Suzzana was born in Kasaye of Nyakach Division in Nyando District, near the lake city of Kisumu. As a young girl, Suzzana was blessed with a grandfather who was a prolific Nyatiti player. It was her privilege to watch him play this traditional music instrument to his elated audiences, little did she know that one-day this instrument would be her calling in life.
In high school, Suzzana was a natural actor and vocalist competing in inter schools music and drama festivals bagging several trophies for her school at provincial and national music festivals.
After high school in 1998, she joined a Nairobi based singer, Sally Oyugi, as a back -up vocalist. Two years later, she parted ways with Sally to team up with a local band in Nairobi, Bora Bora Sound, with whom she performed for one year.
In 1999, She went back home to Kisumu to team with up with another local band. This marriage lasted just one year and in 2001 she branched off to become a solo artist. It was during this period that one Eric Ounga, a young business entrepreneur with a keen ear for music, spotted her talent. Within days, Ounga had acquired a box a guitar and a coach for the budding songbird. This development so excited Suzzana that in less than a week; she had composed her first song, Uyie!
Suzzana?s restless spirit was at it again. She had realized that her future was in the music industry and if she had to succeed, then she had to return to Nairobi where she would face real challenge and competition. She also wanted to join a professional music school to help her develop her theoretical skills in music composition. She joined the Kenya Conservatory of Music at the Kenya Culture Center. During this period, she signed a contract to play at a club in the posh Karen area of Nairobi. This is where the then Chairman of Kisumu Centennial Celebrations met her and took an instant liking of her style of music. Because of this encounter, she was invited to perform at a special function recognizing Raphael Tuju, Chief Executive of Ace Communications and a TV personality in Kenya for his Say Yes to Children Grammy Award achievement.
It was at this venue that Suzzana’s invitation to compose a theme song and sing it at the Centennial opening ceremony was confirmed. It was a golden opportunity for her to perform to a sixty thousand capacity crowd at the Kisumu in the presence of three Heads of State from East Africa. She received a prolonged applause and standing ovation for her song: Kisumu Ber!
In 2002, she entertained Jimmy Carter, former US President together with Bill Gates Sr. during their visit to Kenya. In May of that same year she performed at the Miss Tourism Nyanza finales in Kisumu.
She composed and launched a CD for Kenya Women Political Caucus in November 2002. In the same month she participated at the Kora Africa Music awards ceremony in South Africa. Her song ?Kisumu 100? earned her entry for Africa?s most promising female Artist.
The first ever Eve Woman of the Year Award was held at the Nairobi Safari Club on 7th March 2003. The nominees, among others were, Suzzana Owiyo, Water Minister Martha Karua, Health Minister Charity Ngilu, Ass. Minister for Environment Prof. Wangari Mathai, Lynn Kituyi, Lucy Rao and LSK Chairlady Raychelle Omamo; each one of them being distinguished and recognized in their different fields.
In the same year, she was nominated for Kisima Awards and won an Award for most promising female artist category in Kenya. In June 2003 she represented Kenya in Paris among other Kenyan artists where she staged a colorful performance during the Kenyan week festival in Paris courtesy of Alliance Francaise de Kenya.
In August she performed at the Pan-African Music Festival in Congo Brazzaville (FESPAM). She was chosen to represent East Africa and performed alongside big names like Youssou N’Dour, Koffi Olomide, Rebecca Malope, Meiway, etc.
In December of 2003 she went to represent Kenya in Jibuti (also known as Djibouti) festival called Fest Horn, backed by a full band. In the same month she staged a charity concert in aid of Mama Ngina Children’s Home, Kisumu.
In July 2004 she performed in Holland at the Festival Mundial that was held in Tilberg.
Mama Africa (ARC Music EUCD 1875, 2004)
Author: Angel Romero
Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.