Tag Archive: music


10841221_10152834053202559_489482431_n“It’s an honour yet a challenge to be Tabu Ley’s son. People want me to be exactly like my Dad. But it’s impossible because I am another man,” says Pegguy Tabu Ley, a musician in his own right. His father is the celebrated Congolese singer and songwriter, Tabu Ley Rochereau, famed for his inimitable song-writing skills and extensive discography (250 albums).

I first got introduced to Pegguy’s music by Cleo (one of the ladies organising Sauti Sol’s concert in Paris tonight, where Pegguy will perform too). I found his voice extremely sweet and alluring making him one of the people I am looking forward to meet when I arrive in France.

When I am finally around him at the concert venue before kick off, nobody introduces us to each other. He is however kind enough to come introduce himself (just as Pegguy). We speak some French. I don’t recognise him from the music videos though I assume he’s just another awesome singer. It must be events that have occurred in the past 24 hours. To get here, I have just spent over 16 hours between airports and haven’t slept one bit since arrival.

Read the series: To Paris with Love.

I like his headphones and style. His harem sweatpants are dope. He’s very keen when any type of music starts to play in the room. And zones out in a dance when Sauti Sol run soundcheck. He seems pretty excited by their sound. I explain my work as their publicist, after which he tells me he would love to work with them. I only discover that Pegguy is Tabu Ley’s son after I’ve left the venue. Polycarp of Sauti Sol tells me, “You know that was Tabu Ley’s son you were talking to…” No kidding! I retort. This is long after we’ve already exchanged contacts.

Seeing Pegguy perform later on leaves me speechless. In Swahili we say, sauti ya kutoa nyoka pangoni. He’s got that kind of voice that will get you hooked like superglue. It’s almost like old meets new. It’s got some of that Tabu Ley finesse and a crispy run that can give Fally Ipupa a run for his money. Sometimes, he sounds just like Tabu Ley.

Tabu Ley is credited for pioneering Sokous (African rumba) music and mentoring some great Congolese singers like Papa Wemba (who I met and interviewed this year. I need to finish that report). In 1985, Tabu Ley composed for M’bilia the song “Twende Nairobi” (Na Ke Nayirobi) for their friends from Nairobi, after the Government of Kenya banned all foreign music from the National Radio service. The song soon became a Pan-African hit and one that resonated with many Kenyans forcing the then President to lift the ban. “My father had more than 3000 songs,” says Pegguy while trying to recall the song. I refresh his memory, “It means let’s go to Nairobi.” He remembers it quickly declaring his love for it.

“When Tabu Ley played, my life nearly came to a stop,” says Leonard Mambo Mbotela about Kenya’s attempted coup in 1982.

Renowned Queen of Congolese rumba, M’bilia Bel rose to fame after being discovered by Tabu Ley, who ended up marrying her. “Is your mummy M’bilia?” I’ve been itching to ask Pegguy. “No. My mum is Mundy, Miss Zaire in 1969. My father had many songs about her.” I see where he gets the looks. “And she is still beautiful,” he adds cheekily. Tabu had many women and many children (up to 68), the latter whom Pegguy says he knows most of. In fact he’s been working closely with his brother, French rapper Youssoupha.

Pegguy moved to Europe as a young boy together with his family. He is now based in Luxembourg. 2008 was the first time he returned to his native Congo since the move. He says, “I found my own way through my father’s music but Congo made me discover my real music identity.” Despite having worked as a composer and producer with some top artists in France like Vitaa, Diam’s and Booba, Pegguy is now concentrating all his efforts towards his solo career and reaching out to Congo. He has started a series of shows “Pegguy Tabu sings Tabu Ley” that shuffle in between Luxembourg and Congo.

In a few weeks (Jan 2015) Pegguy will be in Congo to promote his music. By the end of 2015, he will have launched his first solo album -“a mix of European, American and African music.” He sends me his new Lingala song,”Limbisa” (Forgive). The baby-making song is a distant relative to “Signs of Love Makin” by Tyrese. It’s unreleased and might be his next, he tells me. It’s got that Rico Love quiet storm R&B vibe, and vocals that will make the ladies wonder where Pegguy has been all this time.

tabu-ley-hidden-gems

“If you want success, you must be in the service of people.”- biggest life lesson Pegguy says he learnt from his Dad.

Tabu Ley died in 2013 while undergoing treatment for a stroke he suffered in 2008. Pegguy reveals that his Dad’s gregarious character and humour is the one thing the world never knew of Tabu. He says he also misses his Dad’s counsel the most.

A reveller comments after a Pegguy 2012 concert in Congo, “Pegguy is not a continuation but the resurrection of Tabu Ley.” While Pegguy can’t run from being constantly compared to his father, he’s on a mission to define his own sound. It’s a thin line that sometimes excites him just as much as it brings frustration. He beams, “People in Congo were impressed by the similarity of my voice to my father’s.” While many people want to hear just Tabu Ley in Pegguy, he’s cut out from a cloth that draped him for a bigger garment. “My Dad wanted me to be a singer for the people,” says Pegguy, who seems content living his Dad’s wish—just making music for people, irrespective of where they are from. In fact, he is interested in my PR services to promote his singles in Kenya, a venture I am considering very seriously.

Tabu Ley was my late father’s favourite singer. For the first eight years of my life, only Tabu Ley music played the most at our house. I tell Pegguy, who only responds with a “Cool!” Tabu Ley was and still is the King of rumba for so many of our parents; could you imagine the number of people who say that to any of Tabu’s kids? Either way – meeting his son makes me feel a tad little closer to the stuff that make legend.

BONUS: When I ask Pegguy if I could blog about him and his Dad, I am not sure I will be getting a yes. But he’s cool and even says cooler things about my Black Roses :-) Pegguy Merci beaucoup!

MiguelMiguel is not a regular Grammy-Award winning singer. His aesthetic speaks louder than his sound—a fuse of the 90s music feel and an inexplicable futuristic vibe that probably made Vibe Magazine recently brand him and Kendrick Lamar as “The New Classics.” From his sturdy creative direction, velvety voice, naughty yet catchy lyrics like [I don’t wanna be loved, I just want a quickie) to simply how he adorns and moves in the classic black trench coat in How Many Drinks? music video; it’s literally hard to point at what’s not to love about this man.

His debut album All I Want Is You, released in 2010 was pretty solid but still wasn’t impressive enough for a lot music critics. I thought it was an ode to lost R&B and probably the first sign of Miguel coming to the rescue of the genre that in a few years would be overtaken by pop. Jodeci or Shai would in this decade easily produce a song like Miguel’s Teach Me—it’s lazy sexy and slurry beat echoes Jodeci’s baby-making hit Freek’N You. Only Quickie, Sure Thing and the album’s title track All I Want Is You featuring J. Cole shone, the latter’s hip hop/R&B combi pushing both artists to topping radio charts.  My stand out tracks in this album was My Piece and Girls Like You. In the latter, Miguel sings about single-hood  There’s always that guy/girl you can’t have but will always remind you that you’re lonely. Here, his electric guitarist delivers a stellar recording. Sure Thing is my all-time favorite Miguel song, also from this album. [Love you like a brother, treat you like a friend, respect you like a lover … this love is a sure thing]. I appreciate the poetry in this masterpiece.

In early 2012, Miguel released Art Dealer Chic Vol 1 & 2 EPs. The six-tracked two-part record birthed songs like Adorn and Gravity that would later feature in his sophomore album Kaleidoscope Dream, released later in the year ( September). The album’s first single Adorn went on win him many fans and the 2013 Grammy Award for R&B Song.

It’s a dream come true to find an album like Kaleidoscope Dream that needs no skip-a-track dial. The vocal arrangements in its title track Kaleidoscope Dream give the listener a whimsical and smooth welcoming into the album’s experience. I like that here Adorn was given the entirety it deserves. The first Adorn off the EP was only two minutes long and ends even without a bridge. Anyway, Adorn has probably one of the sickest kicks I ever heard and it’s just cute for anyone to say, “Let my love adorn you.” Other Must-Listens in this album include Do You (whose video’s love interest is Miguel’s actual girlfriend Nadia –sweet), The Thrill and Where’s The Fun In Forever? (Miguel originally wrote this song for Alicia Keys and took it back when it didn’t fit into her Girl On Fire album) that features Alicia Keys only shouting “Music Break” at the rear end—bizarre doesn’t start to explain this collaboration that never really was.

How Many Drinks? 4.33

This song slowly overtook my love for Adorn as my best Miguel song off the new album. I just like its feel-good vibe and story line. Here, Miguel wears the shoes of a man in the club and in need of a lay. Unlike the old trick of buying a woman gallons of vodka, he sings [How many drinks will it take for you to go home with me? I don’t want to waste your time or my time] The message in this song is deep. I am not championing picking girls or men in the club but the policy that when you want something, whatever it may be—go for it! [I aint’ judging if you decide that you might be f* tonight] How Many Drinks? Remix featuring Kendrick Lamar is a fantastic marriage and its video –clean, classy and classic! (Check that alliteration am ill :-)

Pussy Is Mine 3.13

I just want to know why R&B lovers crucified Brian McKnight for singing about pussy yet Miguel’s pussy song wasn’t jeered at all. It must be an age thing. It just sounds wrong singing about pussy in your 40s but which girl wouldn’t want the sexy 28-year-old Miguel singing raunchy things into her ear? I love that the naughtiest song had to be the only acoustic song in Miguel’s entire discography and absolutely hate that I sometimes find myself singing it out loud [Tell me that pussy is mine]. Do guys actually go around saying, “That P* is mine?”

Candles In The Sun 4.56

A lot of good and bad things alike happen in life; while some happen around, others are miles away. But we are brought together by the power of media and music to know of gang rapes in Syria, illegal drug trafficking in Mexico, foreign house helps being mistreated in Dubai, Kony marshaling child soldiers in Uganda and our own country’s inequality among worldly events. This song is about such times. It equates humans to silly creatures that light candles in the sun, blowing in the wind. Miguel sings [If there’s a God is He watching? Is She watching? If not, where are we going? What are we doing? … They say that we are all created equal but that’s not how we treat each other… When the sun goes down, heroes are shot; will it be too late to find out?]

BONUS: “May we all live long, may we all be brave. And the bridges we burned only light our way,” Miguel. I just reviewed Miguel’s entire discography in one post. Biggest Kenyan fan.

Frank Ocean is no stranger to murky waters. Prodded by Hurricane Katrina from his native New Orleans, he moved to L.A to pursue a career in music. After experiencing waves with record labels, he broke out solo in 2011 releasing his debut, Nostalgia Ultra (NU), a mixtape. Its critical acclaim was a show for Ocean swimming good into genres broader than R&B/hip hop.

Delving deeper, Frank recently came out (labeling himself neither gay or bisexual) in an open letter via his Tumblr blog, declaring that a man was indeed his first love, amidst girlfriends and confusion. While some critics took the lackadaisical confession as uncalled for, a myriad of celebrities including Mama Blue Ivy, Jermaine Dupri and Russell Simmons showed their support. And Frank was well above his strokes at the verge of unleashing his official debut album cum sophomore effort; Channel Orange (CO) released in July 2012.

Half the time, there’s nothing (or nobody) like your first. So to speak, CO is rather a guaranteed will-fall-in-love-with album; as opposed to NU’s love-at-first-listen gift but nonetheless a befitting sequel, once again displaying Frank as an effortless juggler of innovative sounds, poetic lyricism and emotions running nude.

2. Thinking about you 03.20

This alluring entrée into the album is served with a falsetto that would put Usher to shame. The poignant composition is a quest of a carrier of love un-returned seeking THE answer, “Do you not think so far ahead? Coz I’ve been thinking about forever”. I heard so many covers of this song before this original version, and I’ve come to a conclusion that all other singers should be banned from it with immediate effect because only Frank killed it straight up that nothing was left.

7. Super Rich Kids feat Earl Sweatshirt 05.04

From big cars, money to drugs and servants, this is a story of the lives of super rich kids, laden with a heavy R&B beat, complete with a slurry hook, a melodic incarnation of Mary J’s chorus to Real Love. Earl’s lazy flow rap is the kind of stuff you want to be high on all year round. Sick collabo!

10. Pyramids 09.52

Half split into dance and dub step, respectively, this track is definitely a favorite! Also making for a serious club banger! The song is a weird yet beautiful lyrical journey starring Cleopatra as the stripper and the cheetahs; an analogy for ‘hungry’ men. They are set loose but her legion still stands tall as she’s working at the pyramids, a place where she makes many (including him) feel brand new and loved, though not for free. Someone please tell Frank to write me a book on poems. BTW the vocal arrangement in this one is the album’s most outstanding!

11. Lost 03.54

Certified iPod banger! Frank sings about love lost. The song is a mirror to the many worthless pursuits of the world. Like being hopeless in love with a girl who could never care that she was overweight more than unemployed, or her sightless thrills, even if urged to modify. Miami, Amsterdam, Tokyo, Spain, L.A, India or Kenya, wherever in the world, she’d still be lost and so would he, in the heat of it all, he sings.

Ok. I admit I added Kenya to that list. Nway the ad-libs on this one make me want to get so freaking lost that Frank would just serenade me back into my senses if not into his life. I mean I kinda have a model figure & a job too :-) Something’s gotta give!

14. Bad Religion 02.55

‘If it brings me to my knees it’s a bad religion’.

The embodiment of short & sweet and probably the most beautifully written song I’ve heard since I can remember. It’s paradoxical twist will get to you if you listen keenly.  The song is a one-way verbal diarrhea at a taxi driver, the last resort to getting out burning emotions of love unrequited, a one-man cult, he sings. And after all that confession, the driver only said to him, ‘Allah Hu Akbar’.

It’s human nature that we nearly if not entirely worship those we truly love, even when they don’t return back the favor. Those un-reciprocating gods account for millions of followers of a bad religion (what Frank equates to being in love with someone who could never love you). He’s actually singing about [his] first love here. Did you cringe? I did, but probably for a different reason. The last 30 secs of his ad-libbing is the most heartfelt thing I’ve ever heard from Frank making me think of only two things I want to do: Kiss & Love Frank Ocean. I mean who could never love this man, and make him sad? Also this is the kind of song with two extremes, you either dig or not. And it’s true, we’ve all been in a bad religion, at least once.

15. Pink Matter feat Andre 3000

If you weren’t already acquitted to Frank Ocean, Pink Matter is by far the closest this album has channeled him back to the brilliance of NU. From Frank’s poetically jotted lyrics about a quest to know what lies beneath every matter (be it heart, a box or body), his sweet revarb-ing vocals, to Andre’s inexplicable rap/vocal prowess, this track is Frank’s best collaborative effort so far.

The complete Channel Orange has 17 tracks,  including must-listens like Forrest Gump and the guitaresque Sweet Life. I have new-found respect for Frank’s honest expression through his music. Away from fame and fortune or whatever else could come out of this, Frank is a beacon of redemption for any person ostracized for whoever or whatever they loved or stood for. For love is love. And music makes the world go round. And if anyone can’t understand that, then they should jump into an ocean already. I recommend Channel Orange, just be prepared for a good swim.

For more info dive into frankocean.com

BONUS: Check out this 9 minute interview of Frank talking about creativity, inspiration and how he appreciated his first chance to write his own songs for NU.

Contemporary R&B/soul fused in eclectic soft rock, best describes songs in Kameron Corvet’s new mixtape titled, “F_ck Love” (Released February 2012). With a falsetto comparable to The Dream’s and some of that raw Frank Ocean lyricism and inexplicable genius, Kameron shows love the finger while sitting on its proverbial fence. The EP is a confession of roller coaster love; from gooey heartbreak songs to egotistic flirtations and sexual show off, it really is a hot whirlwind–begging the question, what’s love?

Must you fall to be in love? Must you lose yourself in love? Wait, must you love? Is that warm fuzzy feeling love? ‘Fuck it, fuck love!’ You’ve probably said that once, twice or maybe never. But it’s highly likely that you’ve once had the secret dream to love or be loved.

2. Legends of the fall 03.32

Replay material. Great neo soul track. I loved how the guitars are laden by the hauntingly funky drums like the ones from The Gap Band’s, “Outstanding” or if you remember better, Soul For Real’s “Every Little Thing I Do”.  He’s spotted a hot girl whose spotted a hot man, him. But she won’t fall into his arms because she’s heard of his bad reputation. And now she won’t pick up his call. I love this one because being a fine brother isn’t reason enough for a girl to be with a man.

3. Good Habits 04.10

This one a very beautiful song. The acoustic rock guitar in it makes me imagine Joss Stone or Alex Pelzer doing its cover. The story is about a man in desperate need for his estranged lover–a bad habit turned good, a fixture he can’t live without. ‘Tell me the secret to your love’, he sings. This one is a show of his splendid song writing skills.

4. Sign Ur Name 04.08

Another replay material. Upbeat yet mellow, really love the guitars. Would you rather sign your name on the marriage certificate or across one’s heart? Oh the rhetoric. This is a song of a man distressed over the insecurity that his lady is cheating. He even sings in French (very sexy) that every other hour and minute, ‘Je pense a toi’. If Kameron marries me, I will sign his name, anywhere and everywhere, even across Nairobi city ;-)

5. Snap Out of It 03.27

This song is effortlessly soulful, and definitely one of my favourites. ‘Don’t you love the way I do you?’ The opening line with the undeniable Musiq Soulchild swag. It’s groovy sound and straight-up talk renders it a great R&B/quiet storm radio hit. He sings, ‘I can’t be the good guy and the bad guy at the same time, you’ve got to make up your mind.’ Relationships aren’t always a walk in the park, we all know that. One day it’s cold and another it’s hot. The wrong partner sometimes turns out to have been the right one and vice versa. Kameron’s one wish is for her to just, ‘Snap out of it’.

7. F_ck Love 05.05

The deep lyricism and acoustic lead guitar is eargasm! For the EP title track, Kameron did a lot of justice to this song. ‘I can be honest, I don’t know where I am going. At this point I hardly know where I’ve been’.  You can feel his emotions of a conflicted relationship. An assertion that love can be evil, but a necessary one at that. I enjoyed the song’s verses melody better than the chorus and hook.

You won’t find a lot of Kameron Corvet’s info on Google, and for that reason, I am highly rating this singer/songwriter and producer. Having gone by the stage name Jonz in his earlier career, he’s to date released two albums: Sayingthings and Korporate Rockstar. I think I like him better as Corvet. Well, despite love lost or meager lust, F_ck Love’s 7 songs will leave you with a lasting good feeling; for somewhere in this big bad world lies some good love, for you, and me too :-)

Listen/ download the free EP check  www.kameroncorvet.com

BONUS: The video to F_uck Love

With a voice unshakable and unmistakable; Anthony Hamilton’s singing has the power to make the blind see. At least his soul. He’s the deeper John Legend. They both share what I love to call the Church Voice–a matchless ability of fusing soul and spirituality in their music in a way that appeals to both the gospel and secular music industries.

R&B has been drowning and seeking help since the start of the new millennium; and starting 2003, Anthony has been playing his part in the rescue mission. “Back To Love” is his fifth album released in December 2011. I already fell for it head over heels and now I am completely convinced that the last sign of the apocalypse will be the halt of Anthony Hamilton’s animate lyricism and soul.

“Back To Love” is a show of his steady commitment to soul music. To consistently come out in honesty as he does, and still be accepted and applauded, in a decade hungry for trashy Riri and Maybach music-ego rappers, is what I adore most about Anthony. A family man married with kids Vs Grammy award-nominated singer with a clean-cut image–his double stance is suave.

“Who’s loving you”, is a man’s in-depth chat with the planets in pursuit of finding out why the love of his life is with someone else. Other songs in the album include praise to women, an account of self-realization and prayer to God–most of which are packaged in an upbeat tempo. The dozen songs are a great party-or-kick-off-your-shoes-and-relax-your-feet compilation. Babyface co-writes and produces three of which deliver part of the album’s contemporary soul reminiscent of the 90’s musical thunder.

1. Back to love 3.20

R&B and neo soul at its best, this is a beautiful title track entrée. Most of us have experienced stormy relationships. In this song Anthony sings about one that needs God’s intervention for restoration. “How will we get us back to love? I want us to fall in love again,” he sings. Really love that Maxwell jazzy-quiet storm feel in this one. If you still have left the tiniest of hope in falling in love, again–this one is for you.

2. Writing on the wall 3.26

Contemporary R&B bordering on a hip hop beat spiced up with some horns, this one will make you bop your head and do a little jig. A continuation to the first song’s story, it’s a man’s assertion in rising above his fear of not loving. His relationship’s wall is jumbled mostly by people gossiping him and his partner, so he sings, “I don’t wanna listen, as I am grown and it’s my life.” If you ever had haters who couldn’t stand seeing you happy with someone else, fuck what they say, only thing you should hear is your heart.

3. Woo 3.16

Oh this is a hard stepping killer, replay everyday! Every ensemble in it makes me believe that the babe Anthony is singing about was sure fly as hell. “I aint’ never seen a girl so bad, it feels so good,” he sings–witty pickup line if you ask me fellas ;-) Here I applaud Babyface for honoring the 90’s music feel. With a slightly slower tempo Woo’s spirit is inversely proportional to Earth, Wind & Fire’s ‘I love music.’

4. Pray for me 4.39

Another Babyface classic. I like the story. A man distraught after breaking up with his lady sings a prayer to God asking him to simply bring her back. Babyface’s voice in the back ground vocals almost make it sound like he was featured inn the song. There are situations when nothing else is left to say other than a prayer. Really love where Hamilton sings, “If you take me back I will be so good even Oprah would be jealous!” LOL.

Other songs in the album include the very SEXY Jill Scott-ish-groovy-sounds of “Best of me”, a serenade to a beloved marveling at the power of sharing life’s litu pleasures. “Never Let Go” feat Keri Hilson is a fantastic duo yet a waste of the album’s only chance of a collabo. Keri’s crispy flat voice just doesn’t complement Anthony’s. If I had to pick candidates for this spot, it would be Melanie Fiona, Chrisette Michelle or Beyonce. It’s somewhat awkward that the album’s certified baby making jam “I’ll wait for you to fall in love” has an abstinence theme. Que-ce que se passe la ba?

12. Life has a way 4.13

This song is a distant relative to “Salt” by Lizz Wright. Smooth jazz marking a beautiful finale and my best song in the album. I appreciated it’s message and soul. Antony takes the persona of a man who just found his life’s meaning. He sings about how after thinking he knew it all, he still found out that there is more room to grow as, “life humbles you down”. The message in this one is universal and simply an emphasis on always remaining humble, no matter what. I am down for Antony’s work of genius. This album will either help you get back to love or uphold the live-and-love-life policy. Enjoy!

BONUS: Anthony reveals the inspiration behind my favourite song, turns out he has a special spot for it too :-)

Best things in life are free. 98% of that statement is true, see in 2009 I had never heard of Rateng’ band. So a ‘free of charge’ sign on their concert cum album launch poster was what bought me in. At the end of the night I got myself the band’s debut album, ‘Thumology’. Little did i know that simply tucking it into my bag was the start of what would become my insatiable love for their music and certainly a voracious one for the band’s then composer and lead vocalist’s music–Winyo.

Over two years later and he still sounds crispy-good. Now an accomplished singer/songwriter and guitarist, Winyo has had successful international tours and recognition as the only Kenyan & two-time finalist in the Radio France Internationale (RFI) Discoveries Music Awards.

‘Benga Blues’ is Winyo’s solo debut–an album oozing a rich display of his love for Benga. Singing in Luo, Swahili and Kikuyu, you will additionally hear loads of the bass guitar fused in acoustic sounds of Taarab, R&B and Jazz. I am lucky to have gotten a sneak copy of the album from Winyo last year. Trust me, it’s great, smooth and relaxing–my mum loves it! I haven’t seen us jointly enjoy an album like this–well since Sauti Sol, Whitney, Billy Ocean and Skeeter Davis. To all those who don’t comprehend much of Luo, chill out. If you can jam to the likes of Diogal and Lokua Kanza, trust me Winyo is right for you.

1. Odongo 3.24

Upbeat and beautiful acoustic opening to the album. This is a confessional song to a beloved called Odongo. Winyo takes the persona of a woman in love with this man to an obsessive extent of always singing songs of him. Even while brewing tea and fetching water by the river.

2. Nakupenda 6.32

Definitely a favourite. The bare mix of shakers, acoustic drums and piano in verse one creates for an alluring intro. This is again a song to a darling saying, “Look inside you, when you realize that I love you–you will love me back.” Some serious mind-fucking-love right there.

3. Gari Teri 7.00 ( The car will take you)

This is real Benga, also a killer cover to Rateng’ Band’s original. All the guitars seem to be outdoing themselves in this one. Love Winyo’s incessant chants, ‘Romna romna baby’ in Luo means ‘receive me baby.’ This is a wise song dedicated to all ladies, single or hitched. It cautions that one day you will get into a car and leave your home to another one–marriage. Never forget that a home must be built under the foundation of respect and humility, even in the face of shortcomings. The song’s two climaxes render it very danceable at a live gig. Saliva would go all ape on this one–hell i would dance and shout to this on top of a roof top!

5. Nya Chula 7.07

There is a place called Chula so Nya Chula is a lady who hails from this region. This is a song about Nya Chula, a village woman who could not quench her heart’s thirst for money and dreams of moving to Nairobi. Winyo takes the persona of her husband, he sings cajoling her to relax and sit still right next to him. For if she does their home could make babies. Is Winyo a story-teller or what? Really love the part where he sings, “Ngima mi dwaro ohinga” (I can’t sustain the kind of life you want to live). This song is a caution that if and when two people decide to settle down together, their lifestyle demands should merge into one. The song’s climax has a Lingala beat. I can already picture Wanjeri, Marcus and I seriously getting down to this one on the dance floor!

6. Kimani 4.36

If my Kikuyu didn’t fail me, this is a song about a gentleman called Kimani. It’s a cheer-up song urging Kim to keep his head up despite life’s ups and downs, for there will be a better day. Shall I also award this as the first afro-acoustic fantastic Kikuyu song? Not taking any no’s.

8. Yaona Yoo 6.14 (Open way for me)

This is a very beautiful song–my best in the album actually. Not too sure if it’s the shakers fused in the acoustic guitar and soft drums or Winyo’s butterscotch-voice … Everything in this one just makes me all warm and fuzzy inside. The song is a dedication to the one who got away saying, ‘I can tell you a secret, everything you do even in laze still pleases me so I sing through your way, stupidly hoping that you will let me through’. Deep stuff and a special song to the ones we never got over.

10. Gikalo 5.27 (They will pass)

My mum particularly loves this one, I think because she has witnessed all these kind of dramas in shagz. This song has stories of a typical village. Brothers fighting over land, women undressing in protest in the open—a taboo, mean gossiping and talk. In the song Winyo takes the persona of the society’s mirror that marvels at how friendships can turn into rivalry. Most of us can attest to this and the un-related fact that Winyo is a rock sitting gracefully on the Kenyan contemporary Benga scene.

With 13 tracks ‘Benga Blues’ is an outstanding album worth your money, time and life’s lessons kitty. It teaches on virtues like humility, kindness, patience and temperance.

The album was released in Europe last year. A Kenyan release is expected sometime this year. I will certainly be there tagging alongside mother. For more info visit http://www.ketebulmusic.org

BONUS: Read on Ten Mins With Winyo, a feature I filed for ARISE Magazine. And a throwback track–Ukoo Flani MM feat. Winyo 

George Mutinda’s songwriting skills have won him a global award. That however doesn’t change much of the humble man– who will talk about such big things only if you ask him. It’s late afternoon on a hot Saturday. I am meeting Mutinda at the French cultural center’s splendid jardin where I am interviewing him for one of my TV shows. Before the start he kindly asks to sing for me. Who can say no to that?

Equipped with only his guitar and voice, he’s got a super power to make a 3-min song sound like it lasted a mere 30 seconds. “Is it over?”, I ask. He laughs and starts to play another one. I can’t really comprehend how he is not mad at me for keeping him waiting for an hour. I also can’t comprehend how I can feel this song’s reminiscent echo despite the fact that I cant understand it’s words sang in Kamba, Mutinda’s native language.

He is singing a song titled ‘Vala vandu’. It means, that place. “It’s about familiar strangers. It could be a person in your country or from any other place in the world. Sometimes you have just an instance with someone and the effect they leave on you usually lasts forever. That’s it. Most times when you look back you realize that you never got the chance to thank them for the inspiration they left you. That’s what this song is about,” he explains and I conclude that this guy is some-kind-of-deep.

He is soft-spoken. When he sings though, there is a certain strength and passion to it. “In Kenya my songs are termed as afro-acoustic. Beyond borders it’s called world music. I like that a lot because world music are songs inspired by African traditional folk. It’s basically music for the ears of a global audience. Most times you can tell of a song’s roots, be it from west or South Africa,” says Mutinda.

The singer/guitarist has toured among other places the Schengen countries and USA, all in pursuit of exporting his African sound. “All my concerts were sold out but I was shocked to make a revelation that people out there don’t know much about the East Africa sound. We need to spread it out more,” he asserts. Is there a unified East African sound? Mutinda says, “The East African sound is diverse, we have many colours that should be spread across the world. Striving to have one sound is like a horse without a tail.” Oh this is a wise guy. Among his local musical influences are KK Kilonzo, Eric Wainaina, Suzzana Owiyo, Abbi and Winyo though his overall inspiration comes from every single one of his daily life’s encounters, he tells me.

In 2005 Mutinda emerged as the top male artist in the inaugural Spotlight on Kenyan Music Competition. In 2009 he performed at the Sauti Za Busara festival in Zanzibar. The same year ‘Matopeni’, his debut album was released. The album is very cool, definitely not for the hot heads. The ten tracks are a mix of jazzy rhythms, afro- acoustic sounds with some contemporary vibes, all sang in Kiswahili and Kamba. In 2011 his song ‘Simama’ won in the world music category for best song in the prestigious International Songwriting Competition (ISC) held in USA.

“There was a call for entries and i applied just for the kicks. There were over 15,000 entries from all over Africa so it’s unbelievable that my song made it through into the final sixteen and eventually to the top!”, he exclaims with a satisfactory shine. “That’s huge! Was there a prize?” I excitedly ask him. “There is always a prize,” he calmly informs me. I am happy for Mutinda though when it comes to hoisting our Kenyan flag on the world map I am ashamed that not as many Kenyans know much on people of such caliber. “The world appreciates art more than Kenya does. Maybe my style appealing more to the world than in Kenya has made me the prophet who is not recognized in his home. Artists also need credibility at home. Athletes run for Kenya and so do we but through music,” he says. Je suis d’accord.

Mutinda also co-founded acoustic nights, a bi-monthly event that gives a live music platform to Kenyan musicians. The event is held at Sippers restaurant. He also performs at Tapas in Village market on a bi-monthly basis. His plans for 2012 is to have more of his live music performances recorded citing a need to maintain the freshness.

I am a big bathroom singing star. And lately i have been considering taking my career to the next level — songwriting! So i want in on Mutinda’s secret even though he knows not of my secret dreams :-) He actually thinks about it to an extent of pulling a few strands of his dreads. “The secret to songwriting is patience and a captivation to thyself. If your song doesn’t resonate with you then it’s not worth any audience,” his advice to all the bathroom and outside-the-bathroom dreamers.

Mutinda is a self-taught musician. He started singing and playing traditional stringed instruments way before his teens. With his first salary he bought himself his first guitar. The rest is history.

BONUS: In the video of ‘Simama’, Mutinda featured the Pamoja Dance Group, an integrated mix of dancers with and without physical disabilities. If that wasn’t beautiful, then i don’t know jack about beauty. For more info check Mutinda’s website

Black roses makes way for Sara Mitaru in a celebration of the blog’s 100th post and the first single-song review. Listen now! Complete with lyrics saramitaru.bandcamp.com.

This is Sara’s debut single, and only a week old. Make way is fresh and young. However its osmosis effect spreads by the day having already made a twitter TT and several high flying spots on radio. We are at a crucial moment when something’s got to give, even if it means less of ‘mikono juu ya hewa’ songs.

Kenya’s 2011 was a year marred by a crippled economy but a flipside of a sporty entertainment industry. Irrespective of societal roles, all Kenyans are needed to converge in messages that will emit positivity. Sara is doing her part and the longevity factor of ‘Make way’ can be felt.

They say we’re independent but they won’t set us free, they say we are sovereign but we are shackled and chained … But there’s a man down, head down with no food on his plate… Make way for the people today, make way liberation will say.

I want to storm into parliament and sing this line to all the politicians. That’ll probably get me arrested. So I want every youth to hear it and know that voting is either paving way for change or conformity. It oozes optimism for the dejected citizen in the world. It’s simply a case of ‘love at first listen’.

The song is a beautiful island. It has no country’s particular musical stamp, giving it more of a world-music feel. The instrumentals in the first 30 seconds are alluring, a fusion of the piano, bass guitar and various strings. About 45 seconds later, Sara’s singing is a marriage of sorts…with the band. The strong beat will leave you bobbing your head if not tapping your feet.

Sara sings about a lot of things, from love, maziwa lala-yes, the plight of children and women to emancipation. Her debut album will be out in 2012, potentially the most befitting gift anyone could get me in this century.

She is also appointed as a UN messenger of truth and an advocate of the UN MDGs. In modesty she speaks of her conviction, “It’s not the title but the ability to sing freedom songs in different spaces where voices will be heard.”

Sara is powerful. Her voice is peanut butter smooth, and sweet, enriched with husky bits. If a secret society kidnapped you and left you in the dark (not that you’d notice) you still wouldn’t miss the voice. Never mind that some of you haven’t heard her music before.

Written and produced by Blackman, Sara’s producer, ‘Make way’ is a fit freedom song. I see my mother jamming to it at the same measure with the thirsty man sitting under a tree in Uhuru park. It would make a great soundtrack to a movie. Heck it would make a good anthem for Kenyans.

BONUS: Follow this link for a FREE Make way download SARAMITARU

There is a building at the well-groomed Kifaru gardens disguised as a house. Inside lies a recording studio, a music cum book library and even picturesque collections of Eric Wainaina’s musical journey. This was the venue for the listening party of his third album titled ‘Love and Protest.’ On that cold night, bonfires lit up the garden’s surrounding. Inside the ‘house’ was a different kind of fire fuelled by three special rooms separated by distinct sounds and tags on each door labeled, ‘Love’, ’Protest’ and ’Groovy’.

Up and about the partitions, guests sampled songs from ‘Love and Protest.’ Notable were groovy tracks like ‘Orutu special,’ a song bordering between the benga genre-fused with the orutu (a traditional Luo one stringed fiddle), this one made us (Wanjeri and I) dance at the first listen. The song ‘Mariana’ was harmonious and sweet sounding akin to the echo of saying that name. Ok, say ‘Mariana’… shhhhhh, hear the echo? Certainly a certified feel-good jam! (alliteration naaaayo! #ReasonsWhyIownThisBlog :-)

Do you remember when the Wainaina-Factor shun corruption using the simple yet brilliant hit song ‘Nchi ya kitu kidogo’? Well the muse behind all that seems to be intact as if frozen by time and now ready to melt again. At the center of his compositions are messages gunning for reform. That Wainaina- Factor has now given birth to the song ‘Revolution’ which was written to give a voice to the disempowered. “There is a Che Guevara saying that goes, ‘All rebellion comes from a place of Love’. Like the rest of Kenyans, I was saddened by the post-election violence. In trying to make sense of the sad occurrence I realized that people protest where there is no love, and that said; protest is just part of patriotism. At the end of the day, after voting we are still one despite the different tribes,” said Eric.

‘The road’ is a song collaboration between friends. Eric and Senegalese world star Baaba Maal who enriched ‘Love and Protest’ by adding distinct sounds of mbalaax, a stamp of a Senegalese music style. “From the look of things Eric isn’t going anywhere. In fact, he seems to be all over the place of late,” that would be Africa’s testimony is she would talk. Eric most recently graced the Umoja festival in Maputo. Just weeks before that he was among a lineup of African musicians performing at the Arts Alive festival in Johannesburg, S.A. In a fateful twist that came to be Eric’s opportune moment to meet Nigerian born songbird Asa, who was also present at the festival. “Love and Protest was actually ready in 2008 but when I heard Asa, her sounds gave me  a whole new inspiration, enough to have stalled the album till now. Meeting her this year was amazing and I hope to work with her on a song in the near future,” asserted the multi award-winning singer, actor and playwright.

So, why don’t I usually get loads of such exclusive invites to listening parties? Kenyan musicians, iko nini? I warmed up to the whole idea and loved the execution, I enjoyed it! Eric backed by Aaron Rimbui on the keyboard and The Mapinduzi Band even gave us a live performance at the ‘house,’ Shukran to y’all! S/O to Nanjira.

BONUS: Love and Protest is Eric’s first self-produced album. It covers elements of reggae, benga and R & B. Eric & The Best Band in Africa launched the 14-track album in DEC 2011. I got my copy, get yours! For more information please visit ericwainaina.com

Bez has an air of coolness around him. About 5’10” tall, he’s rocking a grey fedora, wayfarer glasses, a white tee, an African beaded chain and slightly cropped up denim trousers leaving his argyle brown and turquoise socks peeping from the shoes. While in action during his first stage-performance and visit to Kenya, he transcends into a sweet-voiced guitar playing musician. This is exactly what I will settle for if I don’t get married to a tall, dark & handsome man :-)

I first stumbled on Bez music via a fellow music junkie (some drugs are actually good). I thought that Bez was just another one of those cool American kids, for real. Well, after I heard ‘Zuciya Daya’ a little research led me to discovering that Bez is actually from Nigeria. One of those impressive eureka moments! I was lured into knowing him better when I got to understand the message in the song ‘Zuciya Daya.’

Most recently, I was hit by great news that Bez would be visiting the country for a jam-session (a series of random-acoustic gigs displaying budding and talented artists organized by Blackman and Sara) I couldn’t wait to buy myself a copy of ‘Super Sun’, Bez debut album released on July 24th 2011. Experiencing a taste of acoustic-Bez was really great! Not to mention, when his drummist played, even the statues at the MJ center did the Kemboi dance .. Walalala! Nway I am glad to share this review of ‘Super Sun.’ with you all;

1. Super sun 4.15

Contemporary R&B fused in a little jazz. Life is definitely about ‘ups and downs.’ This song is an assertion that despite the struggles one day you will be at your brightest. It basically tells you not to be afraid of stretching into your ultimate limit. Quite the inspirational entry into the album!

2. Over you 3.49

This one has a modern ‘Earth, Wind & Fire’ feel fused in a John Legend ‘Green light’ feel. Here Bez obviously flaunts his musical versatility. He sings to his jilted lover, asking for his keys to the car and the house, because he is now over her.

3. Zuciya Daya 5.07

Love this joint. It’s one of those feel-good tracks. Mellow and soulful. At the concert he (Bez) explained that in Hausa, his native language, the closest translation to ‘zuciya daya’ is doing something whole heartedly. It’s a serenade to a beloved saying, “Irrespective of all the problems that our relationship may encounter we should both be happy. But only if we do it whole heartedly. Someone teach me Hausa and see how I will start to pick bros, I KID :-) Or maybe not.

5. Say 4.24

Ready is an important word. It means; to prepare mentally and physically for something. If you are in sync with your life, then you know that you have to be ready for a lot of things that life throws your way. Challenges, love, new appointments, sex, growth, relationships, heartbreak, sudden loss, windfall, the list is endless. Bez sings to a beloved asking her to SAY that she’ll be ready and waiting for him. Happily, she sings back saying, “I will be ready for you!” Definitely replay material- Neosoul redefined! The kind of song that makes you ask yourself, “I am ready?”

10. Stop pretending 4.09

Love love love this one! This is an acoustic song about a guy who was dating three different girls. He sings to them all, asking each one of them why they keep feigning that they don’t want him. Lost in their games, and their images on his mirror while shaving he leaves them all … Left me wondering, why was he dating THREE different women?

11. More you 4.27

If I had a list of my ‘Top 65 Best Songs ‘in the world, this one would still make it into Top 40. Love it too much I would freaking do a different post just to review it solo :-)  If songs had distant relatives this one would be related to Maxwell’s ‘Playing possum’ and Sade’s ‘The safest place.’ It’s such a beautiful acoustic song. I really loved the violins. Like ‘Lazizi’ it’s guitar work makes the song. The message in this song is jumbled. At the concert Bez described the state of wanting more from the person you love because of the pleasure that never depletes. Love this song because it describes the state of humanity. We never get satisfied. We always strive for more which p.s isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

‘Super sun’ is made up of 12 tracks, 2 live covers and one remix. You NEED this album for those chilled-out days. It’s cool to hear such a contemporary-sort-of-John-Legend mellow sound coming from Africa. Bez, the world is yours! Special S/O to cool-peeps Blackman & Sara.

BONUS: While speaking to Black Roses Bez revealed his ultimate definition of Music. “It’s an expression of my feelings. I am very spiritual, in that whatever I sing about is inspired by God. He uses me to speak to my listeners via the music. It’s my tool,” said Bez.

For more info visit www.bezidakula.com

Photo courtesy of http://www.japho1.blogspot.com/

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