One on one with Kriticos Mwansa, Belgium-based rapper and singer

Wednesday, November 13th, 2019 08:48 |

KRITICOS MWANSA is a 23-year-old Belgium-based rapper and singer. He is on a tour of East Africa to promote his just-released debut Extended Play (EP) Bemba Chagga. He chats with our writer, MANUEL NTOYAI, about his musical journey and other interests

Who is Kriticos?

I am a Zambian-Tanzanian musician and student of marketing, based in Brussels, Belgium. I make music of different genres including reggae, dancehall, Afro pop and R&B. I’m just so versatile.

When and how did your music journey start?

I started recording music in 2008 when I was 12 years old, but professionally started releasing music in 2016 at the age of 20. I was not signed to any label. I actually started my own stable called Big Daddy Records and I signed myself and another artiste called HakiJah based in Arusha, Tanzania. He is featured in my song Shake Body. 

How was the learning process before going pro and how has it been so far?

It is important to first pass a message in your music, but if you over do it at times it becomes boring. So, one has to find a catchy way of blending the two. I used to write songs before I go to the studio and I still would still find gaps when I get there. This used to kill my interest and morale. Now, I don’t wait for anything; I hit the rod while it’s still hot, when I still have the adrenaline. I record straight when I get an idea. As the producer makes the beat, I write the song and in about two hours, we are always done with the song. 

Who are some of the artistes you used to look up to coming up?

I would say the late Hugh Masekela. I like the way he used to have so much energy while juggling through different types of music. I also like Burna Boy; how he manages to make a song that is danceable and still full of positive messages is just so incredible.  

How big is Afro pop it in Belgium?

It has been big and it’s getting bigger by the day. The first songs that started popping over there was the Congolese music then Afro pop from West Africa. Now, they are starting to listen to East African music, with the likes of Diamond Platnumz, Ali Kiba, Jua Cali and even Sauti Sol becoming prominent features in airplays. You might not think much about it, but the African communities abroad still play our music and it ‘s through such ways that it slowly penetrates to the rest of the masses. 

Has your East African connection enabled you sing in Kiswahili?

Kidogo (a little). I really try to do some lines in Kiswahili. This could, for example, be found in a song I did with Harmorapper and produced by P Funk called Kideo. It’s not just a selling point, but it’s also part of my East African heritage.

Tell us about your newly released EP Bemba Chagga.

It is my debut compilation project. It’s basically a story about myself. My dad comes from a tribe called Bemba in Zambia while my mother is a Chagga from Tanzania. It has six songs, each with different genre from hip hop, Afro pop, dancehall to cloud rap. I am on tour of East Africa to promote it, hopefully do a few shows as we plan for the coming year. I recorded in three countries, working with different creatives from across Africa. What is catchy in the EP is the message and the pan-African feeling in it. It’s awesome.

For someone listening to you for the first time, what unique thing would they notice?

Many are times that people ask me who sings in my songs. Not many know that I sing and rap, too. I am also a public speaker, talking on various issues such as masculinity and racism. I also have a book club in Belgium called The Big Daddy Book Club where we discuss such and other topics.

What exactly is your agenda with the book club?

There are certain stereotypes about Africans such as ‘if you want to hide anything from an African, hide it in a book’. I hate such typecasts and that’s why I started the club to focus on black authors, especially from Africa. The first book we did was Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I felt the need to improve the reading culture and we’ve got more youth and people of colour joining the club. 

How hard or easy is it to crack into the music industry in Africa?

The business culture is really different here. In Europe, it is more organised. One has to plan things in advance, but here, ‘Hakuna Matata’ is the lifestyle. Networking there is difficult with no formalities unlike here when we just create rapport and off we go. I also like that people here are more relaxed, flexible and welcoming. The crowd here is also honest; if you are in a performance, the audience will let you know about their feelings towards your show and that really helps an artiste the next time he ascends a stage to perform. In Europe, people are more reserved to their feelings and prefer the quietude. 

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