Have you watched the new song by Sol Generation, 'Extravaganza’? That was the question being popped to every Kenyan across the streets of Nairobi and on social media platforms.
The doctor said I would go blind by 2013 - Inspiring story of sol generation star Crystal Asige (EXCLUSIVE)
I have undergone 8 surgeries but none has worked - Asige
Damn! Those kids are talented - netizens heaped praise on the young turks who had stormed the music industry unapologetically, thrust into the public limelight by one of the best boy bands in Kenya, Sauti Sol.
We are sorry basi! You had to literally apologise for not having a glimpse of the song. The pressure on these streets!
The new kids on the block had announced themselves, but one thing stood out, the melodious voice of the only lady who had ‘glowing’ eyes, donned in white in the video.
Pulselive.co.ke caught up with the first lady signee at Sol Generation - the record label started by Sauti sol - Ms Crystal Asige
Born and Raised in Mombasa County
Ms Asige was born and raised in Bombolulu, Mombasa County before she flew to the UK in 2007 for further studies, she tells this journalist.
At a tender age, Ms Asige always had a dream of becoming a musician and film producer, something her mother noted and began moulding into talent.
“My Mom tells me I used to come home from nursery school and instead of telling her about the bullies at school, I would sing about it and that used to calm me down and made me stop crying.
“She would take me to every party, work place, church functions and ask whether I could be allowed to sing one song. I used this as an opportunity to ‘blackmail’ mom and we agreed that if I was to sing at all events I had accompanied her to, then she would have to buy me chicken and chips, she had little option but to agree,” Ms Asige says.
Ms Asige’s life was progressing well and just like any other child, she proceeded to high school while nurturing her singing talent.
I developed complications with my eyesight while in High school
The Sol Generation star recalls that up until high school, she had never encountered any serious medical health condition until she began experiencing difficulties in reading.
She went to see an optician and all she received was a pair of glasses to help her read and some medication with the promise all would be well.
“Just before I finished High School when I was like 15 or 16 years, I started noticing that something was wrong with my eyesight. I wasn’t able to read my scripts, see the blackboard properly, I had to bring my scripts really close to my eyes to be able to see; sometimes when I played sports, the ball could be thrown at me and all I could see were just some black spots.
“However, I just pegged it on the fact that both my parents wore glasses and I needed to get a pair for myself. I didn't pay much attention to it, got my glasses and everything turned out well,” she states.
Ms Asige cleared high school, and lucky for her , she got a chance to study film and theatre in the UK at the University of West England, Bristol in 2007. This was a dream come true and everything was going according to plan.
While schooling in UK, her vision began fading again, this time it was too intense and she could barely read or see anything, with no family to support or be with her, she went to see an optician.
Ms Asige was Diagnosed with Glaucoma
The now popular artiste trembled when the optician told her to see an eye doctor immediately; confused and anxious, she reached out to her mom via Skype to explain what the doctor had said.
Just like any mother would do, she encouraged and soothed her daughter, though back at home she was worried and gravely concerned.
“‘Crystal I don’t want to alarm you but you need to go to an eye hospital immediately, stop everything you are doing.’ It was a Saturday, he freaked me out completely! I asked what was wrong and he told me the pressure in my eyes was extremely high and I had to see an eye doctor immediately not just an Optician,” Asige narrates.
She remembers that back in Kenya, the optician didn’t diagnose her with any issue and only prescribed eye drops and glasses.
Ms Asige gathered courage and visited the eye doctor and that was when she received a piece of information that would change her life forever.
“They told me that I had a disease called Glaucoma which tends to eat away the retina, which is responsible for sending images to the brain for recognition, and the disease has no cure. Further tests were done and the doctor predicted that I would go blind by 2013,” she recalls, one can tell that the news is still fresh in her memory.
To make matters worse, the doctor said the condition was discovered late and there was nothing much they could do. She was crushed after receiving the news and felt like it was the end of life.
I have undergone 8 surgeries in 6 Years
After a year of taking medication with no improvement, the doctor advised her to undergo surgery.
On October 12th 2010, Ms Asige agreed to undergo her first surgery with the doctor promising it would drastically improve her sight, but that was never to be.
“Since that first surgery I kept chasing my eyesight and in the next 6 years I had additional seven surgeries, trying to regain my eyesight but they didn’t help,” she adds.
In December the same year, the now Sol Generation star came back to Kenya for holidays for about ten months and that’s when reality sunk in. She harbored suicidal thoughts and went into depression, having low self esteem and battling loneliness as people started to disappear in her life apart from her family.
“The reality that I was going to lose my eyesight forever was terrifying,” Ms Asige states, “I wanted to commit suicide many times, its only that I was back at home in Mombasa, so my parents were taking care of me and having family around helped me not to actualize the thoughts.”
Ms Asige managed to pull herself through, and with the support of her family, she accepted her situation and moved back to the UK in 2011.
“I think the support system I got at home helped me a lot on how to bounce back. I just woke up one morning after a crazy dream and I knew that God was with me, that was all I needed,” the Extravaganza sensation says.
Ms Asige got a job with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) where she worked between 2011 - 2013.
“When I joined BBC I was 80% blind but now I’m even worse. I don’t see anything, I can only see small, small lights that shine in front of me. I’m legally blind, not like it's dark completely, but if there is no light right in front of me I can’t even see my own hand,” the artist says.
She came back to Kenya after that and began looking for another job which proved quite difficult until she settled on doing her own gigs.
How Crystal Asige linked up with Sauti Sol
Ms Asige narrates that she bumped into Sauti Sol’s Bien during one of her travels to Nairobi for a Karaoke performance.
“I used to travel all the way from Mombasa for Karaoke nights in Nairobi to try and get a hold of big names by then in the music industry, luckily, I met Bien and he invited me to their studio in Ngara but at that time they were also just starting out so they had little to offer. We lost contact, I went to the UK then came back. Then two years ago someone who knows both of us, told me Bien was looking for songwriters.
“I didn’t know why he was looking for songwriters, I had no clue about Sol Generation. He was given my name by a mutual connection. So he was told a lot about me but only recognized me when we met, ‘That little girl from Mombasa who used to disturb them back in the day.’ So there's this one session that we were writing and jamming in the studio when I met another writer and that’s Nviiri the storyteller. Later, I met Kaskazini at an event in Mombasa and met Ben Sol last. After that, Sauti Sol officially told us about Sol Generation,” she says.
Despite being a singer and a songwriter, the Extravaganza hitmaker, is also a programs manager at the Open Institute in Nairobi. She also mentions that she was left inspired and yearning for more after the release of “Extravaganza” which has taken Kenyans by storm.
“The comments from Extravaganza are just out of this world, they tell me how amazing my clothes and my hair was in the video. And the best part is when they compliment my eyes which have been like the biggest pain in my life. It’s just amazing. And the fact that I can now reach more after Extravaganza it just fulfilling,” she states.
As we conclude the interview, the Sol Generation star has a word for the youth, “In this era it’s important that you stay in your lane and allow yourself to be you. But as you do that always make sure that you put in work and consistency. It might take some time but when you are consistent in what you are doing it will eventually pay off. Don’t rush life. Had I quit what I was doing the moment I was told I was going to go blind, I would not be here.”
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