It’s really popular to be a gospel artist in Kenya these days. Where you’d normally have heard gangster rap or crunk music coming from Nairobi matatus (minibus used for public transport), now it’s not uncommon to hear songs praising Mungu (God). I have never liked gospel, but some of these tunes honestly sound like something a DJ would spin at dance club on a Friday night. Furthermore, because of my strong convictions (read: evangelical atheist), it’s almost embarrassing for me to admit that some of these “Goddy” tunes are really catchy. If you don’t understand Swahili you can just bob your head to the beat and forget I ever said anything.
Jaguar — Nimetoka Mbali
This one’s actually not about God, but it’s my favorite of the three so it goes first! I think this guy comes from Tanzania, because I’ve never heard of him (and I know everything about the music scene in Kenya!). The song’s title means “I’ve come from far.” I haven’t listened to it enough to understand what he’s actually saying. For now just enjoy!
Ekko Dydda — Niko Na Reason
He “has a reason” to clap, snap, and even to “bounce and swagger” — take a guess at what it is. Anyways, it’s a good song.
Ringtone — Pamela
A song about a girl who has fallen astray from the church. The chorus goes: Pamela njoo kwa mungu, bado anakupenda (Pamela come to God, he still loves you). It’s kinda sad, but something about it is catchy to me.
Because I live under a rock I depend entirely on the guys at GetMziki to find new music. They seem to have connections all over Africa, and even African connections in America and Europe, so there is always something for everyone on their blog. Another great website is the Kenyan-based DJ crew Black Supremacy. Don’t let the name fool you: they don’t hate white people, they just love making awesome mix tapes (you’ve probably heard at least one of their mixes in a matatu).
A great song by one of Kenya’s better-known artists, Jua Cali. I’m not sure why I never heard it until now because it’s been out since late 2008. Anyways, it’s Jua Cali and Enika (apparently she’s from Tanzania). It’s a nice break from all the “I’m a thug” and “get money and bitches” music that is becoming so popular (even in Kenya). From what I can understand (and from what we see in the video), Jua Cali is reminiscing about when he was a young boy discovering his love for music.
If you want to download the MP3 you should head over to GetMziki because it was featured on their blog when the song was released.
Living in Kenya is hilarious — I’ve learned more about rap during my last two years living in Kenya than when I lived in the United States. Maybe it’s because I always listened to metal music, but there is no missing the influence of American rap on Kenyan culture (Nairobi especially). You’ve seen the matatus, right? Kenyans know about rap/hip-hop artists dating back to Tupac and Notorious B.I.G. (and even less-mainstream artists like Army of the Pharoahs and Immortal Technique which I figured only conspiracy theorists like me knew about). The most obvious influence is from the rougher ‘gangsta’ and ‘crunk’ styles like Lil Wayne, 50 Cent, Hurricane Chris, Young Juc, Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em, etc. They rap about the usual stuff: money, guns, and bitches.
Of course I don’t understand most of what these guys are talking about (sheng changes every day), but you can see the style of rapping, dress, etc where the influence comes from! These tracks are a few years old so the video quality is iffy, but the music is nice (unless you hate rap!). If you wanna be real cool, head over to Get Mziki’s urban music blog and throw this stuff in your car. You might get some funny looks but don’t be embarrassed, this stuff is hot over here!
Abbas ft. Chiwawa — 2050
I have no idea what 2050 is, but he is saying he wants a fly chick, and the chick is saying she wants a guy with a house, money, and a car. Sikiza tu (“just listen”)!