I had the unfortunate position of being tuned in to Maina and King’ang’i yesterday morning (I have nothing against the duo but the nonsense they spew and entertain) and I didn’t think my morning could get any more superficially worse. How wrong I was.

Have you noticed how some seasoned musicians from the 90s are now [trying to] make a comeback? Nameless has tried at maintaining consistency, Mr. Lenny’s return back in 2014, Redsan who will be launching an album mid next month and now, the ‘Beast from the East’ aka Bigpin.

Aw, the joys of refreshing a career!

Anyway, as with any comeback, there is bound to be at-least one ungodly mess. The unfortunate honour today goes to Ginene – punctuated by pitiful chronicles that are supposed to land Bigpin back into traction. In my thinking [admittedly to his long hiatus] he must have been asking around if people knew him and to his dismay, not many did. Thus, the iffy phrase “if you don’t know me Google me” is a lot repeated. Alas!

The song is a whole crap-ton of “my house, my car, my account, my wallet, my girls” etc all being ginene, which I suppose means they are as big as he is. Imagine also going on & on about how dramatic a man can be who does not own a 50″ TV  or how educated a man can be who does not have a PhD. In my highly unprofessional opinion, Ginene’s lyrics are as unimaginative as Bigpin’s strategy to make a resurgence – I can’t get past the utter peripheral flop that is his comeback.

Listen, I’d love to delve into the single’s hits and misses, but in all honestly, it is such a snore-fest that I haven’t even the energy to write about its below averageness any longer. Which led me to thinking, not many mainstream Kenyan musicians have morphed into anything good. Even with the commercialization of music, I suppose that an upturn should have substance and, better still, that the musician’s art should have come of age.

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Ho hum!

Memory is a strange thing; and now the ambivalence of expanding what Aretha’s music and alchemy was about is upon us. A tribute concert has been planned for Saturday 15th September at the Braeburn Theatre.

Dubbed “An Evening Remembering Aretha” the event will see a community of Nairobi musicians coming together to honor and celebrate the life of the irreplaceable Queen of Soul.

Tickets are now selling at: https://bit.ly/2BUBNar

Earlier this month, the Elani trio announced of new Elani Music which hinted at their successive album, Colours of Love. You’ve got to hand it to them for coming up with great & memorable songs like Kookoo, Barua ya Dunia and Jana Usiku in their freshman album Barua Ya Dunia.

The good news is that Elani is back after a 2 year pause. The better news is that they have released the first single off their upcoming album. The not so good news is that it has no memorability and I question its replayability. But that is as far as my musical ear is concerned. Heartbeat which “captures the attraction, joy, anticipation and confusion that come with uncontrolled emotion”, is the song that sets the tone of said album.

The motif is dealt with enthusiastically in favour of party and dance. Yet, despite circling the hot subject of romance and the sentimentality that tags along, there are aspects of the song that feel very shoehorned; the beats are dreary and the harmony is as heavy-handed as are both Maureen’s and Wambui’s vocal flourishes.

The video concept is completely uninspirational and it does the trio no justice. I feel that it was not very well articulated as it navigates itself around the life of a party (in its sense) making it difficult to concentrate on the narrative. Anyway, it has been said that “mapenzi ni sherehe” and so….*shrugs*

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Overall, the whole shebang is only a verse long that is once repeated and augmented by an appalling refrain. But if one should flatter it, Heartbeat says something existential about the journey of {The Colours of} Love – yellow is bright, optimistic and radiates warmth and positive energy. Thus, I will not despair on the album that is yet to come.

A symbol of identity galvanizing pop, soul, jazz, blues and opera, her voice is a divine gift from God. Even in her 70s, the Queen of Soul still carried a rare enthusiasm for music with her final public performance materializing in November 2017 at an Elton John AIDS foundation gala. Sadly, at 9:50 am thereabouts yesterday, Aretha Franklin passed away due to advanced pancreatic cancer.

Over the course of a career that spanned more than 6 decades, Aretha was far more than impressive with as many as 100+ songs going onto the Billboard Charts. In addition 44 nominations and 18 Grammy wins, Aretha Franklin became the first woman inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. 7 years later, owing to her artistic markedness, she was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

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Good music is always unfinished business. Aretha Franklin made a difference; Aretha Franklin lives on.

It is a truth universally known that artists are hardly celebrated at home, but what a difference a feature or sampling makes! I confess that, although a great enthusiast of African lore, I have yet to pay homage to a lot of my favourite Kenyan musicians. Ayub Ogada, whose 1993 album En Mana Kuoyo I’m featuring today, is one such artist.

Born Job Seda in 1956, Ayub Ogada’s music career peaked in 1979 when he co-founded the African Heritage Band. Prior to this, he had first played with the Awengele band and later with Black Savage both of which drew their influence from soul, funk, R&B and psychedelic rock. Ogada’s easy and greatly sensitive vocals, backed by the Nyatiti is the one element that keeps his music alive to date.

Obiero is a song casting a dull shadow about the state of Kenya’s extra-judicial killings. The song, Ayub says, is a dedication to his brother who was murdered in cold blood by the police. Right from the opening chords, Obiero gives an appropriate inflection of the situation and it is propelled firmly by the *ngara and the *djembeDala is delivered in smooth enunciation. With the recurring phrase “ang’wen ero gichodho wuoth gi mako yo“, Ayub speaks of the importance of togetherness – the security, the belonging and support it entails. There’s an admirable trait in the song’s resonance that I find quite engaging.

Wa Winjogi Ero, a folk anecdote recounting how a herder came home without his cattle, has a well-judged tempo with what seems to me a playful and rather curious foundation. I really like how the dominant phrase “wa winjogi ero” is dispatched. While a monophonic quality remains Thum Nyatiti‘s core, Ayub adds on to the textural spectrum of the song with leg bells and percussion. Composed purely for instruments, Thum Nyatiti is a showcase that this 8-stringed lyre is indeed the ‘voice’ of the Luo.

Kronkronhinkro‘s vocalism is admirable as Ayub takes to singing this celebratory piece in honour of a great African woman – Nana Yaa Asantewaa, Ghana’s Warrior Queen. If the long phrases registered low his breath control, he makes up for it with a whistling stunt that adds to the song a fine dimension. The initial impact of Chiro is that it borrows from a famous benga tune which I, unfortunately, can’t seem to find the title. Here, Ayub gives an upbeat Swahili melody whose instrumentation is in excellent form – I must admit though that the horn wasn’t really given much room to evolve.

Undoubtedly the most popular of the 10 tracks, it’s safe to say that Kothbiro has established its course – both the singing and instrumentation are of distinction. There is a charming touch to this recit which also involves cattle herding; but, where Wa Winjogi Ero is notable for its tempo and embellishments, Kothbiro is, in addition to an undemanding tempo, marked by a cool luxuriate tension.

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En Mana Kuoyo – some of whose music has been used as film soundtracks and sampled by musical greats such as Kanye West – is an unfussy album with an undeniably calming effect. There are distinct changes in compositional techniques that are well produced as a whole. However, I can’t help but think of how static the overall thematic identity is.