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Kenyan Olympic Swimmer Jason Dunford quit it all for music

Jason Stunford
Former Olympic swimmer Jason Stunford. Photo/ Alchetron

There is nothing as strong as a man with passion. It drives his life to heights you could never imagine and Kenyan-born Olympic swimmer Jason Dunford epitomizes this. Dunford quit swimming and journalist job to venture into Gengetone music – a new age genre where he earned a new moniker ‘Samaki Mkuu’.

Simply, his industry name loosely translates to ‘the big fish’, a name coined from his lifelong swimming career. But, there is more to Jason’s name in the pool scene.

Who is Jason Dunford?

The Olympic swimmer was born and bred in Kenya. His parents Martin and Geraldine Dunford are the proprietors of Tamarind Group that owns the famous Carnivore Restaurant in Nairobi.

Jason Stunford

Jason Stunford. Photo/ World Open Water Swimming Association

He has two other siblings Robert and David who at one point in their lives took up professional swimming. Perhaps, they took it from their father Martin who was the vice-chairman of the Kenya Swimming Federation. He was also the patron of the Nairobi Amateur Swimming Association (NASA) years back.

Being brought up in a bubbly East African capital, Jason attended the prestigious Kenton College.

When Did Jason Dunford Start Swimming?

Jason started swimming when he was five years old under coach Andrew Nderu. By the time he hit 13, he was a swimming champion in East Africa. Jason’s love for swimming on the international stage was bolstered by a scholarship to Marlborough College in the United Kingdom.

Former British international swimmer Peter O’Sullivan became his coach as he studied in the UK. Under his guidance, Jason looked for an opening in the US to further his swimming career.

The Kenyan Olympic swimmer left the UK for the US in 2005 after completing his A-Levels. He joined Stanford University on a swimming scholarship as he pursued Human Biology and graduated in 2009.

Jason Dunford Representing Kenya in the Olympics for the first time

All through his four-year scholarship at Stanford University, he competed in major swimming competitions. One of those was the 2006 Short Course World Championships in Shanghai and got to the semi-finals.

He, however, missed the 2006 Commonwealth Games but his major breakthrough came when he least expected it. It was at the 2006 African Swimming Championships in Dakar, Senegal, and won his first two gold medals in the 100m butterfly 50m butterfly.

He also bagged three silver medals in 50m butterfly, 100m and 200m freestyle, and one bronze 50m freestyle.

Jason’s subsequent wins after the Dakar championships booked him recognition as the Kenyan Sportsman of the Year award (2006). He would become Kenya’s first Olympic swimmer qualifier at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Jason competed in the 100m butterfly as well as the 100m freestyle.

Why Did Jason Dunford Retire From Swimming?

Nearly a decade in representing Kenya on the international stage, Jason competed last at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. He reached the final in the 50m and 100 m butterfly.

And he called it a day saying he had a good run swimming and now was time to focus on something else.

Between 2014 and 2016, he worked in sales, business development, and project management in San Francisco Bay Area. He worked for two companies.

The Kenyan Olympian swimmer went back to Stanford Graduate School of Business to pursue his MBA and graduated in 2018. He also founded his company Safi Analytics int in the course of his MBA.

Jason Dunford Joins BBC

In yet another twist, Jason joined BBC’s Business division team as a broadcast journalist working in Africa. He worked alongside Larry Madowo who headed the BBC Africa business desk from 2018.

He reported and produced shows for Smart Money, Biashara Bomba, Money Daily, and Mitikasi Leo.

Jason Dunford Quit BBC For Music

Jason Stunford

Former Olympic swimmer Jason Stunford. Photo/ Alchetron

No one expected Jason to quit BBC for music. It was such a surprise for his fans. But it later emerged that he fell in love with rap music in 2018 when he first met Romantico.

Carried away by the love for music, he quit the newsroom in October 2019 and ventured into music full-time. He goes by the name ‘Samaki Mkuu’, a name he coined when writing one of the verses.

Together with Romantico, they formed a musical duo with Gengetone being their niche. The genre infuses afrobeat and reggaeton beats. Two years later, he doesn’t look back and keeps producing hits.

A journalism professional with hands-on experience in radio and digital content editing and publishing. A team player who achieves work goals through teamwork and collaboration. Willing to learn and take calculated risks to get work done.

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