For me, sometimes it takes really listening to a genuinely unrestrained song-writer in order to wake up and give myself the freedom to express my own voice. So nowadays I’ve been re-listening to some classics: Ben Howard, Natty, Jason Mraz and the likes; guys who didn’t enclose themselves to a genre or cohesive movement as it was too small a box to breathe in. I slowly realized that many of the artists I really dived into who were introduced to me by Ondi Madete. I don’t think I can picture any other local artist in the same light.

A lot has changed over the years, She’s no longer the assumed Nubian Queen of Yellow Light Machine….. in fact…. She’s now married with a son. If these are things you’d have told me would take place in a span of 3 or so years I’d have laughed! I recall meeting her at church around a community of people deeply influenced by western music. At that time church was really the only musical centre we really knew. So we participated in plays, choirs, dances, camps… a cocktail of matured innocence thinking unknowingly maybe these are how things would stay. Around the same time the kind of hits that were getting everybody hyper were hometown glory by Adelle and Billionaire by Bruno Mars & Travie Mccoy…. Just to give you a stunning picture of the times! For some reason Ondi (who I knew then by her first name as Loise) was more into the likes of Dave Mathew’s Band and less popular music. A lot of us listened to bands like Cold Play as a source of neutral non-religious music that was safe for our young ears. To think that Paramore wasn’t even a thing yet at that time….

I later found myself having weekly jam sessions with her in a secluded field close to her University where I really got to see her manifest her sound, the sound and creativity that became a primary author behind Yellow Light Machine’s first recording project: Hairy Flowers. It feels like it was just yesterday we were sitted out on this large expanse of high grass and lukewarm breezes that insistently created a stillness of its own. Something about her ability to tap into a present state of inspiration and ride it to its fruition really captivated me. I realized later that I adapted the habit of seclusion to find song from her.

When she re-launched her event: KIOTA, it was immediately apparent that her ability to bring in any listener to her song still remained intact.  She has taste of wild, intensely passionately and thoroughness about her work. The thing I always revered most was this trust in one’s own sense of rhythm. That and her love for finger-style guitar melodies that bring out an exciting side-story of their own.

I had a convo with her a few weeks back before her Women in Series concert at Goethe Institute.

What sparked the changing your name from Loise to Ondi madete? 

 I realized, my british curriculum schools couldn’t pronounce Ondi. It’s what my family calls me. It’s what I would like to refer myself to. I don’t feel like a Loise.

What are your current musical projects?

I have recorded a ‘disco album’ with Allan Marzo (Producer/Dj) 2 years ago. It’s not out yet….. he’ll release it when he’s ready… I just did the voice. There is also a band called Acacia that was compiled 3 months ago and we have a video online.

What are your current goals as a singer-songwriter/Artist

Perform, perform, perform.

You believe the performance is what gives you inspiration?

Not… really. Motivation, exposure & experience.

Do you think its harder to be a female singer-songwriter in our industry?

It depends what resources you’re working with. If you lack financial resources everything’s is more difficult.


What about in terms in of gaining an audience…. Getting your voice heard?

 Good music is good music.

What do you love about songwriting?

Emotional relief….. You get to explore your experiences

Do you consider your music locally underground?

Yes. If underground means not pop

What was it like basking in Italy? Tell us a bit more about that?

Yes it was awesome, because you don’t have a continuous audience so you can play the same music again and again in a different way.

Have you ever basked here in Kenya?

Yes, In Limuru park. I can’t do it on the streets because of the Kanjo who’ll come to disturb you.


 Watch out for her upcoming video ‘Empty Pages’!

 Tumblr: sketchosofo.tumblr.com

FB: facebook.com/ondisom

Insta: sketchesofo

Soundcloud: soundcloud.com/ondiso

COVER IMAGE: Quaint Photography


Ngare Mukiria
| + posts

A passionate perfectionist hell bent on finding those who want to innovate and change the face of media! I love to write about music (mainly jazz), spiritual philosophy and health.I hope we bumb into each other so :). Look out for my column Sounds Of The Intimate on #NU