Wednesday, 10 September 2014

WheRe KenYan tAlents are boRn part 1, Fatuma's Voice

Kenyan rock band set out on a quest to find where Kenyan talent comes from. While you can always argue that it is inborn in all of us, there are those place that nurture it. So KRB has been up and about, magnifying glass in hand, wearing reliable boots and those khaki shorts. You know the ones game hunters used to wear?
First stop was the Kenyan Poets Lounge. The place is so inconspicuous you would not think it mattered much.  A tiny sign post points to what looks like an average office building. Nestled in Nairobi’s Milimani suburbs off statehouse road, Pawa 254 is a place awash with Kenyan artistic talent.
A story is told of how the idea came to life. Fatuma is a 50-year-old woman who has been dumb all her life. Dumb meaning she cannot speak. Because of this, she cannot easily communicate and express herself. Luckily, people have come to her rescue. Her friends help Fatuma express herself by voicing what she cannot and they do this without expecting anything in return.
This story explains what Pawa 254 and its parent organization, Fatuma’s voice, are about. Organizers intended it to be a platform for young people to express themselves; talk about what is affecting society and possible solutions to these problems. This is art with a conscience. This art is conscious. Pawa 254 gives poets, musicians and spoken word artists a platform to share their work with each other and the world. Each week has a different theme which artists follow in coming up with their various works. The sessions start with a lively debate on the topic at hand.
the pawa 254 audience discussing importance of literacy

If you are worried about the calibre of performers you will find their, don’t. This is no kindergarten recital. The poets especially were very impressive and so were musicians. One, Acouslyk impressed thoroughly at the beginning of September with his fingerstyle guitar.

Of course, some artists struggle. Pawa has been the debut event for several new Kenyan artists and the crowd is forgiving of the occasional blunder. These performers are often just beginning to find their way in the industry. It provides a way of networking and experimenting with sounds and ideas. Hart the Band is one act this place has helped to develop and they intend to help more.

Pawa goes down every Saturday from 5.30 pm. Damage is 100 bob. Check it out sometime.

Friday, 22 August 2014

New KeNyan rOck MuSic

Murfys flaw released a new track a while back titled ‘dare me. The track features Mukasa from Simply Tomas. The band terms the track as an introspective, atmospheric song that raises the bar once again for Kenyan music. Kenyan Rock Band for one liked it a lot but you can judge it for yourself on sound cloud. 
PLG also released the official lyric video to their track, Naweza. This song is the second single off their upcoming album. Stay tuned for details of when it drops. The video primarily features the use of kinetic typography. The bands track, ‘rainman’ is also continues to dominate the airwaves.
Kenyan Rock Band also managed to catch a new track by Simply Tomas, ‘mpenzi’. It really tests the boundaries of rock and afro-pop but you can still check it out and classify it yourself. It is a good track either way. According to the bands website, Simply Tomas released the track in December 2013. The same applies for the songs video. Simply Tomas is also working on releasing a new album in 2014 with Herbal records. 

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Kenyan Rock online: It is all in the clouds

Born out of two sound engineers’ frustration at not being able to conveniently share and get feedback on music, SoundCloud has grown into one of the world’s largest online music streaming and sharing communities. With more than 40 million registered users and over 200 million listeners (according to USA today), the German based audio streaming site has clearly become a force to reckon with. 

The best part of using this website is that a lot of its features come free of charge. Once you register with the service you can listen to as much music as you’d like and even download up to 100 songs. Artists registered with the site can also upload up to 120 minutes of audio on to their artist profiles. The websites user interface shows music as a wave form and allows listeners to comment of specific parts of it. It is a great place to get exposure, with more than 90% of all uploaded audios getting played in 30 minutes by at least one user. It allows artists to easily share their music through social media. The website also has a record button that allows artists to produce audios directly from the upload page.
The Kenyan connection
Recognizing the potential for promotion of music, several Kenyan rock bands have begun using Soundcloud. Some of these artists include, Parkinglotgrass, Murfy’s flaw, Koinange Street Avengers Dove Slimme, among other artists. The intrigue goes beyond rock. Kenyan rock band even spotted a Mugithi mix somewhere in the Kenyan music search results. You can always sign up to site and follow your favourite band just like on twitter.
The site has however come under criticism from its original users because of changes made to its user interface in 2013. Aiming to increase its appeal and user base, the site introduced a sleeker looking media player and reposting features. Critics say that although it started out as a place for artists to collaborate, this side of things is being neglected in favour of listeners. The comment section for one has been modified and made too small according to some users. Soundclouds CEO acknowledged the site was not perfect in an interview with Forbes but said that more users are getting on board. Those complaining were only a ‘vocal minority’. 

Log on and check out the Kenyan music there some time.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Uniquely Kenyan rock genres part II: Bengarock

In my quest to demystify uniquely Kenyan rock genres I stumbled across Bengarock. You probably have never heard of it but it mixes the distinct sound of Benga and metallic sounds of rock. Benga is a musical genre that came in to being between the 40s and 60s. It originally combined modern rhumba and Luo( a Kenyan tribe) music. Some of pioneers include old school music giants like Daniel Owino Misiani and his band Shirati Jazz. It has however moved from its ethnic origins making it into songs from other Kenyan cultures such as music by Jane Nyambura (Queen Jane) and John Kamaru. Basically it is Kind of music your embarrassingly lifist dad listens to. 
Extra Golden performing at Rosklide in 2008

One contemporary band still carries on the Benga tradition. They go by the name Extra Golden. Some of its tracks includeHera manono(freely given love) Ok Oyot (It is not easy))and Obama. The Kenyan rock band is made up of three guys, Alex Minoff, Ian Eaglesson and Onyango Uod Omari. This Kenyan outfit I believe pioneered the genre Bengarock by combining Benga’s offbeat rhythms and emulation of traditional Luo sounds with the power of the electric guitar and awesome guitar solos. The tracks are also unconventionally long just like modern Benga music. You can learn more about them at last.fm.

The Band

pictures courtesy of last.fm