Runner sings Japan’s praises

Kenyan champ Wakiihuri dedicates CD to second home

by Reuben Kyama

Kyodo

Former world marathon champion Douglas Wakiihuri is set to make his recording debut with a 13-track album titled “Pewa ile Poa” (“To Get The Best”) dedicated to the Japanese in appreciation of their hospitality.

Wakiihuri, 38, in a 1987 marathon in Rome became the first Kenyan to win a world championship gold medal. He said in a recent interview with Kyodo News that he is determined to combine his athletic ability with music to promote the cultural exchanges between Kenya and Japan.

“I want to use my music to promote Kenya in Japan,” said

Wakiihuri, who lived in Japan for nearly six years as an athlete, said he will use his music to express his feelings about life in Japan.

According to Wakiihuri, who has registered impressive performances in major international races, this is not his first time to appear on Kenya’s music scene. He said throughout his running career he had always performed music on the side, although he was forced to devote time and energy to major athletic events.

“I have to change the chapter now and show the Japanese that I also have this other side to my life,” he said.

He said he wants his music venture to link Japanese and African cultures together and that his music is full of praise for the Japanese for their lifestyle and hospitality.

“There is no better way to marry these two countries,” he said. “Japan is the country I love most.”

He acquired a great love for Japanese music from listening to leading Japanese artists such as Takao Horiuchi and also intends to release a Japanese version of his CD.

Songs in the collection include “Magokoro Nipponjin” (“Wholehearted Japanese”) and “Ngoja Ngoja” (“Keep Waiting”).

Despite his well-received musical efforts, his career has not been without difficulties. It took him nearly a year to record the album due to budgetary constraints.

Wakiihuri came to Japan in 1983 and trained under Kiyoshi Nakamura, the late Japanese long-distance running coach. After struggling with a new language and culture, Wakiihuri, who now speaks fluent Japanese, finally adjusted to life in Japan.

He plans to launch the CD sometime next year in Japan before releasing it in other markets.

Wakiihuri, who is also a member of the Kenya Association of Tour Operators, said his music will go a long way in marketing Kenyan tourism abroad, particularly in Japan.

Asked why he has shifted his focus more toward music, he said, “You see, in a few years I shall retire from sports, and I don’t want to feel depressed when I have stopped running.”

Wakiihuri, however, is quick to point out that besides music, he will also spend time in the future training young Kenyan athletes. But before then, the Mombasa-born runner said he is determined to fly Kenya’s flag high in a major championship next year.

He said Kenya has a great deal of talent, but that little is being done to help individuals advance.