Born into a rich family is what many wish for but unfortunately, most are not.
They are born into humble backgrounds and have to work their way up. We have quite a number of celebs who were forced to sell chang’aa to survive and defied all odds and became successful people in society.
Well, from Embakasi East MP, Babu Owino to celebrated comedian Captain Otoyo, meet Kenyan celebs who sold chang’aa (illicit brew) to survive.
1. Paul Ongili aka Babu Owino
The controversial politician’s father passed away when he was in class three forcing his mother to sell chang’aa in Nyalenda slums in Kisumu county.
I REMEMBER WHEN WE USED TO GO WITHOUT FOOD BUT STILL HAD TO SOLDIER ON AND FIND MY PATH IN LIFE. A PATH THAT WAS TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE TO MY MUM AND OTHER FAMILY MEMBERS. I HAD TO BURN THE MIDNIGHT OIL TO STUDY AT THE SAME TIME SELL CHANG’AA TO RAISE MY SCHOOL FEES BOTH AT PRIMARY SCHOOL AND HIGH SCHOOL.
Life was tough and at one point he was arrested selling chang’aa.
I WAS ARRESTED SELLING CHANG’AA, A DAY TO MY KCSE BIOLOGICAL PRACTICALS. I WAS TAKEN TO KISUMU CENTRAL POLICE STATION WHERE I COULD NOT AFFORD KSH500 TO PAY FOR MY RELEASE AS A TOT FOR CHANGA’A WAS SH10.
Babu is very passionate about education and recently, he advised parents to invest in education.
I KNEW VERY WELL THAT IT’S ONLY EDUCATION THAT COULD GET ME FROM THE SHACKLES OF POVERTY AND I DECIDED TO CONCENTRATE ON IT. IT WORKED. Let us INVEST IN EDUCATION FELLOW PARENTS, BROTHERS, AND SISTERS.
2. Kazungu Matano aka Captain Otoyo
For the first tie, he talked about his humble upbringing during an interview on Churchill Show.
“My mother used to sell illicit brews, and I mean all of them, whatever was in the market, she made it and sold it. As the children, we helped out, with the main role being acting as sentries (lookouts). We used to position ourselves strategically and alert the customers of any incoming law enforcers,” he recounted.
His hardships didn’t deter him from working hard in school and after sitting for his Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examination, he emerged among the top 10 performers from Coast Province.
“Mum could not afford to pay the fees, the viable option was to help her in the chang’aa business to raise the money. However, the chief from his village in my home town (Mazeras), noticed that I was still at home when other kids left for school which prompted him to organize a Harambee to try and raise funds for my education,” he explained.
“I experienced barter trade in real life as people brought goods such as bags of maize and chicken in exchange for a bottle of liquor.”
With the support of his chief, Otoyo joined high school and the rest is history.
“I had never worn shoes my entire life, not even underwear up to this point. I am a product of hard work, goodwill and my village,” he concluded.
3. Otile Brown
The highly-rated Kenyan singer lost his mother when he was 12 years old and though life forced him to sell chang’aa to make ends meet.
My mom died when I was about to turn 13. I started selling chang’aa. I don’t like talking about it but I don’t shy away from speaking about it because I know it could motivate someone. Sometimes when I would get caught, the officers would frog march me past the school compound where other children would see me. It was embarrassing didn’t like doing it but I had to do it to survive,” he said in past media interviews.
Were it not for this talent of making music, I would still be brewing and selling chang’aa in Mombasa. It’s heart-breaking what poverty can drive people to. It’s not a part of my life that I’m particularly proud of but the lessons I learnt there are priceless.