PETER NDUATI: Music is my most expensive hobby

Saturday July 15 2017

Peter Nduati of Pine Creek Records speaking at
Peter Nduati of Pine Creek Records speaking at the Michael Joseph Centre. PHOTO FILE | NATION
Peter Nduati in one of his colourful signature
Peter Nduati in one of his colourful signature outfits. PHOTOS | COURTESY
Peter Nduati with his daughters at Time Square
Peter Nduati with his daughters at Time Square New York. PHOTOS | COURTESY
For the love of the game, Peter Nduati at Rugby
For the love of the game, Peter Nduati at Rugby World Cup 2015 in England. PHOTOS | COURTESY
Peter Nduati at a rugby event.  PHOTOS |
Peter Nduati at a rugby event. PHOTOS | COURTESY
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What is your off-duty passion?

I am passionate about three things: Music, rugby and horse racing.

Let’s begin with the music.

It goes back to my childhood. I sang in the school choir, and later I was in a band, then I was a dancer.

One time when I couldn’t come home for my summer holidays during my studies in India, I enrolled in a music school for a three-month sound production course.

This is when I acquired the technical skills of music production and deepened my understanding of music.

When I eventually came back to Kenya, there wasn’t much interest in local music. People listened and danced to Western and Lingala music.

But from the year 2000, interest in Kenyan music began to grow and that’s when I got involved.

I first went into music by managing and producing Mr Lenny, before I started Pine Creek Productions and signed a number of artistes. So far, I have produced 38 albums and more than 2,000 songs.

I have grown from managing artists to owning a music business that offers a 360-degrees service — from writing the music, to producing, marketing and distributing it.

Music has been my balance throughout my career: Imagine that feeling when you’ve just concluded a stressful deal, then you go into the studio to listen to what the producers have put together. It can be really soothing.

How do you strike a balance between music the hobby and the business?

Music is one of my most expensive hobbies. Pine Creek is now a business with the usual challenges of finding capital, taking the product to market and managing people.

And because music is an inspiration-based business, you cannot  manage people the way you do in the corporate sector. You cannot set strict deadlines for a creative idea to emerge, or reprimand an artiste for a poor production.

Sometimes when I’ve burnt my fingers in music, and I ask myself if it is worth it, I still find myself going back to try some more. This is not how I deal with my other businesses. So, music is more than a business to me.

You were once a professional dancer. Can you still break-dance or will we need an ambulance if you try to?

Oh yes, I still dance. I taught my friends the Bazokizo dance two Sundays ago.

[Bakoziko is a dance by Kenyan gospel rapper Collo Mfalme and Bruz Newton]

What percentage of your time does music take up?

You’ll be surprised: A lot of my time. Possibly up to 30 per cent because of the various meetings I must attend to agree on contracts, marketing and distribution.

Yet you still have time for rugby?

Yes. Rugby is also a very expensive hobby. On average, I do eight to 12 rugby tours annually. The must-go-to ones are Las Vegas, London, Dubai, Singapore, Paris, Cape Town and Scotland. In the region I go to Tanzania and Uganda. I always try to take the family along to make the most of these tours.

You make these trips all for the love of rugby?

These tours tend to have a life of their own. I watch the game, but I also get to tour the city, engage in various activities and make friends.

There’s a friend I first met in Hong Kong in 2002. Since then, we meet in the same seats every year. We actually co-ordinate our bookings so we can keep our seats and meet. We’re rugby friends.

How did this rugby craze start?

I started the tours first as a player. As a teenager, I used to play basketball at the Swedish School on Ngong Road in Nairobi, because I lived on Riara Road in the same neighbourhood.

One day Impala Club, which was across the road, was looking for a jumper, and I was picked. That was the first time I played rugby and I got hooked.

I ended up playing rugby for 17 years, and later got into administration side of the game for 10 years.

I served as chairman of Impala Club and was director of Kenya Rugby for eight years. Now my companies sponsor Impala, a team in Kisii and another in Dar es Salaam.

And how does horseracing come in?

Well, I just love horses. I don’t race, but I own horses and employ jockeys. At one time I had 11 horses but now I have seven, and plan on buying some more soon.

We go through cycles of when you can buy or sell some of your horses. When the horses are no longer racing, we sell them to riding schools. You tend to develop this relationship with your horses and it can be very sad when one dies.

I am also in horseracing administration because I want to make sure the sport lives on. I am a board member and chairman of the marketing committee at the Jockey Club of Kenya.

Does your hectic off-duty life allow you time for leisure travel?

I travel a lot as part of my work and also for my rugby tours. But I’m also deliberate about exploring new destinations. So, every year, I plan to visit three to four places with my family.

This year, our must-go-to places include South America, the Caribbean Islands, Portugal and News Orleans. I particularly want to visit New Orleans because of its rich history of jazz music.

Where would a random afternoon find you in East Africa?

Arusha. I fell in love with Arusha when I was working in Tanzania and it remains my favourite destination in the region.

What signifies your personal style?

Colour. I don’t wear the traditional grey and black suits.

Over the years, I’ve tried to look for a personal identity that can be identified with me as a brand. I was in the insurance industry, which is quite formal, wearing dark and dull suits throughout.

However, since I could rarely find my suit size in the regular shops, I had to visit designers to have my suits custom made.

In the late 1990s, a designer in Hong Kong asked me: “Why do you wear dark suits, yet you’re very dark?” I told him my position demanded that I dress formally, but he offered to make me a suit and matching shirt. That’s when I started wearing pastel coloured suits and I have never looked back.

People around me were a bit uncomfortable with the new style, but they got used to it. Interestingly, fashion caught up with me and colourful suits are trendy these days. So, I push the envelope when it comes to dress. I don’t follow trends.

What is your most cherished collection?

My music. I’ve been collecting music over a long time and I’m an eclectic collector. I do give away a lot of my music to friends, but I would be very saddened if I lost my collection.

What’s the most thoughtful gift you’ve received recently?

Last weekend, I received a painting of me playing rugby. I was a guest speaker at a Rotary Club event in Malindi and an artist who’s a member happened to know about my rugby playing.

He dug up a photo from the archives and made this very impressive painting. I found this a very thoughtful gift. In fact, it’s already up in my study. Most people give me wine: I do love my wine, but surely…

What is a constant in your fridge?

You will not miss a bottle of Rose wine!

Last Word
The story of health insurance in East Africa cannot be told without mentioning Peter Nduati, the founder and chief executive officer of Resolution Group Ltd (formerly Resolution Health East Africa).

After 20 years’ experience in the insurance industry — serving in key positions including that of CEO   of Metropolitan Health Group, Nduati took a huge gamble by quitting his job as the managing director of AAR Health, Tanzania, to start Resolution Health East Africa in 2002.

Resolution became the first insurance company to offer a cover for HIV and diabetes patients, a foray that paid off handsomely and ensured the company’s rise to become one of Kenya’s biggest homegrown insurance companies currently.

In 2005, his passion for music saw him venture into music with a controlling stake in Pine Creek Records, which has produced music and managed diverse Kenyan artistes like Nikii, Mr Lenny, Atemi, Didge and Anto Neo-Soul.

Running a family butchery during school holidays birthed his strong entrepreneurial spirit that saw him make his first million at the age of 24.

The 48-year-old also owns other businesses, among them a security consultancy firm, and sits on the boards of Home Afrika Ltd, Absolute Security Ltd, Phoenix Aviation Ltd, Jockey Club of Kenya and Resolution Credit.

Peter Nduati is a certified chartered insurer, and holds a masters in insurance from the North East Scotland College and a bachelor of economics degree form India’s Punjab University.

He is a father of four.