Mark Joshua Ouma, better known as Teardrops, is a Kenyan spoken word artist based in Nairobi.
He joined the industry about 12 years ago and recently spoke to Nairobi News in an exclusive interview.
He talks about his early upbringing, how being raised by a single parent and growing up in the village shaped his life and reveals his future plans as well.
“I was born in Makongeni, Nairobi, and spent the first two years of my life in Kaloleni Estate.” he tells Nairobi News.
Teardrops, his eight siblings together with their parents would later relocate to Nakuru. Sadly, he lost his father while still a toddler, and years later, his mother too passed on.
Left an orphan, the 30-year-old moved in with his grandmother in a village in Oyugis, Homa Bay County.
“I didn’t have a choice but to move to the village. I had to start a new life again.” he says.
His grandmother could not afford to take him to secondary school to continue with his formal education so he joined Oyugis Craft Training Centre, an institution that educated orphaned children, to pursue an Electrical Engineering course.
However, with no high school education, learning was not easy for him.
Teardrops reveals that he spent his first year at the center reading the dictionary and bible.
“For a whole year, I read the dictionary and the bible because I didn’t understand anything in class. In the process I learned a lot of new words and definitions,” he adds.
Reading the dictionary and rowing his vocabulary proved to be very vital in his career years later when he became a spoken word artiste.
After four years of tertiary education, armed with his certificate, Teardrops left Oyugis for the capital city, Nairobi.
He settled in Mathare North Area 3 and each morning for the next one and a half years he walked to and from Westlands hustling for odd jobs.
The spoken word artiste, however, did not like that kind of life and asked his elder sister to host him as he was eager to go back to school.
He joined Recreation Factory Schools of Arts in Korogocho, a move that changed his life for the better as he was introduced to the world of theatre.
“This is where I learned to write poetry and got introduced to the performance of set books,” Teardrops tells Nairobi News.
In 2016, he sat his ‘O’ level examination as a private candidate.
“I didn’t get the result I had hoped for but I achieved what I wanted. You see, the knowledge and education I have acquired are all thanks to the short courses that I have done. My school of thought and level of education, I would say, is mostly not from the formal education system,” he says.
His greatest childhood memory is when, as a young boy, his mother’s close friend told him he would become a great person. Those words keep him going to-date.
“I was very sick and my mum’s friend, a shoemaker, passed by our home to check on me. He prayed and told me I would be a great person. That gave me strength. My mum told me I was destined for greatness.”
His 12-year journey in the industry has not been all rosy, though. However, he says one has to keep pushing forward.
Teardrops says the first seven years as a spoken word artist, he was a ‘broke and a broken’ person. His art started paying off just recently, according to him.
Happiness is paramount for teardrops even as he plans to settle down and start a family with his current girlfriend.
He currently mentors upcoming artistes across the country and he hopes that in five or so years, the program will bear fruit and produce the next cohort of spoken word artistes.
“I have already started by profiling upcoming artistes on my social media platforms. Before the Coronavirus pandemic happened, I was preparing to start master classes for the team, however, it will still continue at the right time,” he says.
Teardrops also plans to go back to school to acquire more knowledge.
“I want to be the President of this country in the future. It means I must have a degree, at least I have the vision to change this country and will, hopefully, go back to school,” he said.
And just like so many other men, Teardrops has a crush on Grammy Award winning singer Rihanna.
“I don’t know if I will ever meet her, but she is my crush,” he says and we all burst out laughing as the interview concludes.