Voice of repute: Meet Judith Bwire rising from the shadows of other musicians, Afro-fusion artiste
Akoth Jumadi is among the few artistes sensationally leading the path for the new age Afro-fusion. Flaunting flirtatious ethereal lyricism, she packs a soulful voice mixed with the joyous yet soothing percussive nuances. The multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter, who recently released her debut album dubbed Ere Yo, talks to Ngare Mukiria about her music journey.
How did you become the musician that you are today?
It has come from years of listening to various types of music and having an exploring this interest through instrumentation.
It started with me picking up the guitar because I wanted to write my own songs and I had melodies in my head that I wanted to express.
Over time, I fell in love with the bass guitar, as I listen to a lot of jazz, and I am a big fan of rhythm and funk, which makes up a big part of my repertoire.
I later got a ukulele from a studio in Kisumu from my producer. With the nyatiti, it was very intentional for me as it was significant that I to go back to my roots by learning an instrument that expresses my background.
As a songwriter, I feel it’s just my need for expression, as I observe the environment around me and create a vibration or emotion through sound and language.
When did you start experimenting with different languages in your music or have you always been multi-lingual?
Yes, I speak Kiswahili, Dholuo and other African languages. I am also very interested in the coastal languages such as a variety of Mijikenda dialects.
I love expressing laughter, healing and pain in language. I learnt French in school, but I have come to learn a few African languages, as they have very interesting intonations in their syllables.
Who would you say are your musical influences?
Locally, I really love Winyo, and I am looking forward to working with him. I love his musicality and the texture of his sound.
Also, Suzanna Owiyo, Achieng, Bakita, Nabalayo, Just a Band and Owino Misiani. Internationally, I love Lauryn Hill, Fatoumata Diawara and Dobet Gnahore to mention just a few.
Tell us about the journey to your first album?
Ere Yo was released as an Extended Play (EP), a collection of experiences of a young woman who is coming into adulthood and my spiritual awakening, and my contemplation and observation of the environment around me within and without.
It was also about learning my history in a more in-depth manner and questioning so many things about family, love and environments and finding my role in all this.
The journey was long, as I had the concept for the album since 2018, but I wasn’t ready due to many factors.
It started with me singing my songs as I toured around East Africa whilst couch surfing in friend’s houses and eventually the songs developed into a life of their own.
When I had the finances ready, I brought together a team that understood my sound and took on the courage to make it happen.
What would you say is your fashion sense?
Somewhere between bohemian and elegant. A goddess kind of look. I love flowing materials and bronze and metal jewellery plus tribal patterns on my skin.
You’ve spoken about ‘grounding’ through music before. Expand on this?
As a creative, the aspect of grounding is really important as were born in a world that is always demanding of ourselves and our energy and its always important to find out what you want and what you stand for.
My music is more than just entertainment; it teaches of love, freedom, liberation and conquering pain.
How did you come about working with Fadhilee Itulya and Blinky Bill?
If your work is good then it speaks for itself. I met Blinky Bill at his studio whilst doing recordings for Octopizzo who approached me as he liked my aesthetic and asked me if I’d like we work together.
With Fadhilee we met during my tour through South Sudan and we got to jam together and everything else led on from that.
Who else have you worked or you are working with?
I am currently working with Gondwana, a local house label whose main focus is Africanism.
We have a couple of projects coming out soon. I can’t talk yet about other upcoming projects, but I am working with a couple of amazing artistes.
I would also love to work with Dobe Ganore, Simphiwedana, Winyo and Baloji among many other great musicians that I admire.
Any notable experiences of yours as a performer?
Travelling has been very memorable for me, especially going to parts of the Coast such as Lamu and Diani, and also South Sudan and Uganda.
Playing with musicians I really look up to such as Fadhilee has also been a big deal for me. Going forward, I am expecting to experience more of such.