Former refugee turned Afrobeats musician is making waves in Tanzania from southwestern Ontario


A former refugee turned Afrobeats reggaeton musician has found a following in Tanzania from his home in London, Ontario.

William Kashindi, 24, or King Willie as he is known onstage, was born in Congo but his family fled during the civil war when he was two. They moved for several years, spending time in Tanzania and Malawi, eventually living in Namibia for six years in a refugee camp before immigrating to London.

“That’s the kind of life a lot of people live,” said Kashindi, who currently earns a living working in construction. “You go from country to country thinking you’ll find a better life.”

Kashindi, the eldest of six siblings, moved to London with his mother.

“She motivates me a lot,” he said.

You go from country to country thinking that you will find a better life.– King Willie

“When I think back to everything she had to go through as a single mom and with all the kids and just coming and going and never giving up, I always say to myself, I have no excuse.”

This is one of the reasons why he continued to pursue a musical career.

“She loves my music,” Kashindi said. “It’s a ringtone on his phone so when people call him it’s one of my songs and it makes me happy.”

Director Bizi Francis met King Willie at Open Door Christian Fellowship Church. (Rebecca Zandbergen/CBC News)

Growing popularity in Tanzania

For the past two years, Kashindi has traveled to Tanzania to shoot music videos, and he will return there in December with another stopover in Nigeria.

Most of Kashindi’s supporters are in Tanzania, he said. His YouTube videos have been viewed thousands of times.

“Nigeria is the birthplace of Afrobeat music,” he said. “When we talk about Afrobeat music, the biggest stars right now, the biggest artists right now, they’re from Nigeria.”

Many of Kashindi’s songs are about women and love, but he plans to expand his repertoire to include lyrics about life as a refugee.

“Whenever there is a new immigrant from Africa, my church always gets involved to try to bring them closer,” said Bizi Francis, the director of King Willie, who is also from Congo and came to Canada in 2005. “That’s how I met his family.”

Francis’ father is a pastor at Open Door Church on Dundas Street.

“I recognized the talent he has, and as a community we need to help each other move forward,” Francis said.

Kashindi has performed two concerts this year in London and will be in Iowa for a show later this month.

London morning8:56Meet Tanzanian rapper King Willie

London Morning host Rebecca Zandbergen meets London-Tanzanian rapper King Willie and finds out why he makes music.

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