Crispy Fresh: Catch Up With The Latest from Kenyan Music

Are you looking for some fresh new music to add to your playlist? Look no further than Crispy Fresh, the column curated by a partnership between KenyanVibe and Kapuka Kulture. In this edition, we walk you through the hottest tracks that are making waves in Kenyan music this week and why.

Navutishwa- Bensoul ft. Bien

Navutishwa is the seventh track off Bensoul’s Lion of Sudah album, which dropped on April 20, 2023. This project is his last release with Sol Generation before starting his own label. The album is an amalgamation of Afro-sounds from East and West Africa, reinterpreted by the musician in a soulful way. The chill yet mainstream sound of the instrumentals with strong Afro-soul sonic identities is a testament to his musical prowess. The song’s production by So Fresh uses a chill Rhumba beat, fused with drill 808s, and lively guitars with boisterous wind instruments such as trumpets and saxophones. So Fresh is known as an experimental producer and has combined the two genres before, working on the hit song “Drill Rhumba ” with Watendawili and Max Okello, a name that could potentially help sort the nomenclature of the sub-genre.

Navutishwa is a story of two lovers smoking together; the act also being a metaphor that describes the joy and happiness derived from romance. Bensoul and Bien’s verses in the song speak to the power of physical touch as a love language and a way to achieve intimacy. Bensoul starts off by stating how his mind has settled ever since he found a steady lover, singing,”nilikuwa silali hapo kanairo hakuna amani ”. This is also a reference to his 2021 hit song Nairobi which talks about infidelity in relationships. He acknowledges the pampering he receives from his lover and mentions some of his favorite experiences, for instance, singing, ” “Dreadi zangu zisikotwe / Shingo ni massage-iwe “. Bien continues in the same vein. His verse talks about spending a whole day in bed with a lover, describing some steamy sex positions. The famously bald singer also jokes “upara napapaswa/nadekezwa ee.” 

The song’s adult theme makes it perfect for an indoor date or time spent with a significant other, and it is passable at the club as the energetic 808’s make it danceable. The song’s drill rhumba sound championed by So Fresh celebrates two cultures, bringing them together and keeping the native East African genre alive and fresh, passing it down to younger audiences. Bien seems to be at his best on beats that incorporate elements of rap, having given iconic guest verses on hip-inspired beats before making hits with Khaligraph Jones and Nviiri the Storyteller. This song seems to follow in those footsteps, and the addition of new school sound patterns into Rhumba is a testament to the genre’s evolution, making it more accessible to a broader audience.

Watch Queen’s Speech Here.

Punguza Ego- Mejja

Mejja’s latest song Punguza Ego marks his return to the music scene after a hiatus of about a year. The last time he published a proper single of his, was two years ago. The break happened due to some occurrences in his personal life. Some months ago, multiple entertainment outlets reported that his marriage was facing a rough patch, one that ended in his separation from his wife. The song’s production is impressively done by super producer Mavo on the Beat. He samples exotic Arabian singing, deconstructs it, and adds bouncy and energetic 808s to create a melody that forms the main beat of the song. Mejja’s chemistry with Mavo is evident as they churn out hit after hit. Mejja is part of The Kansoul, a Genge trio that has become less active in recent times. However, his solo career has been flourishing, and at one point during a two-year stretch from 2020-2022, he was one of the most sought-after artists for collaborations, featuring in many hits, including Trio Mio’s Cheza Kama Wewe, Bensoul’s Nairobi, Parroty’s Lewa, and the award-winning TikTok juice Utawezana with Femi One. Mejja’s talent and versatility as an artist are evident, and he continues to make music that resonates with a wide audience.

The song’s tone is funny and although it has hints of sarcasm, the overall impact is a harsh warning, highlighting the negative consequences of allowing one’s ego to rule their decisions. The rapper explores how being prideful and egocentric can lead to a downfall in various situations. Mejja uses the tune to satire various cadres within society, starting off with lovers that let relationships end because of ego. He raps ,”Imagine ningeweka ego chini,nipige simu ningekuwa na bibi”. He talks about the rich, pointing out that society has to cater to the whims of a few, assuaging their fragile egos. He warns that should their situations change, they will have no one supporting them. He makes fun of the snobbish attitude some Kenyans working abroad have. They are known as summer bunnies, a term used in jest to critic those who are deemed to feel too sophisticated for the place they were born in.The rapper captures it so well in the line, “Ni juzi tu ulienda Dubai, ukirudi ummo unadai- is it safe? “. In the extended video accompanying the song, Mejja expresses the same theme visually. The plot follows the character of a dubious lover who refuses to apologize for getting too cozy with some fans, ultimately leading to the end of his relationship. In the B plot, a rich young man who mistreats waiters at the establishment he frequents ends up losing his job and working under their supervision. Both stories highlight the dangers of letting ego guide one’s decisions, ultimately leading to negative consequences, acting as a cautionary tale about the pitfalls of pride and a reminder that we should strive towards humility.

Watch Punguza Ego Here.

Ochwe- Unganisha

Unganisha’s music is a fusion of Kenyan folk music and Norwegian electronic beats that create an experimental and subversive sound  The duo, consists of Kenyan songstress Labdi Ommes, who also plays the orutu and Norwegian DJ Bernt Isak Wærstad.The orutu is a traditional Luo instrument that can best be thought of as a one-stringed vertical fiddle.The Luo community have a strong musical tradition that features various stringed instruments, with the most famous one, being the eight-stringed Nyatiti. Labdi Ommes is from this community and most of her lyrics are in Luo and Swahili. The duo draws inspiration from their experiences traveling between Oslo and Nairobi, bringing the best of both worlds to the dance floor. 

Labdi’s powerful vocals and Orutu playing, a traditional Luo instrument, form the main melody of their latest release, Ochweb.Alongside traditional shakers, drums, and a flute, Isak adds electronic elements that create a slow burn tune that gradually increases in energy until it reaches its climax. Ochwe, which means it is raining in Luo, is a tribute to the African tradition of songs about rainfall.The song mimics the pattern of rainfall, starting as a gentle drizzle before picking up momentum until it reaches a high-energy torrent.

The song is perfect for the club and dance floor, with its energetic beats and upbeat mood. Unganisha’s Ochwe gives us a  glimpse into the potential of a cultural renaissance of sorts, where traditional music is reimagined in an Afrofuturist world.

The track is a powerful work of art that expands our understanding of what is possible in African Dance Music, reimagining traditional music in a fresh and exciting way.

Far Away- Fancy Fingers ft. Azawi

Fancy Fingers has outdone himself yet again in this latest neo-Rhumba masterpiece featuring Azawi. As one of the leading producers, and a member of Sauti Sol, arguably Kenya’s biggest music export- Fancy Fingers is revered for his exceptional guitar work, and this track is no different. The fusion of Rhumba and African Dance Music patterns in the production is impressive, but what sets this song apart are the elaborate harmonies of the background vocals. The artists have taken great care to use simple language and euphemisms to keep the song family-friendly.

The theme of the song is one that many can relate to, as it explores the feelings of being physically and emotionally far away from a lover. Fancy Fingers sings about the pain of distance, declaring that it harming him. In his verse he sings “but this distance is killing me/are you feeling me? “. He goes on to express his fear of straying when his lover is not around. Azawi, on the other hand, describes being with her lover as being in paradise and explains her possessive behavior as a way of protecting this paradise. The song is a perfect tune for lovers to enjoy together. 

It is crucial for Kenyan acts to collaborate with artists in the region to create a vibrant music scene with a unique identity that can challenge the West African and South African industries. With this track, Fancy Fingers continues to redefine Rhumba, an authentic East African sound, and expose it to more ears in the region and continent at large. The song is an impressive testament to the talent and creativity of both Fancy Fingers and Azawi, and it will surely capture the attention of music lovers everywhere.