By Faith Nyambeki
Every so often our loyal readers suggest individuals we should cover on this platform. One name that keeps popping up is Ian Mbugua. So this writer decided to do a bio of a man who gave meaning to the popular Tusker Project Fame (a music competition sponsored by Tusker) where he was one of the judges. A man who speaks his mind. No sugarcoating, no nothing. This trait is not common in most of us and that’s why Ian’s opinion matters a great deal. He will probably read this piece, frown and mumble ‘”P-a-t-h-e-t-i-c!
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The no-holds barred Ian was born in Kiambu county. He is the third born in a family of three boys and a girl. His father was a teacher, a career path he also chose later in life while his mother was a nurse. He had the privilege of traveling the world and spending his formative years abroad when his father was posted as the education attache to London, England, then Bonn, Germany.
Ian attended a total of five primary schools with the last being Park Road Primary School in Nairobi where he sat his Certificate of Primary Education. He thrived in verse speaking and debate while he was in primary school. He joined Lenana High school where he was actively involved in drama and sports. After his O-levels, he joined Thogoto College where he trained as a teacher.
Ian is many things in one; a singer, actor, teacher, director and most importantly a family man. The father of two boys (Jeremy and Mbogua) and a girl (Wambui) has been married for over two decades and talks highly of the marriage institution. His wife is Naomi Mbugua, the current school head of Riara Road Primary School. In an interview appearing on Eve Magazine, Judge Ian advised young couples not to rush into marriage and only take the step if they are ready to “commit to ‘For better, for worse; till death do us part’…..” He went on to tell the publication that pregnancy should not be a reason to get married. And this is part of what he told Eve on how he relates with his children:
I have a good relationship with my children and we spend a lot of fun times together. We have a good understanding. They are all young adults now. My granddaughter Wandia…well, I totally spoil her. I spend time with her playing, eating, even teaching her, just like I did with my children.
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The famed-if not dreaded-Ian rose to fame beyond the borders of Kenya when he was a judge at the Tusker Project fame music competition that was sponsored by the East African Breweries Limited. He was not afraid to tell it as it was and all the contestants, the live studio audience and viewers would anxiously wait to hear his verdict. It was all that mattered. The straight-shooting Ian journey to the pinnacle of his career started early. He developed an interest in arts quite early. Asked by The New Times of Rwanda Susan Babijja when he joined the music industry and if he is a music expert, he replied;
I have sung and acted since my youth. I am not an expert in music. I am an expert in knowing what I like and what I dislike.
Ian had a full time job but that did not dim his love for music and drama. He joined Phoenix Players that afforded him the opportunity to sing and act. He went on to join the PCEA St Andrews Church in Nairobi choir where he is a member to date. The then musical director of Phoenix Choriste James Falkland invited him to join the cast of a musical. It turned out to be fun and Ian went on to play leading roles in subsequent productions. This impressed Falkland who asked him to do it on a full time basis and he agreed.
He went on to take the leadership of Phoenix Players-the only repertory theatre in Kenya- as the managing director after the demise of Falkland.
After calling it a day at Phoenix Players, Ian joined Brookhouse International Schools as a drama and music teacher. He is also the manager of the Burundian Theatre.
He has performed in the following countries as a singer and actor-South Africa, Ethiopia, Malawi, UK, US, Uganda and Rwanda.
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