A Brief Analysis of Kenyan Music Groups; Who Lasted? Who Didn’t? Why?

Ever since you learnt there was this thing called music and you could enjoy it, there have been countless groups get into formation *cue Beyonce’s voice* and there have been countless others that have fallen apart or taken indefinite breaks. Both in Kenya, within Africa and internationally.

Let’ start from years past moving forward.

Back in the day, at least for people my age, we had groups like Tattuu, the all girl group made of Angie Mwandanda, Debby Asila and Angie Ndambuki who gave us countless hit songs to dance to.  Anyway, the trio enjoyed airplay across TV and radio stations with tracks such as Teso which came out in 2003. This was their first major hit.

After a string of hits the trio just went quiet. They tried to make a comeback with Come Back To Me, a track that features singer, rapper and producer Ulopa but I’m guessing that didn’t work out very well.

Angela Ndambuki got married in a private ceremony and as much as she wasn’t actively making music she was still involved in the behind the scenes of it as the CEO of PRISK (Performers Rights Society of Kenya) but as of last year August according to reports online, she went to the UK to pursue a masters in Law at the University of Edinburgh but only for a year, apparently.

Debbie Asila tried her hand at radio. I remember hearing her on Kiss 100. She also got married to the bad boy of radio, the King of Turn Up (or what does he call himself?) Shaffie Weru and had a baby with him before they separated and as of January 2015, she had relocated to the US.

I don’t know much about Angie “Shinde” Mwandanda and there isn’t much information online about her either but I’m guessing she’s somewhere doing just fine. This is one group; from a lot of commercial success to nothing.

Then there were the Deux Vultures. Who doesn’t remember Monalisa? Kinyaunyau? Adhiambo C?  Their break up started off with Colonel Mustafa releasing music by himself and nothing from Nasty C. What really happened? People will never tell you the real reason. Just “irreconcilable differences”. Colonel was for a while, in the blogs and news for all the wrong reasons but I’m not going to get into it. Just know that he’s comfortable with being “Kenya’s bad boy of music”.

Kleptomaniacs (Collo, Nyashinski and Mukiri). Tuendelee was among the first rap songs from Kenya that I struggled to learn word for word. I remember singing the verses and feeling like a real gangsta. Rapping to this now, I can hear the subliminals in the lyrics but can’t really recall who this was meant for. Everybody knew this record, knew who the Kleptomaniacs were. How could you not when they were everywhere?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3phE35z8q1w

Nyashinski is currently in the US and has been making music lately, probably trying to get back into the game after taking a break, Collo AKA Collins Majale AKA King Wa Rap has been making music. He’s not retired from the game and still has it, in my book.

Necessary Noize had Wyre, Bamzigi and Nazizi. What happened? Same story. Same thing with K South, Historians, Sema (Coca Cola Popstars).

Camp Mulla, whose break up was probably the most painful since they were the first ever Kenyan BET nominees back in 2012 when BET finally opened up to other countries in their nominations list. Camp Mulla were, in my opinion, the first Kenyan group to make Urban rap/ Hip Hop commercially successful and acceptable. Before that any rap that we had was from the street.

Recently Just A Band announced that they were going on a break but they would still be releasing music regardless so we need to give them a chance and we should embrace them. We could say that they’re on a temporary break, right?

My question is, why would such groups, with all their success, break up? Could be problems with ego. In every group there’s usually a “Beyonce” and maybe this person gets to the point that they feel they can be just as commercially successful solo. Followed closely by peer pressure. People will start to compare members with each other, kind of pit them against each other and say, “Hey, if you’re so good and people have told you this before, why not release a single and see how that goes?”

Could be the fact that visions change. What every individual had envisioned for the group at the beginning is usually the same picture, I assume. Then you get into it and see that this is actually hard and not as easy as the guys on TV make it seem so you start re-thinking the whole thing. I should have listened to what mama said and just done medicine (insert relevant course). The group breaks up. Back to square one.

Could also be ego which I think would be the biggest problem. The cheques start coming in and then a group that had members all at the same level suddenly has power strangles. People can’t see eye to eye, they miss appointments, they think it’s time to relax. Things fall apart.

But as much as I wanna put everything on the artists not acting right, it could also be a management issue. The people responsible for keeping the group together mishandles the members, there are no proper structures or a team that has to be responsible for say, tours, interviews… Basically, the group has no publicist, no proper artist manager or PR. Could be both ways.

I’m just hoping that nothing happens to the existing groups that are doing it big like Sauti Sol and the ones that have all the potential to do great things like Cosmic Homies (who have already had a performance at South by South West and a mini US tour), H_Art The Band, Mankind, KIU Music, Third Hand Music amongst others. If none of these names sound familiar to you, please use the internet appropriately. 🙂

Lover of Hip Hop, content creator and presenter at Homeboyz Radio, blogger, host of Industry Nite red carpet interviews, podcaster (RK Podcast with Kevin Grands) freelance writer for KenyanVibe.