Crispy Fresh: New Music From Kenyan Scene This Week!

Hello music lovers. Welcome once again to another edition of Crispy Fresh, a weekly listicle that gives an in-depth analysis of some of the new music releases in Kenya. Thanks to our partnership with Kapuka Kulture we are able to curate a diverse list featuring artists from different parts of the country, different walks of life, different sounds, and at different stages of their careers. Enjoy!  

Sunina-Otile Brown 

Otile Brown, the Kenyan independent R&B sensation, strikes again with his latest release, “Sunina.” Drawing inspiration from his Mombasa upbringing, Otile seamlessly blends contemporary R&B, Bongo, reggae, and Afropop to create a unique sound that captivates listeners. As a culture critic, I must highlight the mesmerizing themes and exceptional beat production that make this tune stand out.

“Sunina” is a heartfelt ballad that immerses us in the yearning for love from the persona’s irresistible interest, Sunina. Otile compares her beauty to an enchanting genie, warning that her charm may lead to his demise. The song is an ode to this extraordinarily beautiful woman, with lyrics that vividly express her unmatched allure, “sijaona yako asilia.” Otile cleverly employs a food motif, comparing Sunina to sweet chocolate, while expressing his insatiable appetite for her love. He emphasizes that love is the nourishment our hearts crave, as he declares, “mapenzi ni chakula cha moyo.” Sunina turns heads wherever she goes, leaving people awestruck, as Otile beautifully describes with Swahili idioms like “shingo zao zavunjika.” The persona portrays the task of impressing Sunina as a challenging mystery with far-reaching consequences.

The production of “Sunina” perfectly complements its theme of love’s pursuit. The soft melody gracefully guides the listener through the heartfelt lyrics, evoking a sense of longing and vulnerability. The keyboard-led beat incorporates elements of taarab, a traditional music genre from the Kenyan coast. The melodic arrangement of the keyboards adds depth, with one part resembling a traditional piano and the other providing a synthetic touch. The well-placed 808s, synonymous with R&B, lend weight and rhythm to the track. Otile astutely employs background vocalists, harmonizing and infusing musicality into the gaps between verses and hooks Additionally, his own beautiful hums, reminiscent of taarab music, add another layer of artistry to the song.

“Sunina” is a testament to Otile Brown’s cultural roots and his continued dominance in East Africa’s music scene. The song’s significance lies in its brilliant lyrical composition, weaving together poetic expressions of love in Swahili. Otile’s mastery of similes, hyperbole, and Swahili idioms elevates the song’s artistic value. With its intimate and emotive ambiance, “Sunina” becomes an enchanting melody for lovers and a shining example of Otile Brown’s creative prowess.

Watch Here.

Khadija -NDOVU KUU featuring Vijana Barubaru

NDOVU KUU, the superstar who shot to fame with his 2020 hit “Ndovu Ni Kuu,” once again displays his talent as both a producer and vocalist in his latest track, “Khadija.” Teaming up with the dynamic duo Vijana Barubaru, known for their Afro-pop music infused with rap and poetry, this Afropop gem showcases the artists’ versatility. The song pays homage to a woman named Khadija, intertwining a love theme with a dance floor anthem, as the chorus urges listeners to “ukisakata rhumba” or dance without a care.

The production is undeniably NDOVU KUU’s signature style. The playful melody exudes charm and excitement, with multiple layers of instruments intricately woven together. The guitars and wind instruments harmonize seamlessly with the cleverly layered keyboard, creating a bouncy effect. A synthesizer further enhances the cohesion of the instruments. Remarkably, the drumming patterns match the melodies in complexity, using a light but rapid rhythm that embodies the essence of Afropop. It’s fascinating how NDOVU KUU achieves this effect without relying on heavy drumming, which is traditionally associated with the genre. Additionally, intermittent drums add climactic moments, elevating the energy between verses and hooks. The cadences of the rappers on “Khadija” deserve special mention. Mshairi Spikes delivers his first verse with a melodic cadence that showcases a fluidity rarely witnessed before. When Tuku Kantu takes over seamlessly within the same verse, it feels completely natural. NDOVU KUU’s cadence is also melodic, utilizing the tune’s buoyancy to explore different pitches. His playfulness shines through as he effortlessly contorts his rhythm and syllable pronunciation every two beats, truly exemplifying his rap prowess.

“Khadija ” is destined to become a certified club banger, not only for Khadija’s themselves but for all those who love to dance. The song’s playful and buoyant nature, combined with its clean lyrics, make it a perfect fit for radio airplay. This collaboration defies conventional expectations, as Vijana Barubaru’s lyrical prowess, often layered with humor and sarcasm, blends seamlessly with NDOVU KUU’s high-energy gengetone style. Together, they challenge us to rethink their respective sounds and demonstrate their ability to transcend boundaries. Vijana Barubaru’s willingness to experiment with more mainstream sounds expands their creative repertoire beyond their usual slow-tempoed R&B and poetry, proving their versatility.

Hazardous-Trio Mio

Trio Mio, the young and versatile rapper from Embakasi, takes on a tough persona in his hard-hitting anthem, “Hazardous.” Known for his Gengetone music, Trio Mio has proven his prowess in various genres, including boombap, drill, and trap. At just 18 years old, he has already made a name for himself and won the prestigious Unkut Hennessy Hip Hop Awards in 2021, a remarkable achievement in the Kenyan music industry.

“Hazardous” immediately establishes a confrontational tone as Trio Mio declares war with the opening line, “irori iongezwe, 240 expressway.” He showcases his lyrical potency by referencing controversial figures like Shakajola and Pastor McKenzie, likening the power of his bars to their infamy. The rapper doesn’t shy away from bragging about his success and economic prosperity, asserting that he hasn’t forced anyone to listen to him, subtly addressing online trolls who have tried to bring him down. His confident lyrics highlight his ability to provide for himself, stating, “vitu zingine usingoje malezi ya mzazi, nani hanitambui, I’m guessing ni mrazi.”. 

Interestingly, the number paints a dystopian picture of urban Nairobi, where poor sanitation and high crime rates prevail. Trio Mio offers a perspective on the violence, acknowledging the struggles of life in the city with the line, “life in the city, naelewa mkona needs, hata mimi ningejuwa nimesota ukilegea nakufleece.” This understanding approach gives a glimpse into the challenges faced by young men pressured to be providers, especially in the face of unfair economic policies.

The production of “Hazardous” adds depth to the song’s narrative. Produced by Leon Vibes from Trio Mio’s outfit Trouble Music Inc, the dancehall beat sets the stage for Trio Mio’s rap cadence. The melody, created using a keyboard, mimics the sound of low-pitched wind instruments. The energetic 808 patterns and bouncy quality of the beat create an infectious rhythm. The drumming patterns further enhance the song’s themes, with a playful light pattern and a foreboding heavy pattern that underscores the darker aspects of the lyrics. Adding to the song’s appeal is a contributing narrator with a Jamaican patois accent, a common feature in dancehall music. This narrator intermittently gives shout-outs to Trio Mio, adding to the immersive experience. It’s worth noting that while Trio Mio adopts a rap cadence, he seamlessly blends it with the dancehall beat, as he has done in previous tracks like “Steppa” and “Dweet.”

The significance of “Hazardous” lies in its political undertones and its ability to capture the dissatisfaction felt by the citizens amidst tough economic times. By acknowledging poverty as a factor contributing to crime, Trio Mio humanizes young men who resort to such practices due to limited options. The song serves as a subtle critique of the government’s economic policies, resonating with a generation feeling the brunt of these burdensome circumstances. Overall, “Hazardous” stands out for its powerful lyrics, infectious dancehall beat, and insightful commentary on societal issues. Trio Mio’s ability to seamlessly fuse rap cadence with dancehall instrumentation showcases his versatility as an artist. This track not only resonates creatively but also holds cultural significance, shedding light on the struggles faced by young people and serving as a voice for those who feel unheard.

Pombe Isiwe Tamu- Nviiri the Storyteller

Nviiri the Storyteller, a household name in Kenyan music, has captivated audiences with his hits that revolve around love and partying, adopting a bad boy persona in his writing. However, with his debut full-length project, “Inside Out,” Nviiri surprises listeners with a profound message in the song “Pombe Isiwe Tamu.” The phrase “Pombe isiwe tamu kuliko ile pesa inainunua” serves as the song’s thematic anchor, reminding us to exercise moderation in our actions and not squander hard-earned money on fleeting pleasures. Nviiri’s lyrical finesse shines through with other weather-related motifs like “usingizi isiwe tamu hata kama kuna mvua,” emphasizing the importance of temperance, prudence, and making wise decisions.

In “Pombe Isiwe Tamu,” Nviiri takes on the role of a counselor and cautionary voice, warning listeners against blindly trusting others and urging them to stand up for worthy causes. This departure from his usual love-themed music showcases Nviiri’s growth as an artist and his commitment to positively influence his young admirers. It’s worth noting that Nviiri tactfully avoids coming across as preachy, patronizing, or condescending, allowing the message to resonate organically.

Musically, the production of “Pombe Isiwe Tamu” adds depth and resonance to the song’s meaning. So Fresh, a talented producer, and Isaac Aine, a skilled composer, collaborate to create a captivating blend of genres. The melodic foundation of the song revolves around skillfully played guitar patterns, reminiscent of blues music, evoking a soulful aura that aligns perfectly with the song’s message. However, the production goes beyond acoustic elements, incorporating a subtle use of synthesizers and keyboards, lending the song a mainstream appeal. The incorporation of African drumming patterns, shakers, and an 808 kit gives “Pombe Isiwe Tamu” a distinct Afro-pop identity. This fusion of different musical elements showcases Nviiri’s versatility and highlights the cultural significance of the song. The overall production quality not only complements the lyrics but also captures the attention of a wider audience.

“Pombe Isiwe Tamu” serves as a standout track in Nviiri the Storyteller’s debut album, “Inside Out.” As his first independent project, the album allows fans to experience Nviiri’s sound and creative vision unobstructed by joint ventures. The song’s sonic experimentation and thematic depth resonate throughout the entire album, demonstrating the artist’s growth and maturity. By blending meaningful lyrics with captivating production, Nviiri proves that he is more than just a hitmaker but a storyteller with a creative and cultural significance worth paying attention to.

Listen Here.

Lamu Tamu Remix -Udelele & Karim Mwondi

Lamu Tamu Remix, a captivating musical piece by Udelele and Karim Mwondi, takes listeners on a sonic journey to the picturesque Lamu Town, an ancient Swahili settlement in Kenya. Udelele, known for his avant-garde new age Benga style and remarkable guitar skills, joins forces with Karim Mwondi, an active figure in the alternative electronica music scene. Not only does this collaboration celebrate their musical talents, but it also showcases their recent career milestones. Udelele’s appointment as a musicologist at the African Music Library and Karim’s signing with Australian music label Universal Tribe Records mark significant achievements for both artists.

Lamu Tamu Remix beautifully captures the essence of Lamu Town, with Udelele revealing that the island has been a source of inspiration for him since his first visit. The song encapsulates the mystic allure of the town’s ancient architecture and delightful cuisine, allowing listeners to travel through time and space. The chorus, “Lamu Tamu, I’m settling down, I’m sailing to Lamu Tamu,” emphasizes the captivating nature of this Swahili settlement. Additionally, the tune portrays Lamu as a relaxing and carefree tourist destination, showcasing the town’s tranquil ambiance.

The production of Lamu Tamu Remix is a harmonious fusion of soulful Benga and down-tempo electronica. The integration of Udelele’s soul-stirring guitar melodies with Karim Mwondi’s dark and introspective electronic elements creates a mesmerizing soundscape. The remix introduces new tones of funk, electronic textures, and profound bass lines that complement the lead guitar. Udelele’s mastery of the guitar shines through as he effortlessly weaves intricate tribal patterns into the ambient groove. The mixing and mastering, handled by Jo Bissa, one half of the renowned Umoja Djs and Producers from the Netherlands, further elevate the song’s sonic quality.

With its distinct vibe and danceable rhythm, Lamu Tamu Remix is a standout addition to any holiday playlist. It transports listeners to the enchanting world of Lamu, making it an ideal choice for unwinding after a long day. The collaboration between Udelele and Karim Mwondi has brought Lamu Tamu Remix to a global stage, showcasing the immense talent of these artists and producers. Karim’s reputation as one of Kenya’s emerging down-tempo electronica producers and Udelele’s continuous experimentation with Benga demonstrate their commitment to pushing musical boundaries and evolving their respective genres. This remarkable tune not only celebrates Lamu’s cultural significance but also serves as a testament to the creative prowess of Udelele and Karim Mwondi.