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From Kilimani To A Shack: Bien’s Story Of Fall From Grace, Tough Upbringing And Life Lessons

Kenyan Musician Bien-Aime Alusa PHOTO:People Daily

Sauti Sol band member Bien-Aime Alusa has enjoyed phenomenal success in his music career, with fans from all over the world mesmerized by his rich voice which he manipulates with power and agility. Less is known about his background, noting that he prefers a private life.

In 2020 however, Bien revealed details of his early life in an Engage Talk episode, narrating how things turned sour for his family as he grew up. He remembered witnessing his parents experience downfall after losing their high-paying jobs.

“My dad was the alpha male both financially and in his masculinity. I remember his friends were so loud and had parties every other weekend. There were so many people coming to our house for handouts- if not school fees then it was funerals,” the artist recalled.

This was during his parents’ heyday when they could afford to enrol Bien and his sister in an expensive boarding school, which he described as a hub for moulding children to pass national examinations.

In 2000, his parents both lost their jobs, his father lost out on funding in his NGO where he was a director of projects and his mother retrenched, leading to a sudden loss of income for their household.

They were forced to move from the posh Kilimani neighbourhood to a smaller house in Narok’s Nkoroi area. Their new residence was a shell of a house, as it was unfinished missing the basic amenities such as plumbing and electricity.

“No ceiling, the walls were not painted, the floor was not done, basic plumbing was not done either.

“By this time things were thick, we had sold all our electronics, but we didn’t need them anyway because our new house had no electricity. All we had to use at night were kerosene lamps to find our way around,” he narrated.

He fondly remembered the smell of the crackling firewood used to boil githeri for what would be a week’s menu of that delicacy.

Bien and his sister stayed out of school for a whole year because their parents could not afford to re-enrol them in their former private school and also did not want to enrol them into the local government public schools.

It had become embarrassing for him, especially after his peers pressured him, asking to visit his new house. It was a new low that he could not bear to have his friends witness.

All through, his parents had been trying to find jobs, penning CVs every chance they got and sending them out to the post office through Bien. They received rejection after rejection, further crushing their spirits.

“At some point, they stopped trying. Do you know how it feels to see your parents give up? The icing on the cake was within six months, my mother lost her parents, she was broken,” he recalled.

After a year of being away from school, Bien was eventually admitted to a local primary school where he took his KCPE exams and earned acceptance to Upperhill School, where he encountered his future Sauti Sol bandmates. Music became his refuge from the challenges his family faced.

That experience scarred him for life, and he was angry at God, his father’s friends and relatives following the abandonment his family experienced.

To this day, he questions the quality of friendships he fosters, and his relationship with money also changed, stating that he is an avid saver of any coins that come his way.

This he said was to cushion his family from drifting back to poverty insisting that he would never let his wife look at him the same way his mother looked at his father when they were at rock bottom.


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