THE fifth edition of the Tusker Project Fame (TPF5) musical competition started on Sunday with three of the six contestants on pre-show probation being eliminated among them a Rwandan contestant.
Rwanda remains with only two representatives, who will have to battle it out with 13 other contestants; four Kenyans, two Tanzanians, two Ugandans, two South Sudanese and three Burundians, for the whopping cash prize of Ksh5 million (approximately Rwf35 million).
Making a comeback this season are judges; Ian Mbugua from Kenya, Juliana Kanyomozi from Uganda, Hermes Bariki from Tanzania. A fourth judge from South Africa-based Universal Music Group joins the trio.
The faculty team is led by Hellen Mtawali as principal, Robert Kimanzi, as music director, Kavutha Asiyo, voice coach, Aaron Rimbui, band leader and Edwin Omondi, in charge of choreography and fitness.
The 15 TPF5 contestants
Name: Pacifique Gashuri
Twenty-two year-old Gashuri describes the day he discovered that he had been short-listed for the gala show as his happiest moment.
The university student from Burundi is also a gifted soccer goalkeeper as well as guitarist.
He is grateful that his father, who is a Bishop, is quite supportive of his passion in music.
Name: Steve Homes
Steve Homes is a 25-year-old Nakuru town native, who describes himself as a simple guy.
His mother is very dear to him and he says his happiest memory was the pride in her eyes on his university graduation day.
His favourite contestant is Linda Muthama from Season 1.
Name: Mer Ayang
Country: South Sudan
The 26-year-old, marketing manager and African studies student, describes herself as inquisitive and easy going by nature.
She is into African music and lists Asa, Angelique Kidjo and Miriam Makeba as some of her favourite musicians.
Asked who her favourite contestant in the past has been she answers without a pause, "It must be my sister Palek."
Name: Fatuma Muhoza
It was second time lucky for Muhoza after she had failed to make it in past auditions since 2009. The judges advised her to work on her voice and that is exactly what she did. Since then she has been performing in hotels in Kigali and cites getting a contract to perform in Kigali's biggest hotel as her biggest achievement.
Muhoza comes from a humble background and says finishing her secondary school, as well as educating her two younger siblings is what keeps her motivated when the going gets tough.
Amileena is her favourite past Tusker Project Fame contestant and she loves listening to Toni Braxton, Jill Scott and Kim Burrell. She hopes to use the exposure to further her music career as well as help the disadvantaged in the society.
Name: Samantha Nzeyimana
The petite first year student of communications in university, knew music was her calling at 13, after performing at a charity event to raise funds for an orphanage.
She was informed by a friend about the Tusker Project Fame auditions and did not hesitate to try her luck.
Name: Doreen Nyawira
Doreen, 21, is a student at the University of Nairobi and hails from Nyahururu. Creativity should be her middle name as not only does she sing; she is also a poet and author. Her first book is already at a publishing house. She also enjoys painting.
Name: Imani Lissu
For 30-year-old Imani Lissu, the opportunity to join the Tusker Project Fame academy is priceless because of the music lessons conducted by the faculty.
Imani plays African drums and has performed with a few bands in her native country.
Her favourite artists are Michael Bolton, Celine Dion and Cece Winans, while her music of choice is Zouk, Rhumba and R&B. She loved past contestant Alpha from TPF3.
Name: Jackson Kalimba
This adventurous second year economics student at a local university started singing at the age of 5.
Besides watching movies and taking evening walks, he loves to party.
His music icons are Mary J Blige, John Legend and Stevie Wonder.
The fourth born in a family of six siblings considers Alpha Rwangira as his favourite past Tusker Project Fame contestant.
Name: Joe Christian Irankuda
"Live life! It's never that serious," is the mantra 24-year-old lives by.
He is a first year student pursuing a degree in Marketing at the International Leadership University.
His favourite musicians are Lionel Richie, Kenny Rodgers and Tracy Chapman. His favourite past Tusker Project Fame contestant is Davis.
Name: Sekiranda Allan Roy
This talkative 21-year-old contestant just completed his secondary education and is currently a 'vaccist'.
His number one hobby is partying and he says that one of his happiest memories is when he went to the rave for the first time, while in his second year of high school even though it got him into deep trouble with his mother.
His favourite past Tusker Project Fame contestant is Alpha.
Name: Nancy Chan
Country: South Sudan.
Neesa, as she is called by friends, was born in Khartoum but now lives in South Sudan after her family relocated.
She first dabbled in music at a young age together with her siblings in the family band.
Without a doubt her favourite past contestant is her cousin Palek.
Name: Eunice Gutu
Gutu, 25 is from Nakuru and has been singing since she was in high school.
She formed a musical group with two of her friends while in Form 3 and they even went to record some music at Calif records.
Name: Ruth Matete
Ruth, 26, had just completed her undergraduate studies in communication when she went for the auditions in Nairobi.
The petite singer is an only child, raised by a single dad after her mum passed on when she was only 8. She says that she will miss him while in the Academy.
She decided to try out for Tusker Project Fame because she believes the platform is just right for an aspiring musician.
Name: Damien Mihayo
A second born from a humble family of three siblings, Mihayo is a self-proclaimed composer, singer and visual artist.
The 25-year-old, who is into fashion and modeling, describes himself as calm and systematic.
Mihayo's lowest point in life was when his three best friends drowned in the Indian Ocean as he watched. He believes that through music, he will add colour and life to society.
Name: Sharon Nahkioga
Nahkioga is a 23-year-old student currently pursuing a diploma in cosmetology.
Besides singing, she loves all things to do with beauty and hair.
She attributes her interest in music and singing to listening to Julianna Kanyamozi, Cece Winans and the South African band Freshly Ground.