You all by now know how keen I am when it comes to music. I say it has to have one or all of three things to be on my playlist; musicality, lyrics and delivery. My favourite musicians are those who sound just as good live as they sound on record. This means I am that ol’ skool girl who believes if you venture into music, you have to have an understanding of it intellectually. If it was just talent, all of us can sing or rap including me. We have for a long time discredited Kenyan music as not as good as Nigerian, Congolese or South African. We have also insisted on claiming that Kenyans do not give a hoot about lyrics. Well that could be true…
“Ilibidi niokoke ndio niwashe jiko,
Siko kwa canality juu niko ritho,
Ulimi bado rive, risasi zipo”
Tell me about it(sigh!) BUT there are really good musicians in Kenya. Some you have not heard of in the mainstream media simply because they are not the shake your bam bam style. I’ll highlight just a few then you can do your homework too.
You definitely saw this coming, right? Have you heard these four ninjas on stage? Their harmonies sync perfectly just the way you hear it on radio. You can also tell that they take time to work on a single piece because the lyric always makes sense and is quite relatable. They also have book knowledge of music. All members of Sauti Sol do not just sing, they can write, produce and play an instrument. Their songs are soothing to the ears and soul. They range from a romantic dinner to a crazy night at the club. Sauti Sol has all it takes to be on my playlist. If you listen keenly you can note how balanced every instrument in the song is and whether it’s a video or live, you want to watch them because their energy is contagious. This is the peak of music success for me, so upcoming musicians; this is your marking scheme.
They got me at live performance again, the Trio never disappoints. They brought a breath of fresh air to the industry; for the first time lyrics are in Kiswahili sanifu and it is not from the coast. They also introduced a sound we never had that I could call a Kenyan signature. The acoustics are always well balanced out, their lyric has always addressed a modern social issue in Kenya and when they sing they give it their all. An Elani playlist on a laid back Saturday with your significant other is all the therapy you need.
The Band Beca
The most recent, two very young girls who I think have found good mentorship and management. I never thought girls of their age would put so much thought to lyrics and delivery. I have not heard them on stage but from how they sound when they give a tease at interviews, they were destined for music. Their song ‘Tonight’ is one of my favourites because it clearly explores their vocal capability with minimal instrumentals. They feature Pettra, that girl raps like she was born for it, I’ll dig up her story and feed it to you sometime soon. They say girl groups don’t hold up for long, I hope this one lasts for eternity.
Radio Queen sounds as good as she looks. She has been in the game since and she is aging like wine, finer by the day. If I was to crown anyone, Queen of Rn’B in Kenya I would gladly pick Sana. She was the one girl who dared to sing Rn’B in Kiswahili and boy did it sound good. I am still stuck up on ‘Mfalme wa Mapenzi’ although she blew my mind away with Kidum on ‘Mulika Mwizi’. She is a lioness on stage, roars loud enough to inject an emotion. The girl has been to a music class because when she performs she connects with her audience.
He can sing and rap, that’s a keeper (hahaha) I mean that in every musical way. Nyash is the perfect definition of a lyrical miracle; he rhymes and makes sense, something that can rarely be achieved now. He has also introduced a style that makes rap sound musical, he sings his chorus and raps his verses and what makes this everything I ever dreamed of is that he sounds just like that performing live on stage.
Rabbit (Kaka Sungura)
This man has mastered the art of delivering his personality musically. Listening to Kaka talking is no different from listening to him on stage with instrumentals. His style of speech, vocal tone, and facial expressions is all natural. He literally lives his kawa life in his music. I will give Rabbit all credits when it comes to telling real life stories. His rhyme game is too strong yet every sentence makes sense and every song narrates an event. The calm personality is all the delivery we want and he does bring it.
I still could go on but my list won’t end today. These are just mainstream; there are upcoming ones who are just heaven sent. Check the column to learn of others I’m sure you do not hear of often. Music industry in Kenya is dope; stay loyal to us.