"Mirabelle" by Kenyan artist, Don Ngatia.
He is a Kenyan singer, a Berkeley Alumni and all round cool cat. First time I heard him perform in front of a crowd was at an open mic gig at some random venue near Yaya, maybe ten years ago. He sang Maxwell's 'This Woman's Work' and it was a bit of a struggle for him, I think mainly because of the nerves but he hit those high notes and I was blown away.
I bumped into him later at USIU, with a Mohawk, exuding über coolness, I may have had a crush on him and he was always so polite. Next I heard he was off to Berkeley and it seemed a perfect fit. Every once in a while I would bump into him and say a quick hello when he was back in Kenya.
A couple of years went by then one day a friend of mine, Wanuri, shared a link to this guy's music on Soundcloud.
‘Lies I Told Me’ by Kenyan artist, Prisca Ojwang'.
You wouldn’t know it by looking at her that she’s a singer, and a brilliant one at that. You know, there’s a sort of 'look' or aura that artists are “supposed" to have which should immediately let you know that the person in front of you is a creative. Some have it, most don’t.
It doesn’t matter though, because it definitely isn’t a measure of how amazing an artist is. She's a Sauti Academy alumni, a place that consistently churns out great musicians.
Prisca is the kind of person who begins to sing and you do a double take because you did not see it coming. The gentle brilliance that her voice carries sort of just finds it’s way to that soft spot you didn’t even know you were guarding so fiercely.
Her lyrics, which she writes herself are also gentle in their honesty. I’m almost jealous of how simple she makes songwriting seem.
This song brings to mind instances of unrequited love and heartbreak, shifting the blame from the lover who didn’t want me, to myself, and acknowledging that maybe I just didn’t get it when whoever I wanted so bad just did not want me back. Selective amnesia, she calls it. I just laugh at myself whenever I listen to the song as it speaks to the small piece of crazy within. Maybe you will too when you listen to it.
If you are or have been in Nairobi lately, you’ll know how absolutely cold and dreary it’s been. Folks have been complaining about the great freeze, which reached it’s peak a couple of weeks ago when there was a freak hail storm. I, however, happen to love it when the weather is grey and dull. This is my favourite time of year. (read, cuddle season.)
But every once in a while over the past couple of weeks, the sun has decided to make a surprise appearance, and posts about how marvellous the sun feels on the skin have popped up here and there on my social media timelines. All that has done is make me crave the ocean, because I only truly ever enjoy the sun when the sea is lapping at my feet.
This song speaks of how this girl from South Africa moved to Kenya looking for a fresh new start, only to find that and so much more. Healing by the shores of the Indian Ocean in Mombasa.
Mishumo is affectionately know as "The Melodic Diplomat" from South Africa, and currently lives and works in Nairobi as just that.
A singing, songwriting diplomat.
Day 4."Take My Hand" by Kenyan artist, Suzziah.
Most people don’t think of Sundays as long work days. Most people are either getting their relaxation mode in high gear, prepping for the week ahead, spending time with family or recovering from weekend debauchery. Whatever it is, it usually doesn't involve work. (For the majority, that is. If you work in the service, creative or entertainment industry then scratch everything I just said.)
I on the other hand, just got home from work and I’m exhausted. I was up till 3am last night prepping for my morning radio show, and coupled with the excitement from a massively successful work event last night, I didn’t get much sleep. Add to that an interview for a TV show that went on for a few hours, and I’m running on empty.
This song however, makes me dance, and is actually what got me to drag my behind out of the car, where I had been for about half an hour trying to figure out where to get the energy to tackle the stairs. It feels like a shot of energy that hits the spot right when you need it. The beat is infectious and Suzziah’s voice carries me to a happy place.
My cousin, Nathan, sent me this song on Whatsapp earlier this week, asking me what I thought about about it. I listened to it and 20 seconds in I was sold. I asked him to get me in touch with the artist, who it turns out is his friend’s cousin, and a couple of days later she got in touch. She’s only 18 years old, about to get into her 2nd term at Sauti Academy and is also about to join University to study Psychology.
If this is what she’s putting out at 18, I can’t wait to hear more from her!
Day 5.“Love Song” by Nigerian artist, Timi Dakolo.
Anyone who knows me knows how much of a sucker for love I am. I’m that person who believes love resides in every situation, and can be found nestling between two of the most random strangers. I live my life rooting for love, fiercely fighting for it to always win.
This song is about a man begging his love to to come back to him and to declare their love for him. There’s no doubt when you listen to this song that this man really is at the end of his tether, and is fixated on having the love of his life return to him. I’m currently single but whenever I listen to this I forget that I'm happy, and begin longing for a lover that I don’t have.
Timi’s voice is laden with emotion, and I’m pretty sure even when he speaks about the mundane, he may just unwittingly tug at your heartstrings. The raspiness of his voice gives it a raw quality that convinces you, without a doubt, that his heart is shattered. I’m pretty sure he can put you in a state of melancholy, even if he sang about stew.
Timi Dakolo was the winner of the first ever Idols West Africa in 2007, beating vocal powerhouse, Omawumi at the finals. He is signed to Sony BMG and has two albums under his belt.
Day6."Aparo" by Kenyan artists, Kato Change ft Lisa Noah.
I have never figured out why, but I have a particularly strong affinity to Luo music. I don't know what it is about the language but I get a little hot under the collar when I listen to it being spoken and even more so when it's in song.
Kato is a self taught genius on the guitar who disturbed my peace from the moment I met him and heard him play almost a decade ago.
I once read a poem by John Keats called "The Eve Of St. Agnes". It says that when a maiden does a couple of things before retiring to bed on the night of the 20th of January, she will dream about her future husband. On that date in 2006, I dreamt about a man called Kato. He was tall, handsome and kind, and the dream was about our wedding day. I had freaked out about something and was having a meltdown but he was charming, patient and self assured and we went on to have a lovely day. Just a dream.
A few months later, I met the real life Kato on the set of a TV show playing the guitar for Maia Von Lekow. He was the first guitarist whose playing I noticed was not only an accompaniment to vocals, but an amazing complement to a singer's voice. Him and Maia were a match made in heaven.
I started calling him "my husband" just for fun, even though he's not particularly tall, like the Kato from my dream. But he was and still is as charming, and self assured.
Nothing happened between us, but I continue to be a starstruck fan, and I may still harbour a little crush. He has gone on to become such an accomplished, sought after musician, creating such beautiful, sounds with his guitar.
As for Lisa. Well, she sings and the earth slows down on its axis to marvel. The air becomes a little lighter, and colours become brighter. Spirits are lifted, egos assuaged, hearts become full and pain, a distant memory. Everyone in her audience feels a sense of calm excitement and wonder, and for a moment, I'd like to imagine, the world is a perfect place.
She is currently at The Berkeley School of Music.
I'm glad I live in a time where these two exist.
Day 7.“My Love, My Love” by Nigerian/German Singer, Nneka.
Another love song. Nneka, from the very start of her career established herself as a politically conscious artist, and emotively sang about social issues and a quest for justice. I remember she once said something to the effect that if there wasn’t any injustice to sing out against, then she wouldn’t sing. She's been a African voice over the years and has worked with powerhouses from across the globe. She is know best for her song, "Heartbeat."
Watching her sing live can be emotionally challenging. She once performed in Nairobi and what I had expected to be a fun night of light hearted partying turned into an evening of angst and self introspection. She was raw, and real and I think she may have been having a rough day. At some point she was crying on stage, if I remember correctly. And I cried with her.
This song is an unexpected release from her from her most recent album, "My Fairy Tales.". Even the video is a visceral show of openness and vulnerability (at some point she’s on the toilet). She’s in love, and she’s letting the world know.
She seems softer, lighter.