How an Impromptu Emcee Gig Saw The Rise of Churchill's Career

  • Comedian Daniel 'Churchill' Ndambuki. File
  • Just like many Kenyans, Daniel Ndambuki alias "Churchill" traversed through tough times, and support from the people he met along the way shaped his path to success.

    One of them is the multi-talented and pioneer gospel artist Alliwah David. He is a gospel artist and acts as a prosecutor in long-running legendary KBC TV court drama show, Vioja Mahakamani. Alliwah is also the Founder and CEO of Theatrix Arts Ensemble, Allical Wear International and Tukuza Milele Entertainment and former Secretary-General of the Theatre in education practitioners in Kenya under the umbrella KCCAA.

    Churchill and Alliwah met in 2000 when the former was a theatre arts actor. Churchill was the host of a talent search show alongside his friend Nelson Mbugua and Alliwah had been invited. 

    A year later, they met when Churchill was part of a theatre arts group that performed set books at the Kenya national theatre. An example, Ken Walibora's Siku Njema, a compulsory Kiswahili literature text at the time. He was the star character, playing the protagonist role of Kongowea Mswahili.

    Alliwah poses for a selfie with Churchill. Churchill first emceed during the launch of Alliwah's debut album on November 23, 2002 at the Panafric Hotel, Nairobi.
    Alliwah poses for a selfie with Churchill. Churchill first emceed during the launch of Alliwah's debut album on November 23, 2002 at the Panafric Hotel, Nairobi.

    "In fact, Churchill played Mzee Kongowea Mswahili so well, that some people back then thought the book was his," Alliwah recalled.

    On his end, Alliwah was by then an actor at Alliance Francaise with a group named Heartstrings. Alliwah revealed to Kenyans.co.ke that his relationship with Churchill developed since they were both born again, and often met at the same joint for lunch.

    "I remember a kiosk at the Kenya National Theatre owned by a respectable mzee called Waingoh and this was our meeting point mostly at lunchtime." He intimated.

    In 2002, Alliwah kicked off his music career with the launch of his first album, Halle Halle, produced by legendary Kenyan Country musician Reuben Kigame. The 10-track album featured his brother Cal and News anchor Terryanne Chebet.

    Alliwah was among the first pioneer musicians of Kenya's first gospel tune along with the likes of Rufftone,  Henrie Mutuku, The Shammah Boys and Milele.

    On November 23, 2002, Alliwah was to launch Halle Halle at the Panafric Hotel, Nairobi. The launch was graced by Kenya's top gospel artists at the time including Henrie Mutuku who had just won a KORA award. 

    However, before the launch could start, Alliwah received word that Mo, a radio presenter from family radio who was set to emcee the event, could not make it. And since he could not emcee his own event, Alliwah had to find someone else.

    This forced an impromptu solution, Churchill.

    Alliwah spotted Churchill in the midst of the audience that graced the launch. After saluting him, he asked Churchill to be the emcee, something he had not done before and was not ready to do.

    Gospel artist and Vioja Mahakamani actor, Alliwah David. He convinced Churchill to emcee in his event, setting stage for Churchill's career as an emcee.
    Gospel artist and Vioja Mahakamani actor, Alliwah David. He convinced Churchill to emcee in his event, setting stage for Churchill's career as an emcee.

    "I spotted Churchill in the crowd and I reached out to him. We knew each other, so after I had greeted him, I asked him to be mcee," Alliwah narrates.

    "He didn't want to do it. He had never done it before, he said didn't know what to say. We had to plead with him to emcee the event until he agreed." he added.

    Alliwah revealed that Churchill  'killed' the show. His performance as mcee attracted interest from Family Radio, which in turn landed him a spot as a mcee for the radio station's show, Family Fest.

    And Churchill's career as an emcee kicked off.

    From Family Radio, Churchill landed another job with Metro FM, and the upward trajectory in his career began. His success at emceeing landed him more gigs, famously, Redykyulas, where he worked with the likes of comedian Walter Mong'are "Nyambane".

    Alliwah intimated that Churchill's road to the top was not easy, recalling times when they had to hustle each other for Ksh10 bus fare back home from the Kenya National Theatre.

    He revealed how Daniel Ndambuki was actually nicknamed "Churchill".

    "You know back then we called him Daniel. But one time, he gave me this business card that read, Church Hill, then it had a small drawing of a hill. So it was a church on the hill. So we called him that," Alliwah reveals.

    "But when he went big, his management then chose to go with 'Churchill' as one word. And that's how he got the name Churchill," he adds.

    In 2005, the idea to start the Churchill Show was conceived, and today, it is one of Africa's most celebrated television comedy shows.