For most Kenyan musicians, the rise to fame is normally a tough climb to make, let alone having their song played by main stream media.
In most cases, they often take a long time before they get to their prime years, where they can get major gigs that will not only earn them recognition but also get them money worth their hard work.
That was not different for one J.S. Ondara, 26, who left the country for US with an aim of pursuing his music career.
Speaking on his journey, J.S. Ondara noted that his interest in music was sparked when he was walking through a local street market in Nairobi, Kenya, when he encountered a tune that changed his life.
Narrating at an interview with an American online publication, Ondara revealed that it was during his walk along the street that he was invited to a kiosk where a man was selling CDs, when the merchant played a tune “unlike anything he had ever heard.”
It was “Forget Her” by Jeff Buckley, the mythic ‘90s alt-rock hero who was lauded for his vocal and songwriting ability before his death in 1997.
Ondara was describing the experience during his sold-out Friday night concert in Philadelphia.
According to Ondara, that was his big moment that led to him venturing into writing poems and singing them.
However, at the time he didn’t have instruments as his family could not afford.
Eventually, Ondara moved to US in 2013 to pursue music after he won a Green Card lottery.
Upon moving to US, he narrates that he bought himself a guitar and taught himself to play and slowly putting the poems he’d written to melody.
He then learned some songs and began to play at open mic nights around Minneapolis’s vibrant folk scene.
It didn’t take long before local radio played his music and covers which then lad to larger bookings and ultimately a record deal with with California-based Verve Records.
Over the last few months, Ondara has played sold-out gigs across the U.S. and Europe.
In February Ondara was named among the Emerging Artists Spotlight, a new Billborad series where a musician is highlighted for their recent debut that has made it on the Emerging Artists Chart.
Back in January, Billboard named Kenya-born, Minneapolis-based J.S. Ondara as one of the alternative/indie artists to watch this year.