Guest Author: Shishi Wanjiru
In a decade where the landscape of accessible popular music changed dramatically, we look back at some of the major game-changers who unabashedly took sonic artistry to new heights in Kenya.
Live And Die In Afrika | Sauti Sol (2015)
The LP that propelled the now-iconic boyband to international stardom saw the band creatively, visually, and sonically challenge the landscape of the Kenyan music scene, and it paid off. Self produced and released through their record label, the 15-track project marked an evolution and exploration of authentic Afroglobal sounds, garnering global recognition with unique Kenyan artistry at a time when our air waves were dominated by West African sounds.
SHE | Muthoni The Drummer Queen (2017)
SHE is a revolutionary album crafted by Muthoni Drummer Queen, dedicated to African women and all that they do in this world. She not only speaks on feminism but also addresses the malefic state of the world and what is still a male-dominated narrative here in Kenya. As an activist for the people, this album has led her into touring and playing to filled stadiums around the globe. And it shows in her artistry.
Chocolate City | Octopizzo (2014)
This is the album that showed us Octopizzo meant business. This 16 track album has some of his most famous songs to date. You may remember the sweet hook of “Stay Alive” carried through by songbird Sage, the hard-hitting hip hop flow in “Vile Inafaa” with Muthoni Drummer Queen, and “Ivo Ivo” being blasted all over the streets of Nairobi. The title is a reference to the mud-filled streets and rusty tin-roofed homes of his neighbourhood, Kibera Namba Nane. This project also solidified his position as youth ambassador for Film Aid International, the British Council, and UNHCR.
Everyone’s Just Winging It And Other Fly Tales | Blinky Bill (2018)
Prolific beat maker and genre-bending producer, Blinky’s debut project defiantly showcased his growth as an artist and the growth of the Kenyan music industry as a whole. This 12-track album serves joy and happiness through and through, shedding light on new and old talent that graces Kenya. “Mungu Halali” is a fan favourite, praising patience, hard work, and faith that it all works out in the end.
The Change Experience | Kato Change (2015)
Silky vocals weave and soar through glittering African instrumentals, thumping rhythms, and mellow sounds in this collaborative project led by experimental artist Kato Change. The album is better known for songs like “Abiro” and “Aparo” which are already acclaimed classics. Its grandeur is flanked by a detailed attention to the phonic side of Kenyan music, with contributions from groundbreaking vocalists such as Lisa Odour, Wanja Wohoro, and Karun.