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Prison officer kills two birds with one stone

by kenya-tribune

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Growing up, Onesmus Kamau longed to become a policeman.

Along the way, he discovered that he had musical talent, but he still wanted to become a policeman. As he mulled over this dilemma, it occurred to him that he could be both.

At Nyeri Medium Prison, King’ong’o, Onesmus is known as Police Constable Kamau. On stage, he goes by Onesih, The Kirinyaga Kid.

“I am fortunate that everyday, I get to do the two things that I love — serving my country and singing. Music is my talent, my job a passion,” he explains.

The 24-year-old has been a musician in uniform for three years now thanks to the support he gets from his bosses at work.

Recently, he got clearance from the Commissioner-General of Prisons to perform in official uniform.

“This (performing in his police uniform) is a big deal for me because it represents who I am,” he says.

He opted for the stage name Onesih the Kirinyaga Kid to identify himself with his peers and honour his roots, where he was born and raised, before he moved to Nyeri, where he is now stationed.

He has released nine songs and is set to launch his first video later this month. Some of his hit songs include “Ikue Ikue”, “I Made It”, “Wendo”, “Siko Ithaa” and “Njeri”.

He is partial to kapuka, rap and afro-pop. Locally, he looks up to KingKaka and Arrow Bwoy and further afield Kendrick Lamar.

At work, Onesmus performs during events such as prison open days, which give him an opportunity to interact with inmates, who are serving sentences of about 10 years and below.

“Through interacting with the inmates, I have realised that there is a lot of untapped talent behind bars, people that could make good deejays and rappers. I would like to mentor some of them, but I am restricted by my job. Remember that these inmates are incarcerated, so protocol forbids me from simply walking in and teaching them what I know,” he adds.

Being an officer, he says, makes it difficult for him to get performing gigs because of the perception people have about police.

Nevertheless, this has not discouraged him from relentlessly pushing his musical journey, determination that has won him a big fan base in Nyeri County and his Kirinyaga hometown.

“Many people find it difficult to view me as a musician, what often comes through is the law enforcer in me. People the world over are generally cautious of the police, so whenever I perform, those watching me tend to be too guarded to fully enjoy the music. I want people to understand that we are no different from them,” he says.

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