In 2004 Eric Wainaina made another milestone on the Kenyan music scene when he premiered a 21- song musical theatre piece “Lwanda, Man of Stone”, 19 of which he wrote, based on a local folk story. He successfully married traditional instruments and styles of the Luo people of Western Kenya with contemporary urban Kenyan sound. The harmony is rich with modal colors and rhythmically enticing with ethnic groove.  One of the first of its kind in Kenya, the show ran for a hugely successful theatre season and a concert version of the same show continues to be performed at major cultural events. The concert versions feature 10 of the songs from the work strung together with narration and punctuated by world-class choreography.

Eric re-wrote the musical, resetting it as a modern story dubbed “Lwanda, a Ghetto Story”. Set in a modern day imaginary slum called Kwa Maji the musical revolved around the social and political struggles of a community radio DJ – Lwanda.    It was staged at the GoDown Arts Centre in December 2006 before going on a national tour in 2007 and 2008 and playing a total of 52 shows.

Later in 2008, he was selected by The Sundance Theatre Institute to attend a three week theatre workshop on the strength of  his musical.  A series of re-writes gave birth to the final script for the musical which was once again renamed – “Mo Faya!

 

 

Mo Faya!” made its international debut following an invitation to present it at the New York Musical Theatre Festival where it was enthusiastically received, garnering a distinction at the festival for Best New Female Performance of the festival.  The play then returned to The GoDown Arts Center where it played for an additional 36 shows and also received the highest level of corporate support for a theatre production from Kenya’s leading telecommunications company – Safaricom Ltd.

The musical is currently back in workshop with the Sundance Institute to prepare the production for a global release.

 

In 2006, Eric wrote the musical score for a documentary based on the New York Times’ best-selling children’s book, ‘Owen & Mzee’, which is based on the true story of an unusual friendship between a young hippo, Owen, who was swept away from his family during the 2003 Tsunami and marooned along the Kenyan Coast, and a centenarian tortoise, Mzee, who lives at Bamburi’s Haller Park. The book was written by Craig Hatkoff, his 5 year-old daughter Isabella, and Dr. Paula Kahumbu. Eric attended and performed at the premiere of ‘Owen & Mzee’ at the renowned Tribeca Film Festival in New York in April 2006.

He later wrote an award winning score for Kenyan film maker Wanuri Kahiu’s film, “From A Whisper”  and further collaborated with her on the soundtrack of her film on Nobel laureate Prof. Wangari Maathai.

 

 

In 2009, Eric was commissioned to write the music for a ground-breaking children’s animated television series, produced by UK television production power house: Tiger Aspect.  The show, titled Tinga Tinga Tales,was  funded in part by the BBC and Disney and is currently on screens throughout Europe and the US as well as being a regular feature on local Kenyan television.

 

In light of the 2007 General Elections, Eric Wainaina spearheaded Umoja Pamoja : an initiative that aimed to get Kenyans, more specifically the youth to first of all vote, and to do so peacefully and responsibly. The campaign culminated dramatically in an event where a human-chain was formed around Parliament Building in a demonstration of unity and purpose.

Eric has held numerous social ‘ambassadorships’ and has worked with dozens of development agencies as an Advocate of their work.   This year Eric is committed to the following ambassadorships: