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.

********************

Ho hum!

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*

********************

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.

Guys, my excitement is almost palpable. If the subject of today’s blog post cuts a blesser’s figure, then I am, without doubt, glad to be one of her blessees! You see, in the midst of March brouhaha and end-month jollity, Maia has uploaded this video of the first single off her second studio album, Maia & The Big Sky. The central mystery of the song is the idea that power is that which controls the mind. Based as it is on a powerful theme, I am happy to report that Pawa is a classic.

The setting begins in a newsroom and in those brief seconds before the lyrics are heard, we are introduced to the song’s rhythmic motif. Perhaps it is Maia’s intention to extend the vibration of her guitar and I’ve got to hand it that it works pretty well. The reverential visuals are artistically pivotal in allowing the song’s narrative to gently unfold in the listener’s imagination.

Pawa ni ile, pawa ni ile inacontrol fikra zako.

Of-course it is Maia and Blinky Bill’s singing, delivered with notable poise, that takes the spotlight. But so are the lucid movements of the dancer and the band’s superb carriage of Pawa’s steady ostinato! The whole band achieves an incredible liquidity as the trombone blares over the pulsating percussion and dancing strings. One more detail that I loved too was the open-air performance. The setting, as well as Maia’s costume, was enough to sum up everything that made this whole production so glorious!

********************

“Who is she? Who is she?” I remember asking myself way back in 2013 as I came across some colleagues printing sleeves for her first album. Now, it is no secret that Maia Von Lekow is a musician I cannot help loving, and that the more I listen to her, the more she fascinates me. And just as I was none the wiser, it’s extremely unlikely that you too will be asking who she is after this.

Thanks to a tweep’s retweet of Blinky Bill’s tweet, I discovered No Touch Am and so I archived the tweet for a later visit. What a wonderful surprise! It’s not that I expected any less of the famous Just-A-Band member paired with the eclectic direction of Osborne Macharia and Andrew Mageto! The style is reminiscent of a work I have previously seen but that’s beside the point.

While I shall happily admit that Blinky Bill and Nneka yielded a pleasant song, I was not entirely convinced that theirs was No Touch Am’s key highlight. The video, undeniably great of visuals that are tight, generative and very creative, is. Well, at-least for me. The éclat made a proper impression of 3 stylish men, reported to be herbal men from Nigeria’s Hausa tribe, who together with domesticated wild animals, turn to protect their indigenous forest.

What notably struck me was the warmth in the blending of both the modern and the traditional as well as the brilliance of the finale. With all its charm, there is much more to it than that; herein are positive figures both human and animal alike, fighting for what is essential and rightfully theirs. That, as are the words in the song, are not telling us anything we do not already know and thus, the glory remains that the song is speaking to us as directly as it can.

Overall, I think the whole production set handled the project well and did a remarkably fine job of delivering the lyricism and the visuals. Additionally, Blinky’s “People have power they just do not know it/the people that have it don’t want them to know it..” and Nneka’s “Sometimes we do not need melodies to harmonise..” seem to me phrases worth lauding. Their singing was uniformly strong and they did excellently both as a duet as well as individually.

I have a longing though; pray tell, what happened to the logger at the end of the video and indeed, of the forest? Lastly, as exciting as it was awe-inspiring, here’s a bar set for the rest of Blinky Bill’s Everyone’s Just Winging It and Other Fly Tales album.

********************

Side note: Where I had little, the video may have topped up a little more faith in hyenas. Ha! ha!

If it will be an exaggeration to describe Sauti Sol and Patoranking’s new release as just one that borrows from a skin-deep pop culture trend, it will, hopefully, be a pardonable exaggeration on my part for it may be that they made this music for now. After all, it is said that not all art is meant to last.

Hardly do I focus this much beneath the surface of what I consider irrelevant to me; and that, dear reader, is the big deal with this Melanin song. I was incredibly struck at the superficiality of the lyrics but not nearly as much as I was by the relentlessness drawn out by the phrase, “I have never seen melanin so dark.” Yet here is a piece, a subtle infusion of Afrobeat and RnB, which draws from celebrating the beauty of the African woman who, as we know, also comes in skin as dark as the continent is documented to be.

Barring that, I quite like the arrangement and more that the piece made for an impressive acoustic opening. Through the rhythm and the musicianship exhibited herein, various other harmonious elements asserted themselves to euphoniously carry the music through.

The visuals have not been taken for granted either; the video swanks rich aesthetics, complements the song’s plot and speaks with a creativity based on the grounded repertoire of Clarence Peters. The piece is conceived with attractive women playing on the Nairobi and Lagos upbeat night life and all the while remaining faithful to what it is trying to sell.

Still, I wish I could feel the enthusiasm that so many of my friends, colleagues and music-lovers are feeling for Melanin. Is it unreasonable for me to have listened and thought of it this way? No. For one, I am not their target audience and two, perhaps I may be refracting from what their intention was but nevertheless I listened to it and I paid attention.

********************

Truly though, Melanin, the first video off Sauti Sol’s upcoming African Sauce album, is music just for internet likes.