Engineer Wuod Fibi, or Baba Yao – as he is fondly called by his fans and fellow artists-is a popular Luo musician and the founder and CEO of Barikiwa Studios.
Over the past seven years, the studio has gained a reputation for producing hit after hit and has produced some of the biggest names in Luo music.
In this article, WoK brings you the journey of how Barikiwa Studios grew from a single room in Kariobangi to a national brand.
How it began:
Around 2012, Wuod Fibi, then a budding musician, wanted to record a song. Frustrated by the inability of studios to meet his creative expectations, he took matters into his own hands.
Instead of revealing his musical aspirations, he decided to join a studio as a handyman, all the while harboring the dream of learning the art of music production.
His intention was to learn how to record music so he could record his song for himself and hopefully give it the touch he was lacking from producers.
He worked for four months, being paid sh 400 per day. By the end of the four months, he had learned everything he needed to know about music production.
Interestingly, during this period, Wuod Fibi was also an active gospel minister.
In fact, as he revealed during Obinna’s Kula Kula show, he once traveled to India to preach the gospel, going by the name Apostle John Eric.
One day, he prayed for a congregant, who coincidentally, bought a house and a car in two months.
In her gratitude to the ‘anointed man of God’, she gifted him a one-bedroom house in one of Nairobi’s posh suburbs. The house came with six months of rent fully paid.
She also gifted him a laptop. That laptop became the Genesis of Barikiwa Studios.
“After I got the laptop, I bought an Ampex woofer for sh 2500. I also bought a MIDI controller and a Behringer. That was the equipment I used to start the studio,” the father of three recounted in later interviews.
At first, the studio went by the name ‘Substance Records’.
Using his new equipment, Wuod Fibi recorded his first gospel song and submitted it at CITAM’s Hope FM studio.
Meanwhile, his cousin introduced him to two guys who were looking for a studio to record their Ohangla song. They had been delayed by another producer and had been recommended to Wuod Fibi’s studio.
He charged them sh 1500 and recorded three songs for them. The two artists then took the sample to Radio Ramogi studios, where it became an instant hit.
In appreciation, the artists suggested that he change the name of his studio from Substance Studios – quite a mouthful for Dholuo speakers — to Barikiwa Studios.
Incidentally, Barikiwa was the name of his newborn son at the time.
By then, Wuod Fibi, due to one reason or the other, had downgraded from the house he had been gifted in Buru Buru to a single house in the Kariobangi slums.
Meanwhile, his song at Hope FM had reached the ears of veteran journalist Hellen Mtawali, who had recently embarked on her singing career at the Tusker Project Fame program.
She said she loved the way Wuod Fibi sang and his unique production style. She looked for his number and visited his studio to record her song.
He recorded three albums for her, which were such a massive success that they propelled her to do a 100-day musical tour in the USA.
Hellen’s success in Barikiwa Studios paved the way for other artists: the likes of Emma Jalamo, Prince Indah, Musa Jakadala, Odongo Swag, Fredy Jakadogo, among other legends.
“They came because I had come up with a new tune of Ohangla music. It was a bit different from what legends like Osogo Winyo used to sing. I reduced the tempo, added a few acoustics, and made it a sort of Ohangla Rhumba for the new generation,” Wuod Fibi, who hails from Nyakach, explained his success.