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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.
Criticisms
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

Thursday, 29 May 2014

UniQuely Kenyan Rock genRes



The next few posts over the coming weeks are going to be focused on codifying uniquely Kenyan rock genres because apparently no one has done that yet (twits). Any who, here goes genre numero uno: Swa rock. It had been argued that combining rock’s angst filled musical idioms with the unique phonetic rules of Swahili would be an impossible task or at least the music resulting from this unholy alliance would suck big time. Well Kenyan rock bands have been proving sceptics wrong over the past few years.
If you are an avid fan like me then you probably already heard Murfys flaws Makosa.  This album is an alternative rock piece that plays well on the Swahili languages poetic strengths and adds a touch of afro-fusion to give that authentic African feel. And Parkinglotgrass’s cover of Kare, originally done by P–unit, is another example. And my indisputably favourite of all, Tafadhali by Simply Tomas. another example is Yelele by Dove Slimme. Although it does not use Swahili the entire time is still a great example of how Swahili works for rock. I guess for any Swahili speaker it is more personal, relatable, intimate, you get? Plus any linguistics expert will tell you African languages are tonal: you vary the pitch when saying the same word and the meaning changes. 
parkinglot grass
Another uniquely Kenyan subgenre of rock music is Genge rock. This marries rock and the Kenyan rap genre, Genge. I know of one solid example, PLG’s Kare cover. Punk and Genge were made for each other. Listen and agree here. Other artists although not strictly rockers have included rock in some of their music. A good example is Juliani’s exponential potential and bahasha ya ocampo. 
stay tune for more uniquely kenyan genres.