How Mzazi Willy M Tuva Overcame Rejection to Rule Airwaves

  • Willy M Tuva is, by all accounts, a household name in Kenya. His radio program Mambo Mseto and television show Mseto East Africa are arguably the biggest entertainment shows in the country.

    The programs air on Radio Citizen and Citizen TV respectively, and offer an authoritative look into the East African music scene, sampling artists and hits from countries including Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi.

    In an exclusive interview with Kenyans.co.ke on Wednesday, January 29, Tuva revealed that he was not an overnight success, acknowledging rejection he faced early in his career and the people who gave him a chance.

    Mambo Mseto host poses with an award for Best Radio/TV Presenter in Africa at the AFRIMMA awards in October 2019

    Tuva disclosed that he had the idea for Mambo Mseto long before the show first went on air and unsuccessfully knocked on the doors of several radio stations with his written proposals.

    He explained that the time, iconic Kenyan artists such as Nameless and Redsan were putting out great music but mainstream media was yet to get fully behind them. He envisioned Mambo Mseto as a show that primarily promoted home-grown Kenyan artists as well as other talents from around East Africa.

    "I was always a very good artist and I used to draw cartoons for various publications including Taifa Leo and NOW magazine so I did that as a side hustle but broadcasting was always my dream.

    "I knocked on the doors of so many radio stations but they despised me. They never gave me a chance. 

    "They'd give me appointments and kept telling me to come tomorrow. But I never gave up," Tuva recalled.

    He got his first real opportunity on radio when a friend, Jacob Mogoa, who was hosting a health show on state broadcaster KBC gave him a fifteen-minute segment within his show. 

    "He chose me because I knew things about health and fitness and that is what the show dealt with. But those fifteen minutes, I would always play East African music," Tuva revealed, laughing.

    Tuva credits veteran journalist Vincent Ateya for giving him his big break when Radio Citizen was re-branding itself as a Swahili station. He revealed that it was Ateya who brought him to Citizen after hearing him during recordings of Mogoa's show at KBC.

    "There's one guy who made me be on Radio Citizen. He is called Vincent Ateya.

    "When he heard Citizen were relaunching to a Kiswahili station and looking for people who can speak fluent Swahili he remembered hearing me recording at KBC and recommended me," he disclosed.

    Mambo Mseto on Radio Citizen proved an instant hit and ruled the airwaves for years, causing Tuva to start thinking of something fresh.

    Explaining that he enjoys taking on new challenges, Tuva chose to pursue the idea of a music-themed TV show, Mseto East Africa.

    He revealed that one of the directors at Royal Media Services, Fred Afune, believed in the idea and they worked together to make it a reality. Yet again, the show became a massive success.

    "I said I'll take it to TV. I talked to Afune and our Managing Director and they said they'll give me a chance.

    "Mseto East Africa then became very popular," he disclosed.

    Tuva launched several other projects over the years including the Mseto Campus Tours and Mseto Mashinani which sees the Mambo Mseto team visit various counties around the country with artists in tow.

    The presenter has also earned plaudits for his consistent track record of offering a platform to brand new artists to shine. Among artists discovered by Tuva is dancehall superstar Dufla Dilligon who consistently acknowledges the presenter's support in interviews.

    He revealed that his focus in 2020 was on his newly registered charitable organization, the Mzazi Foundation and his awards show dubbed Mseto East Africa Awards.

    "A lot has been given to me. I feel it's important to give back," he explained.

    Through his foundation, Tuva is already involved in several initiatives including sponsoring the education of a needy student with a dream to be a broadcaster.

    Tuva further intimated that the Mseto East Africa Awards would be held in Nairobi later this year.

    "It's going to feature 80% Kenyan artists and 20% from around East Africa," the celebrated host confirmed.

    File image of Mambo Mseto presenter Willy M Tuva