Crispy Fresh: Latest From Kenyan Music Scene

Dear Music lovers welcome to the latest edition of Crispy Fresh. Get ready for an intoxicating cocktail of sounds from Somali-inspired soul and Afrobeats to Taarab and Hiphop. Amos and Josh -you remember them? They return to our playlists after almost three years. Groovy Jo steps out of her comfort zone to prepare fans for an EP while Eden Verg celebrates speed monster Omanyala. Get ready to groove. 

Ego- Fancy Fingers & Bananasoverdose

We start off with “Ego,”a captivating Afro-Soul tune brought to life by the brilliant minds of Fancy Fingers and BananasOverdose. This musical collaboration unveils a multifaceted narrative woven with themes of ego and self-reflection, all set against a backdrop of rich cultural influences. Bananasoverdose, a worldly and cultured artist of Somali descent, has traversed different lands, soaking in diverse experiences that have shaped her artistic spirit. Born in Ethiopia and schooled in Yemen and Saudi Arabia, her creative endeavors have now led her to Kenya, where she has been crafting music and performing it for the past four years. Her lyrical prowess extends beyond one language, effortlessly oscillating between English, Arabic, and Somali as she raps about love, girl child rights or anything else she fancies. This collaboration marks a significant milestone for Sauti Sol member Fancy  Fingers,as it is the first song any of the group members have published ever since it announced it would take an indefinite hiatus. The renowned guitarist and producer handles the instrumentation of this track, his brilliant expertise shining through as he skillfully incorporates elements of traditional Somali music to make an Afro Soul ballad. 

The beat production in “Ego” pays homage to the rich musical heritage of Somalia, seamlessly blending melodic elements, drum patterns, and rhythms from the region. The main melody, crafted using a keyboard, emulates the haunting allure of a moodi-a traditional reed flute. Moreover, the use of light 808 patterns, reminiscent of the small drums in Somali culture, adds an authentic touch to the soulful atmosphere of the song. Fancy Fingers elevates the production with his ingenuity, cleverly syncing a moderately lively guitar with the delicate 808s, resulting in a composition that is simultaneously soulful and danceable. Bananasoverdose sets the pace of the song by using a pentatonic rhythm pattern common with Somali poetry often accompanied by ciyaar dances during performance. Thematically, “Ego” centers around the concept of ego and its impact on relationships. As the song opens, Bananasoverdose sings, “My heart is fine but my ego is bruised,” immediately setting up an introspective mood over the melancholic production.Both artists assume personas that have allowed their egos to hinder meaningful connections, leading them to fumble good partners. Fancy Fingers, in his verse, amusingly rationalizes his actions with the line, “I love you but I am not in love with you,” shining a light on the often comedic and silly excuses people make to avoid commitment. The song serves as a poignant reflection on the complexities of human nature and the lengths we go to protect ourselves from vulnerability. 

It is worth noting that Bananasoverdose surprises and captivates with her vocal delivery. Although known for her versatility as a singer and rapper, not many fans would have pictured her taking on the challenging task of belting a soulful ballad that involves hitting high notes.This unexpected yet impressive artistic leap further solidifies her position as a visionary artist, pushing boundaries and providing a secular alternative for speakers of the Somali language, not only in Kenya and the Horn of Africa but globally. By drawing inspiration from pre-Islamic era art forms, she embodies the collaborative spirit of Somali music and poetry,which has led her to work with Fancy Fingers, following a previous venture with Boutrouss.

“Ego” is more than just a melancholic melody; Fancy Fingers’ adept fusion of Afro sounds has set him on a path of redefining Afro-soul, bringing a fresh and contemporary perspective to the genre.The tune finds a place not only on the dance floor but also as a captivating addition to DJ sets that embrace the vibrancy of contemporary African music.

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Toto Kenya – Amos featuring Josh

Amos and Josh, the dynamic duo that once graced our airwaves, have made a triumphant return with their latest offering, “Toto Kenya.” The reunion of these two talented artists is in itself a cause for celebration. Luckily, we get to celebrate Madaraka Day in a week’s time,and this track is just the timely gift Kenyan music lovers will appreciate.To be clear,the two artists have officially parted ways as a music duo,but still remain close friends. Amos has been the more active one since they went solo,although it isn’t much considering the fact that before this, he last released a song in 2020. Just like this song,Sherehe features Josh. 

At its core, “Toto Kenya” is a heavily patriotic anthem that resonates deeply with the Kenyan spirit. The chorus invites listeners to “live the Kenyan dream,” an inspiring message that encourages young children to heed the wisdom of their parents and elders as they pursue their aspirations. Throughout the song, Amos and Josh drop the names of renowned Kenyan achievers like Eliud Kipchoge, Lupita Nyong’o, and Victor Wanyama, symbolizing the heights to which Kenyans can aspire. Their vision is clear: they want the future leaders of Kenya to reach unlimited horizons and “make their motherland proud.”  This aspirational theme, coupled with the duo’s call for unity and perseverance, is sure to strike a chord with their audience.

Sonically, “Toto Kenya” is a mesmerizing fusion of African Dance Music (ADM) and the traditional taarab genre. The production skillfully melds some of Taarab’s traditional instruments,using a cello and flutes, boosted by a double bass guitar,with modern ADM patterns. Basic drumming patterns are achieved through light bongo drums and heavy tablah drums,native to the East African coast. The ADM patterns, wisely reserved for the chorus, add a climactic touch, further enhancing the song’s powerful message. Backup vocalists are engaged to chant in the background-a staple of taarab music known as “gente” that is used to provide harmonious support and maintain the song’s rhythmic pace. This fusion of traditional and contemporary sounds is remarkably significant as it demonstrates the duo’s ability to redefine musical boundaries and push the creative envelope. Taarab music, deeply rooted in the communal philosophy of the Swahili people, serves as the perfect backdrop for Amos and Josh’s patriotic message. By infusing ADM patterns into Taarab’s traditional structure, the duo showcases the spirit of improvisation and creativity that is inherent in Swahili culture. Furthermore, the futuristic ADM elements give the song a forward-thinking vibe, amplifying its reimagining of Kenya as a global powerhouse in every field. As Kenyans prepare to celebrate Madaraka Day, this musical gift from Amos and Josh will undoubtedly be cherished by fans, who are elated to witness their long-awaited return to the limelight.

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Logo- Groovy Jo

Groovy Jo’s latest single “Logo” is a testament to her artistic growth and versatility as she explores new musical territory in her upcoming EP titled “Pressure.” Le Mario produces this one,showing he understands Groovy Jo. Le Mario has always had an Afro-centric inclination , hence not surprising he made this  deconstructed Afrobeats instrumental. The beat maker was instrumental in building the foundation for Shrap music ,working with Boutrouss ,Jovie Jovv and Kay Green when ADF was starting out. 

The deconstructed Afrobeats instrumental features a bouncy and playful melody created by the looping of an exaggerated keyboard chord, complemented by electric guitars.

 The drumming patterns and 808 patterns employed are layered in a complex fashion,providing a runway where  Le Mario showcases his sonic genius.There is a light dancehall pattern that adds to the bouncy playful quality of the beat. Another drumming pattern  employed is one that is common in Afrobeats that features a heavy drum -hit in  a consistent way throughout the song to provide an addictive frequency. Lastly the producer adds a trap 808 pattern which Groovy Jo greatly benefits from ,as she uses it to design her cadence and flow. 

 “Logo” is an ode to the fashionistas, an anthem celebrating the desire to wear authentic designer items.The verses mention brands like Christian Dior and Jimmy Choo as well as the act of wearing jewellery.While announcing the song to her fans earlier this week ,Groovy Jo said the song is about a time she thought she was in love. This assessment holds true as the femcee brilliantly uses fashion as a metaphor for demanding worthy treatment in romantic relationships. The song reflects on a time when she believed she was in love, only to realize the relationship had soured. 

In the first verse, Groovy Jo sets the stage by describing a persona who is dressing up in preparation for a date. The relationship she was excited about however soon turns sour becoming burdensome for her.This is shown by the line ,”he’s on me like a logo”.The song also pays homage to fellow artist Nikita Kering, cleverly dropping a bar involving her hit song “EX.”Groovy Jo’s  superior writing abilities have seen her make a song about fashion, love, and self-empowerment, all while captivating her audience .It’s no wonder ,most fans agreed that she had the best verse on the recently released Nike Air Max Cypher. “Logo” is a vibrant tune that caters to the club scene and is well-suited for a night out or a fashion runway event. DJs looking for jams specifically curated for fashion events should consider adding this track to their playlists.

 Groovy Jo’s willingness to step out of her comfort zone is significant. While she typically leans towards trap beats with heavy 808s, she proves her artistic range and versatility by embracing a deconstructed Afrobeats sound. The tune serves as a sneak peek into her forthcoming EP, hinting at an exciting sonic buffet with diverse influences.

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Is It Just Me – Joefes & Unspoken Salaton

Joefes and Unspoken Salaton have teamed up once again to deliver a satirical masterpiece that will have you laughing out loud and questioning the absurdities of Kenyan society. In their jazz rap collaboration, “Is It Just Me,” these talented artists take turns spitting bars that hilariously poke fun at various ideas, people, and occurrences in their country. It’s evident that satire serves as their driving inspiration, creating a platform for comedy and delivering some rib-cracking moments.

The duo fearlessly takes aim at famous celebrities like Nyashinski, Mulamwa, Kwamboxx, and Chebet Rono, leaving no stone unturned in their quest for laughter. With Mulamwa, a popular comedian, they cheekily joke, “hatupatani kama Mulamwa na jokes’ ‘ . Furthermore, they shed light on the normalization of drug and substance abuse among the youth, using non-flattering terms to describe khat, lean, alcoholic gin, and weed. They particularly criticize how these hallucinogenic substances detach people from reality, cleverly expressing their point through phrases like “story za jaba”  which is code for fake stories and “hazijashuka tangu jana”. The tune also delves into the realms of sex and relationships. Joefes jokingly references oral sex acts and the act of sending nude photos, while Unspoken Salaton emphasizes that the chances of him getting played are slim. Moreover, the artists highlight the societal pressure to appear successful, which often leads people to live beyond their means. By addressing these themes with humor and wit, the song provides social commentary and encourages listeners to critically examine these aspects of their own lives.

Breaking away from their usual gengetone beats, Joefes and Unspoken Salaton venture into a jazz-inspired hip-hop beat, showcasing their versatility and musical prowess. The deconstructed boombap beat forms the foundation of the melody, accompanied by a delightful ensemble of wind instruments such as saxophones and trumpets, as well as a subtle flute in the background. The addition of a synthesizer enhances the jazzy sounds, elevating the production value . The artistic decision to   sample content creator Priscilla Wa Imani, famous for her whistling videos cannot be overstated.  At the beginning and end of the song, an audio clip featuring her calling out the name of Nairobi governor Johnson Sakaja is played. This sample not only serves to an  add an extra layer of enjoyment to the audio’s production but also aligns perfectly with the light-hearted mood and themes of the track. Joefes and Unspoken Salaton  step out of their comfort zone. These musicians have just demonstrated their ability to excel in traditional hip-hop in the process of experimenting..This will definitely expand their artistic horizons and aid their mutual growth as young artists. They feed off each other’s energies in an exciting way, pushing each other to explore new territories and further cementing their place in East African music culture. 

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Omanyala – Eden Verg

Eden Verg, a dynamic Kenyan music duo consisting of Fluxx and Llif3, has struck a chord with their latest trap banger, “Omanyala.” Known for their  ability to create an infectious sound by combining elements of Afrobeats , E.D.M, and hip-hop,their latest is just another feather on their cap. The song’s theme revolves around celebrating the Kenyan short distance athlete Ferdinand Omanyala, who recently broke the 2023 world record for the fastest 100m race within a time frame of 9.84 seconds.This fete was achieved on home soil earlier this month on  May 15 at the Kip Keino Classic held in Nairobi.With the choral line, “eyes on the prize – Omanyala,” Fluxx and Llif3 make their agenda clear: to inspire,motivate, uplift.

Kenyan hip hop has a long-standing tradition of celebrating patriotic athletes and sportsmen, and Eden Verg continues this legacy with “Omanyala.” Famous examples include Khalgraph Jones’ Yego,Nyashinski’s Marathon Runner  and Afrocentric’s Injera. Savara of Sauti Sol ,although not a  rapper,also has a song in praise of Omanyala. Moreover, most Kenyan ethnic groups have a rich tradition of composing songs in praise of famous leaders.  

They pay homage to other renowned Kenyan athletes as well,mentioning  marathoner [Eliud] Kipchoge and footballer Micheal Olunga and in the process creating a sense of national pride.The rappers also reveal their capitalistic intentions with lines like ,” I’m talking bout the dollar sign,money rains when you dive into the ground”  and “feeling like I’m Bezos,feeling like Wanjigi” 

The trap beat ,crafted by the talented sound engineer Vero, sets the stage for the energetic and bouncy tune. The melody too adds an invigorating layer to the using keyboards 

and synthesizers. Accompanied by the signature trap 808s, the production elevates the high energy vibe of the track.”Omanyala” is a perfect addition to any morning playlist. However, its true strength lies in its ability to inspire listeners during workout sessions. Whether you’re lifting weights, doing squats, or practicing pilates, this track gives you an unmatched feeling of being an athlete, becoming the ultimate cheat code to avoid skipping leg day.

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