Despite developments, vernacular music still manages to consolidate its relevance
The Covid-19 crisis may have dimmed some of the creatives’ shines, but not all stayed away from their labour of love. They are still at it, and if anything, projects after projects have been churned through this pandemic as Grace Wachira observed.
In June, all-boy Afro pop band Sauti Sol released its fifth album Midnight Train that has since been available across all music apps and streaming platforms.
The alum was launched live in an online concert that had fans indulge from the comfort of their homes.
This was after the band had pre-released a few singles off the album including Brighter Days, Suzanna and Disco Matanga ft South African songstress Sho Madjozi. This move helped in building the anticipation for the album launch.
However, they haven’t been the only music makers who’ve been busy during the Covid-19 pandemic period.
That same month saw songwriter and singer Otile Brown perform all his Just In Love album tracks online.
The pandemic did not shatter his project. Speaking of the album, Otile told his fans to prepare for a mind-blowing musical experience, and true to his words, the album that explored love and relationships was nothing short of excellent.
Just this month, genge artiste Nonini released his fourth album Mgenge 2RU.
The rapper-cum businessman intimated that he chose October 2 as the release date because it was as also his birthday.
“I have 17 tracks on it and few collabos with upcoming artistes as well. It is an album that has been a long time coming and finally, its done and dusted,” he said.
For many creatives world over though, coming up with music let alone a whole album during this period has not been a walk in the park, as producer as recording artiste Rigga intimates.
Pre-Covid-19, Rigga was always in the studio; working his craft, experimenting, creating and writing.
“I’d mostly be working on my own music with one to two sessions a week with other artistes.
Then for the first to month of Covid-19, I had to entirely stop, which was frustrating. Not being able to do what I love was soul crushing,” he tells Spice.
Even then, as a creative, Rigga found a way to continue helping the talents he was working with.
“I’ve not only been able to work on my own music, but also worked with two other artistes; Nasara the Poet and Lisa Oduor-Noah.
It is commendable for any artiste right now to release collabo projects during this period,” he said.
“We had previously collaborated in the studio and on stage many times over the years, and that made it easy to find chemistry between us.
When I started looking for artistes for Chumbani album to work with, it was a no brainer,” he says, adding that working with Nasara was a beautiful challenge.
Recovering lost time
“The boarders were closed and curfew hours were crazy. For Nasara, we have been able to complete an entire EP (a mini album) project together.
And obviously, because of social distancing and quarantine zones, many of those studio sessions were online.
Nasara is based in Nakuru, so when Nairobi was locked down, we had to find a studio in Nakuru where I was able to guide him on how to record and send me the audio files. This really stretched us,” he says.
“I’m aware that this Covid-19 season has affected us all in different ways and hit many of our creatives hard.
At the start of it, I lost performance opportunities as did many other artistes and that translated to lost income coupled with the lost freedom to create, but thankfully, we made it through and found the rhythm,” says Rigga.
But now, with normalcy slowly resuming, opportunities and income have started trickling in.
“I began working on new music projects and me and my studio have had an extremely productive year.
Chumbani, which started as a recording project, is now a pretty much a record label. I have so much to thank God for,” he beams.
The Chumbani album samples a wide variety of music and Rigga and his team found the inspiration from all over the place.
“We were all constantly listening to anything we could find, both Kenyan and international.
But as we drew from everywhere we could, the main genres in these projects are hip-hop, R&B, soul and pop.
Think of it as East African flavour with a global appeal. Our lyrics are drawn from what we’re feeling and experiencing.
As we entertain, we also want to share our hearts with our listeners. The music is tailor-made to best convey what we’re trying to say. We want the music to be authentically us,” Lisa affirmed.
“We believe that many music creatives are equipped and motivated to create from the comfort of their own spaces.
In 2020 alone, Chumbani (the label) has worked with at least six different artistes who have home studio setups and are making music on their own.
Take Lisa for example who is currently working on her own little studio set up at home and going into Chumbani to work on mixes or record.
Well, as evidenced during this pandemic period, via the entertainment industry’s turn to streaming, I think it’s definitely going to be more common place for people to have some kind of a recording setup in their house,” concludes Rigga.