends, vibrant and loud, as they held their parties, roasting nyama choma and indulging in beer during the weekends.

People would come to our house every other morning, seeking handouts for various needs. Today it would be school fees, tomorrow it would be funeral contributions.

My dad, the superhero of our neighborhood, always sorted everyone out, giving them valuable advice along with his support. And my beautiful mother, she was the glue that held our home together. She was as radiant as a bougainvillea tree in the ’90s.

I fondly recall our luxurious life – the beautiful home, my mother’s smiles, her graceful dresses, and the delightful aroma of pancakes and sausages in the morning.

Life was like a luxury at that time. My sister and I were lucky to attend a fairly expensive boarding school, and it felt like everything was in place. Until it all changed.

The Fall from Grace

In 2000, a sudden twist of fate altered our lives forever. My dad lost his job as the director of projects at a well-known NGO, and my mother was retrenched from her job. Our once prosperous household was now left with no income.

The day my mother came to pick my sister and me up from boarding school in a cab, I sensed that something was off. She revealed that both my parents were out of work, and we had to readjust as a family.

We moved to a smaller house in Kamura, a small town located in Ngong. Our new house was less than half the size of our previous home in Kilimani, but my sister and I didn’t complain. We understood.

I slept in the living room, and it became evident that times were getting tough when githeri became our main diet.

Moving to Nguroi

To make matters even more challenging, we couldn’t keep up with the rent for the new house. My dad had been building a house in Nguroi with his leftover savings, so despite it being unfinished, we moved in anyway.

It was nothing short of a new low for our family – the walls had no paint, there was no ceiling, and basic plumbing was absent. We were living in a makeshift shack, and the April rains made it all the more traumatic.

My parents sold all our electronics and lived without electricity, using kerosene lamps at night. An old nine-battery radio became our source of news and music.

As if things weren’t challenging enough, my sister and I couldn’t afford to attend the private school we had previously been enrolled in, and my parents couldn’t enroll us in the government schools nearby.

It was a tough time, and our debts started piling up around the neighborhood. We became known as the kids who were kicked out of school for not paying fees.

Witnessing my parents’ futile job applications and seeing them lose hope crushed me. The loss of both my maternal grandparents within six months added to the burdens we carried.

The Birth of Sauti Sol

Amidst the trials and tribulations, music emerged as my saving grace. After completing my KCPE exams, I enrolled in Upper Hill Highschool at the age of 15. There, I met Savara and Chimano, and Sauti Soul was born.

Singing became my sanctuary – a place where the lack of electricity or the state of our household didn’t matter. Our bond as a band became unbreakable, and music carried me through the toughest of times.

My tough childhood journey through adversity transformed my outlook on life and relationships. I learned the importance of delayed gratification and developed a disciplined approach to money. To date, you will rarely find me wasting my money in clubs.

I couldn’t bear the thought of my future children witnessing the same hardships I went through. My experiences also made me question the authenticity of friendships, pushing me to build genuine connections with those who truly cared.

Throughout it all, my family remained a source of strength. Despite the hardships, we sat down together for meals and found solace in one another. Relatives and new friends provided hope and encouragement during our darkest days.

Lessons

My life’s story has shaped the man I am today – a musician who found redemption through music, a survivor who understands the value of resilience, empathy, and discipline.

This journey has taught me the true meaning of grace and the enduring power of family. It’s a journey I wouldn’t trade for anything, as it led me to discover my purpose and become the person I am today.