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SNAPPY 7 – Kanda King: Dancing will pay your bills

Even with a career spanning more than 25 years, Said Mahfuth, popular known as Kanda King, is still one of the best dancers in Kenya. With a new album on the way, the father of two is far from hanging his boots.

He took his time to chat with with Nairobi News about his past, present and future:

1. Who is Kanda King – A dancer, musician and a father of two. I was born in Machakos and later our family relocated to Donholm in Nairobi. I’m from Eastlands the place to be.

2. Why did you take up dancing and name yourself Kanda – When I was young my elder sister, who has since been born again and now dances and sings Gospel music (Princess Farida), used to take me to some of her shows. I started mimicking her and that’s how it all started. I chose the nickname Kanda Kid, as I was previously known, because I liked Congolese star Kanda Bongo Man who is famous for the Kwasa Kwasa style.

My name changed to Kanda King after winning the East African King of Dance Competition which was held in Tanzania in 1996. I watch many Lingala videos and imitate the dancing styles and thereafter I craft new ones.

3. How did you switch from dancing to singing – My elder sister Princess Farida used to be the leader of our band African Rhythm Band. One day told me to try singing when we were performing in Dubai. Most band members didn’t like it and told me my voice was horrible. Later she took me for voice coaching which helped a lot. I took over the band after she became a born-again Christian and started singing gospel music.

Dancer and singer Kanda King during the interview with Nairobi News. PHOTO | FRANSOIR NDERITU
Dancer and singer Kanda King during the interview with Nairobi News. PHOTO | HILARY KIMUYU

4. How has dancing and music changed your life – Some years ago, dancing was hardly considered a career worth pursuing. The few who dared take the risk did so in fear, hoping to just survive. I have managed to overcome many hurdles and still be here after all those years.

To tell you the truth, if you told me I will be traveling and performing in places like Paris and Dubai when I was still in school, I would have laughed. But God is great because I have seen and traveled to places many people only dream about. I will be performing in London with Ken wa Maria next month.

5. How is your family life – I met my wife in 2000 after people told me that there was this girl who could dance even better than me. So I told them to bring her over for me to see what she can do. That’s how it all began.

I have two sons, one is a dancer and he took over the name Kanda Kid, mtoto wa nyoka ni nyoka, he does everything I do. I am training him to follow in my footsteps and keep the Kanda King legacy alive. He is a bright child and he does well in school.

I’m a strict father, the boys always have to finish their homework before they can start to listen or watch TV in the house. If its not for the education I got I wouldn’t be here and I also want the same for my children.

6. What is next for you and would you ever work in an office – I love doing what I do, but apart from my singing and dancing I also have a recording studio and I would one day want the studio to be bigger than it is now.

I have a new album coming out soon in which I have done collaborations with a few artistes. I’ve also done a song with all the artistes signed up with my studio. The album is a mix of Swahili and Lingala songs with also a Kamba song there.

I have never worked in an office, but I will tell you this, if you gave me the opportunity I will take the challenge.

7. Advice to any aspiring dancers and your take on Kenyan clubs – Many youths are currently venturing into dancing as a profession as you can see on the local scenes with many TV shows showing dancing competitions. What I would say to anyone who wants to dance is to keep practicing, you never know where it might take you.

In Kenya we only have sports bars. It is a little disappointing because when you walk into a club in Nairobi all you will see are chairs and TV’s everywhere and there is no dancing floor.

I would like to see clubs doing what Florida used to do back then when they used to host dancing competitions which made us whom we are today.