Nothing prepared him for what he has become: A multi-talented artist known more for his masterly of the turntables and music compositions than the auto-engineer he was trained to become.
Today, FM 101 radio personality Ken Wako, alias Kenny Klips, acknowledges that the tape of his fantasies has not rolled in the seamless premeditated flow he thought they would follow.
“I did not want to become a deejay. In fact, I prefer to call myself a turntablist. I wanted to be something different,” says Klips.
Klips says his pipe-dream was to become an auto-engineer because he has long been fascinated by the engines that power mobiles - only for music to break “smoothly” in.
However, Klips is quick to admit that he had a soft spot for music.
“I remember that, while staying in California, U.S., we had (music) equipment at the yard and I used to spend some time mastering it. It was a hobby that, eventually, turned into a day-job,” says Klips.
He, however, says he did not join the music industry full throttle when he came back home in the early 90s, revealing that he concentrated on school.
“When I came back from the States, I never knew how to listen to the radio; I still don't listen to the radio, actually. This is because I do not want to be informed. I don't want to know what the next guy is doing. All I want to do is to make money. Time is money my friend,” says Klips, who reveals that he surfs the internet or reads international magazines when he wants to be informed.
From Deejay to turntablist
Klips, who was persuaded by a friend to submit a demo tape to FM 101 and started working for the Limbe-based station in 2001, says he has evolved from being a deejay and prefers to be called “ a turntablist”.
“I am a turntablist. There is a difference between a turntablist and deejay. A turntablist is someone who makes music out of music by playing records or vinyl, among others,” says Klips, adding:
“The problem with deejaying in Malawi is that each and everyone can become a deejay. My type of deejaying - and the way I understand deejaying- is different from what Malawians describe as deejaying. And, if you scrutinise the industry, you will discover that the average listener does not know what the art of deejaying is all about.”
Klips says, “for the real thing in deejaying”, those calling themselves deejays should tussle it out on www.dmcchampionship.com (which is the world championship of deejaying).
“Otherwise, deejay competitions in Malawi are about who played the song the judges knew; who played danceable music. But deejaying goes beyond that: In the developed world, you will find that people attend deejay battles and competitions to appreciate the art; they go there not to dance but 'watch' the art, in much the same way as people play the guitar. Deejaying is an art,” says Klips.
Klips, who comes from Traditional Authority Msamala in Balaka, says he is one of the rarest breed of turntablists who create music out of music by remixing other artists' songs and creating something new.
For example, Klips has a remix of P Square, Theo Thomson, Blasto, and Chris Brown's songs, creating a unique touch that only he can come up with.
Celebrity status versus fame
While Klips remains one of the select Malawian turntablists to have turned the tables in the Big Brother Africa House, he maintains that he does not consider himself famous.
“Fame, to me, is the presidency. When people have to book appointments to meet you, and the appointments fail several times before you finally meet; that's what we call fame. Fame applies to those who can't be touched easily,” says Klips, adding:
“(Musician) Lucius Banda, for example, is not famous; he is just popular. We know him and can call him anytime. That, too, is the case with our musicians; they are just popular.”
This notwithstanding, Klips acknowledges that he has played roles that have raised his status in Malawi, counting the establishment of the movement called HHR (Hip-Hop Revolution) - which used to collaborate with the then Zain Malawi (now Airtel) in unearthing raw music talent from all corners of the country - among his achievements.
“"Before that, up and coming musicians had no chance because they were not being given the platform. So, we coordinated with the then Zain Malawi and ensured that young people who did not have access to the media could submit their music CDs or DVDs at Zain outlets," he says.
He has also triumphed in several local deejaying competitions.
Born in the family of four - two brothers and two sisters - Klips is a well-known figure across Africa, thanks to his prowess on the turntables, a development that has seen him strut his stuff at such platforms as the Big Brother Africa Season Eight, which was dubbed The Chase.
He also once supported Young Kay when the musician performed at a Big Brother eviction show during an earlier season.
But, in a typical Kenny Klips fashion, the artist-cum-deejay, claims that he did not feel good the first time he played music during the Big Brother Eviction show.
"I did not feel good and I didn't know that anyone was watching me."
Apart from deejaying, Klips is a musician and counts the album 'Mwakawidwanso' among his music exploits. The Hip Hop album was produced and released in 2006.
He also owns the media company Montana Audio, and also works as an auto-engineer and producer.
Clearing the mist
Like all human beings, however, Klips has his misgivings. He picks a bone against the media's tendency to describe some music as urban, gospel, secular, among others.
“It's ignorance of the highest order. There is no urban music because urban music is not a genre. Gospel music is not a genre. Secular music is not a genre. The same goes with the issue of music identity. What do they mean when they say urban music artists? The media are to blame for this misinformation,” says.
“When we talk of genres, we talk of Dance Hall, Reggae, Hip Hop. Of late, we have observed that many people are getting into fusion, fusing a bit of Hip Hop with other genres. That's what Piksy does. The way Lawrence Mbenjere does it.”
This, notwithstanding, Klips sees a future for Malawian musicians.
He says selling music online promises to be the long-cleaved solution to the poverty that seems to cling on to musicians' coat, no matter how they try.
“The online market is fast becoming the biggest market for Malawi music. In a country where the music distribution chain is distorted, this is good news, and I have sold my music online for some time and been able to pay school fees for my dependants,” says Klips.
He says, in a country where commercial banks have “killed music because of their love for big people”, musicians should explore other means of earning a living, citing the online market as one such option.
“You see, I don't understand why our banks are so stingy. In the U.S., the banks are always forthcoming because they want to be in debt and (them) to be in control of your life, and things work well,” he says.
On where he wants to be five years from now, Klips says: “I want to be somewhere where there will be lots of white people. I just don't wanna suffer. I wanna live and survive better than now. I just want to make more money!”