Journalist Who Quit BBC Job to Make Gengetone Hits

  • Jason Dunford once flew Kenya's flag high at the global stage, representing the country as a swimmer in the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Olympics.

    Dunford famously held the Olympic record in the 100-metres butterfly for a few minutes in 2012 as he qualified for the semi-finals in a time of 51.14. His time was, however, bettered by swimmers including American Michael Phelps.

    Dunford finished fifth in the finals with a time of 51.47. Since his retirement from the sport after the Commonwealth Games in 2014, however, Dunford's story has taken an incredible turn that has seen him ditch the pool for studios and stages.

    As a matter of fact, he quit his job as a journalist with the BBC East Africa Bureau to focus on making hits. In a conversation with Kenyans.co.ke on Sunday, February 2, Dunford revealed details of how he ventured into journalism and, now, music.

    Jason Dunford (Left) with Romantico in a music video for their song 'Mbaya'

    After his retirement in 2014, Dunford spent time in corporate America and later enrolled at the Stanford Graduate School of Business to get his MBA having earlier attained a BA in Human Biology and an MSc in Earth Systems from Stanford University.

    He also founded a company, Safi Analytics, with his wife and made the decision to return to Kenya.

    Having developed a keen interest in the media industry, Dunford had started his own online talk show and soon secured an opportunity to work as a business journalist with the BBC East Africa Bureau.

    He would eventually leave this arguably lucrative gig when the music bug bit him.

    Dunford intimated that it was Romantico, a former Mexican priest who fuses Reggaeton with urban Kenyan sounds, who convinced him to get in the studio.

    "I had heard him (Romantico) on an interview on Kiss FM and it was weird to see this guy doing Reggaeton.

    "Then one day we were doing a story on fitness culture and gym entrepreneurs in Nairobi and I found him at the gym and we started talking. He told me I should record a song, at first I wasn't convinced but I told myself 'let me go, I'll learn even if it's only from a journalistic perspective'," he disclosed.

    The first song they recorded was Mbaya, with Dunford adopting the stage name Samaki Mkuu which loosely translates to 'Big fish', a sly reference to his swimming prowess.

    Since then, they have released other popular singles including Baila Baila which features legendary Kenyan artist Jua Cali and their most recent gengetone single, Tiki Tiki.

    Dunford disclosed that they had at least four unreleased music videos and were planning a show with the veteran group Jabali Africa later this month.

    "We have four videos that we are yet to release and we also have a show with Jabali Africa on February 29.

    "With Jabali Africa, it's more of a fusion of African sounds with the Reggaeton, Gengetone and Rap we've been doing," he noted.

    Dunford is also an actor and is featured in three international movies being shot in the country.

    In addition, he is involved in community projects including a newly-established school in Nairobi's Kibra area.

    Dunford noted that even while in corporate America, he always envisioned his future in Kenya having grown up here and represented the country internationally.

    Jason Dunford in action for Kenya at the 2012 Olympics in London