Rkay; On Matters Music Production

robert-kamanzi-image-courtesy-of-prisk-or-ke
RKay (Image courtesy of prisk.or.ke)

Robert Kamanzi also known as RKay or Mwanabuja is a music producer, singer, song writer,  performer and chairman of the Performers Rights Society of Kenya (PRISK).

Besides having worked with top African artists among them Oliver MtukudziJoh Makini, Chidimna,  and  Blu3,  his productions have received recognition in several awards such as MTV MAMA, Kilimanjaro and the Channel O Music Awards.

I got a chance to talk to him some time back, and this is how our conversation went down.

What does it take to be a good music producer?

You have to be patient because you will be working with artists, who think and do things differently,  as it should be within their territory. Being a producer calls for one to be a guider, as you spend a lot of time with  artists in studio and you get to see them at their most vulnerable moments. Some will break down and you have to encourage them. You also need wisdom that makes you  sensitive enough to notice the emotions and thoughts an artist may be having, know how to handle that and be able to deliver for the best results.

 How do you remain relevant in the industry even after years of being here?

I have never been one to follow trends because if that was so, once a trend is phased out, I would follow. Instead, I ride on my own time which helps to fill the gap that is left in between changing trends. Simply put, I  do timeless music. Also, when it is your gift, you will do it well.At the end of the day, I strive to be the best I can be and the rest will take care of itself.

You work with different artists with different styles of music and different personalities. How do you ensure that they  maintain their individuality while at the same time combining that with your input for the best results?

I take every artist as they are and I am always open to finding out more about their individual personality, and allowing it to contribute to what I have to offer. That said, I love exploring new things. Discovering an artist’s personality is one of the ways that brings out excitement in me. So we end up doing something that is tailored and works for an individual artist.

 How about instances when an artist wants to record a song that you probably do not believe in?

One of the biggest responsibilities of a producer is offering guidance to an artist and having been in the industry for as long as I have been, I have learned a lot. It is my responsibility to share that knowledge with artists. An artist may be good but sometimes their perception of things isn’t correct due to wrong information. Providing guidance based on my knowledge helps an artist have a product that is musically correct; something that can take them further.

For the longest time, you remained unchallenged as a top music producer in the region. Times have however changed and we are now having the emergence of other equally talented producers. What makes you stand out from any other top producer?

When you work well with people, they will always want to keep working with you.  People would rather have a great experience than the greatest skill but with lots of headaches. I try my best to provide the best working environment for my artists, which sets me apart.

Having been in the music industry for over a decade now, what are some of the most notable changes that you have noted in the  industry over the years?

One of the biggest changes has been the growth of infrastructure that has enabled the music industry to flourish. We have also seen laws coming into place to make things more favorable for our artists, in terms of copyright and business. All this have led to maximization of profits in this sector which is slowly becoming attractive to investors. Musicians are now earning from their work, unlike before.

Changes you would like to see in Kenya’s music industry…

We need Kenyans to be more appreciative of our own. Our talent may not be perfect, but it is good enough and we can only get better. As a nation, we need to unlearn the culture of throwing away the baby with the bathing water. If you attend your child’s school parents’ day and it turns out that your neighbor’s child is doing better than your own, don’t cheer for them to a point that you forget about your own child. Instead,encourage your child, go home and try to figure out why the neighbor’s child is doing so well. It could be that they wake up an hour earlier for studying before preparing to go to school. Encourage your child to learn from it, so that tomorrow, they can do better. Appreciation encourages even the one who is struggling to want to do better.

 

P.S: Special thanks to my friends Rael Nabalayo and Ken Bonyo who helped me with the interview…Had it in video format but I lost my audio (darn you technology!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Patty Monroe changing Africa’s rap game

 

patty-monroe-image-courtesy-of-www-zkhiphani-co-za
Patty Monre (Image courtesy of zkhiphani.co.za)

If you listen to South African Hip Hop, then you know that it’s serious business with a holistic culture behind it, dynamism and unpredictability. Top positions in the industry are rarely reserved for a select few due to the existing stiff competition, which is probably why I wasn’t shocked by my sudden interest in Ms. Patty Monroe .

I first heard her song “Talk” on Radio a few months back and despite not knowing who she was or the song’s title, kept humming along to the tune for over a week. Then I heard “Killing it” that features Uganda’s Bebe Cool and knew I had to find out who the hell this girl was.

 

If you haven’t heard of Patty Monroe, then allow me to introduce you to freshness and authenticity that I last heard from the likes of legendary stars such as MC Lyte and  Lil Kim. If you have heard of her, then join me in celebrating this outstanding talent from South Africa who is set to change the rap scene in the continent.

Patty Monroe decided to be a rapper at the age of 15, when she joined The Night of Beat Bangaz, a hip hop platform run by DJ Ready D and DJ E-20. Aiming to take Hip Hop to a whole new level, she seeks to rightfully earn her place in the industry through her music, not as a femcee, but an emcee.

2 words to describe her music: fresh and funky. In her early 20s, mark my words, this girl is heading straight to the top of the list of best African Artists.

Here is my selection of my favorite Patty Monroe songs.

  1. Talk

 

  1. High fashion

 

 

  1. Killing it ft Bebe Cool

 

 

How about you? Which is your favourite Patty Monroe song?

The latest African songs you should be sampling

Hey Loves!

First things first, Happy New Month, hope you are loving October already. As for me well…I couldn’t be more thankful for life. Down to business and I thought I could fill you in on the latest African Jams that have just dropped and then you get to decide which ones we spin and which ones we bin.

Feza Kezzy- Walete

Most Tanzanian artists have recently been opting to have South African directors working on their music videos. However, watching Hascana’s input to this particular video might just be that hmmmh moment when artists can finally entrust local video directors with  their music videos. And am I the only one who thinks Feza Kessy looks like Jacqueline Wolper especially when they are both rocking a short blonde hair do?

Gbagbe Oshi- Davido

FINALLY! His record label allowed him to release a video. (Don’t sign record deals with International Companies people- It’s a trap) .That said, it’s good to have Davido back and active in the music industry and thankfully, he is still on top of his game (musically speaking)

Lady Jaydee- Sawa Na Wao

If there’s anything I love about Jaydee is that she has remained consistent and yet futuristic enough to evolve with the times and compete with emerging artists in a competitive industry.

Patoranking/ Phyno- Money

With the number of collaborations that Patoranking has been doing in the past year or so, it’s hard to imagine what a song that he does all alone would sound like. All the same, Patoranking never disappoints so I really can’t fault him for that.

Baraka Da Prince & Ali Kiba- Nisamehe

Ali Kiba does seem set on collaborating with up- coming stars, providing them a plat form for growth, which is rather rare in the music industry. But maybe other artists could learn from Kiba and pick up the same?..just maybe?

Stonebwoy- Problem

He might be a “Dance Hall King”, but Stonebwoy surely knows how to tune his music in a way that will attract even an audience that may not necessarily like this genre of music.

So which of these songs are you feeling and which ones are you not?… Also, do tell why you like or do not like them.

P.S: I was thinking I could do this more regularly (that is, share the latest African Jams with you), perhaps every Monday or new month, (not decided yet). But would you like that?…Do let me know.

Have a blessed week ahead!

The Remix V/S the Original #Salome

I really tried to refrain myself from doing another Diamond Platinumz post but have you heard the remix to Saida Karoli‘s Maria Salome?……I would be damned if I did not do this post.

While most urban songs from the West are sampled from back in the day (and turn out just fine), we are yet to fully embrace the concept in Africa.

Here is the thing though: You cannot do a remix to a chart- topping song unless you are making it bigger and better than it already was.Diamond might be among the very few artists from Africa that have remixed an old school jam, without stripping off important elements that made the original version lovable. This way, he has been able  to retain an older audience that knew and loved Saida’s Salome, while at the same time attracting a younger audience that may not have necessarily heard the original song’s version….Excellence I tell you….Excellence

And just when I thought Veteran Tanzanian singer Saida Karoli was “dead” (musically speaking), Diamond brings the musical legend back to life, in a manner that I doubt any other artist would have managed to do so.Now here is the icing of the cake- Rayvanny. I have listened to a couple of this Wasafi Records Singer but truth be told, his input on this particular jam has got to be one of his best of his works ever.

Now you tell me….Did Diamond do justice to Salome?

 

 

 

Top 5 Most Underrated African Songs

There are two types songs; those that you listen to and wonder why the hell people like them and the type that you listen to over and over again thinking your mind is going to blow up at some point, considering the number of times you have had to hit the replay button. Nothing as sad as enjoying great music alone, so bare with me as I shove my top five most underrated African songs down your throat. (I’m kidding- you will be thanking me after sampling my list)….Now plug in your head phones, turn up the music and enjoy the ride.

  1. Durotimi- Yemmi Alade

Yemi‘s strong vocals and energy would make me listen to her, whether or not I like the song (this is not to say that I don’t like this song). This girl can sing her way out of any situation, which makes me wonder if music lovers deliberately chose to ignore this one, or if this could just be one of those very few good songs that people just never get to hear about.

2. Malome- Cassper Nyovest Ft. Mahotela Queens

Cassper Nyovest is anything but predictable. And while I still haven’t figured out how he decided to work with the veteran Mahotela Queens for this collaboration, I love the rare afrosound blend with Hip Hop.

3. Christian Bella- Nishike

You haven’t listened to beautiful African music if you haven’t sampled Christian Bella‘s songs. This is the only African artist in this day and age who takes me back to the days of good old Rumba that I got to know of thanks to my dad’s  Vinyl Record collection, (child! That was GOOD music).

4. Zani Challe FT. Patoranking- Single For Tonight

If a mellow voice, beautiful face and a body to die for is a package you would enjoy, then South African born Malawian recording artist Zani Challe is the girl for you. And with Patoranking on this song, I surely don’t understand how this song has less than a million views, four months after its release.

5. Fena Gitu Ft. Kagwe Mungai & Toshi

 

I am yet to discover an artist that makes afrosound sound better than Fena. This song might have been dropped  about 3 years ago, but remains to be a timeless musical piece and a conversation that I love listening to over and over again. (But seriously though…when is the right time to go dutch on a date?)

Drop a comment, let me know if there is any other African tune that you think I should add onto my list.

 

 

3 Recommendations that could help Ugandan artists gain relevance beyond Uganda’s boarders

ugandan-music-image-courtesy-ugblizz-com
Ugandan artists (Image courtesy of ugblizz.com)

I am a frustrated Ugandan Music Lover, tasked with a responsibility that really isn’t mine. While most African artists are investing in strategies that are having them known across the continent, most Ugandan artists have left the discovery of who they are and their music (and especially beyond their country’s boarders) to the very few interested people like myself.

Here are 3 recommendations that could help Ugandan artists gain relevance beyond the Pearl of Africa’s boarders and to catch up with the rest of African music doing oh- so well:

  1. Make relatable music

 

You have probably heard that music is a universal language that does not consider language nor comprehension: as long as it is good, people will listen. IT’S A BIG LIE…..Well…Maybe not entirely but here is the thing, people have to identify with music at whatever minimal level, in order to enjoy it. Be it the song’s message, a familiar beat or a few words that they can sing along to, it has to resonate with them. Take Nigerian AfroPop for example which most artists are doing in Nigerian Pidgin. You may not speak the language nor understand the entire song, but you can at least sing along to a few of the words. Eddy Kenzo may be singing in Luganda, but has made his music relevant outside Uganda through his incorporation of dance with a hint of comedy, which as you watch his music videos, retains your interest as an audience.

  1. Quality lacks substitute

You have no idea how disappointing it is to listen to an amazing audio to a song, only to search for its video then have a major brain freeze and voices in your head telling you how you should start spending your time more wisely because you are getting too old for such games. This is not to say that all Ugandan videos are unappealing (trust me, I have seen some of Sasha Vybz’ work and had to confirm if indeed it was a Ugandan Production) but it is time Ugandan artists start investing in better quality music videos. As an artist, have to have a good audio with an equally good video that your audience can enjoy watching while listening.

  1. Bank on content

I can safely say that Uganda’s Music Industry is amongst the most vibrant in the East African Region. Unfortunately though, this vibrance is more about hype/side shows than actual work. From nudes to cheap publicity stunts by artists, there is simply no dull moment in the Ugandan Music Industry (I use “dull” loosely). So artists are making headlines, but very few are doing so based on their music. Here is the truth: people wake up to equally (or even more) exciting gossip each new day, which means temporary relevance for you as an artist if you cannot keep up with the side shows.  You may therefore want to put in some actual work into your craft as an artist in order to survive the industry long enough.

 

5 Lessons artists can learn from Diamond Platinumz’ music career

  1. The only impossible journey is the one you never begin.

7 Years ago, no one thought of the possibility of Diamond being bigger than any other artist in Tanzania. While some artists are blessed enough to have a pretty face (no pun intended), sick dance moves or even wealth that has them at an advantage as they launch their music careers, Diamond only had a voice needed for what would pass for a good song. Yet, he still became the iconic figure that he is today for East Africa’s Music Industry.

Don’t put your dreams on hold as you wait for the “perfect life conditions”.

  1. Be true to who you are even as you try to attract a larger and more diverse audience.

Diamond has become an international artist by working with different artists from across Africa while remaining true to his sound and the reason why we fell in love with him as an artist.

The only person you should strive to be in an attempt to be successful is the best version of you.

  1. Consistency

It’s hard to keep track of just how many songs Diamond has done since he began his music career in 2009. Some have made for hit songs while some…..well, you only get to know of their existence when you search for his YouTube channel. As an artist, you only get better with song after song to perfect your art, make mistakes while you are at it and learn from them. Ensure that even with the emergence of equally talented artists each new day, you remain unforgettable.

  1. Build an undeniable respectable brand

Love him or hate him, Diamond has packaged himself in a way that many African artists have failed to do so. Even with his collaborations with such successful artists such as Flavour, Mafikizolo and Papa Wemba, he maintains an independent respectable brand that has managed to do so without riding on other people’s fame and success.

  1. There’s much more to a successful music career than talent

Listen, we have so many talented artists from Tanzania. Heck! From Africa Difference is that Diamond has invested in building a brand, with a proper strategy and marketing that makes him stand out.

“You can’t look at the competition and say you are going to do it better, you have to look at the competition  and say you are going to do it differently,” Steve Jobs.

 

TOP THREE MUST HAVE SONGS ON YOUR PLAYLIST THIS WEEK

Every two weeks, I update my playlist. I know! I know! People do more mature things like listing down goals and strategies of how to get there. I do that too, but listen….life can be hard, and you do need good music to get you through it. Avoid boring yourself to death by listening to the same songs over and over again, by adding this top three must have tunes to your playlist. (You’re welcome)

  1. Gudi Gudi- Evalast, Naiboi and Kristoff

 

Never have I heard such corny lyrics that are equally amusing. Think about it…Cheki mwanaume nimekula sembe, juu mpaka chini nikona zigwembe. (So sorry to my non Swahili/Slang speaking folks, this one is quite hard to translate and would only make sense if you are Kenyan).

Kwa keja yetu viti zina makitambaa, na mother hatakangi niletee wasichana, so baby twende tupitie routi panya.

Il stop myself before I end up writing the entire lyrics to the song, but before I do, get your dancing shoes on…ain’t no better way to enjoy this one.

  1. Wivu- Jux

 

Confession…I am a hopeless romantic. The type that will put up with a series that I may not necessarily like until the final episode when an acting couple that was fighting finally gets back together. Anything on romance does it for me and if you love yourself some laid back RnB, then this is definitely it.

3. Bad- Tiwa Savage and Wizkid

 

I feel so  “BAD” every time I listen to this song and want to drive around town in a classic Volkswagen with music pumped all the way up.  Very few songs have the ability to take you to a whole new world as you listen to them and for that particular reason, this is a must have.

 

AFRICA’S PERFECT COMBO

 

Imagine a musical journey through Tanzania, Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya (or is it Burundi), in just 4 minutes and 4 seconds. As unbelievable as it may sound, that’s exactly what you get in Joh Makini’s latest song Perfect Combo, alongside Chidimna . (And no, this is not one of those heavily crowded tracks with more than 5 artists, each one of them scrambling for a single line in the song, for the sake of mere appearance).

Representing Tanzania is Hip Hop heavy weight Joh Makini, with his effortless Swahili lyrics. And just when I thought he would rap about anything but matters of the heart, it turns out that “huu mchezo wa mapenzi  Makini ana talanta”…. (Makini’s got talent in this love game- Literally)

With Nigeria’s afropop star Chidimna’s convincing style of telling love stories as depicted in her previous songs, she plays a major role in making this particular song believable, while bringing in just the right amount of energy and equally strong vocals.

While Joh Makini has been working with Tanzania’s Nahreel a lot in the recent past, and rightfully so, bringing it to Kenya by having RKay produce the song was one of the best musical choices he has made. The perfect mellow tune complements the message of love, while striking a balance between the Hip- Hop and RNB blend, with neither being watered down.

Justin Campos finally has us land in South Africa, introducing us to their vibrant and yet very authentic culture, through color and excellent visual quality that speaks nothing short of perfection.

So there you have it, the perfect combination of creativity making a wholesome song that truly represents the rich and diverse African Culture.

 

 

 

Meet Ndegz- RedRepublik Signed Artist and last year’s Pulse Music Video Awards Winner

Ndegz (Image courtesy of 1.sndcnd.com)
Ndegz (Photo Credit: soundcloud.com)

 

Ndegz is a Kenyan producer, singer, song writer and a rapper. He began his journey into the music world as a studio engineer at Enkare Studios, co- owned by Eric Wainaina and Tim Rimbui. Ndegz later co- produced and was featured in amongst Kenya’s biggest club bangers of 2011, Skamaress alongside Madtraxx and Kora. Having felt the need to re- strategize, he took a two year break from the music industry and is now back with a bang, having even scooped last year’s Break Through Video Award during the Pulse Music Video Awards for his “Twende Nyumbani” video. He describes his music as cool, sexy and kick ass and thinks that the best piece he ever wrote was “They Don’t know me” , a song that he shelved, but one that he describes as the realest he has done so far.

Your music is very diverse, with a touch of RNB, Hip- Hop and Afro- Pop. What inspires your style?

A lot, but I was raised on RNB. Therefore, a lot of my musical influence and the way I write my music comes from RNB, which is very smooth….the Boys To Men, Usher and Baby Face kind of vibe.  That’s the core influence of my music. However, later on in life I learnt of Hip- Hop and got to appreciate the Rap culture. I therefore blend the two (RNB and Hip-Hop) and fuse it with my being a product of Africa, with the need to dance being ingrained as part of our continent’s culture.   So taking bits of all of that is what makes my music what it is.

Your main target audience is the ladies which has earned you the title “Ladies Man”, why that particular group and not the men whom you probably understand better or any other group?

As much as I say my music appeals more to the ladies, I think it is to fault, because I sing music from my point of view as a man, hence lots of men can agree with me. Most people referred to Twende Nyumbani as a “Fisis’ Anthem” (Hyena Anthem), and Fisis are made mainly up of men. So much as I am singing to you as a lady, my message is coming through from a man’s point of view and men can relate. I therefore think my music does resonate with both sexes, just that I am speaking to ladies.

 

What makes Ndegz so different from any other multi- talented Kenyan artist?

My believe in myself and my brand because regardless of what happens and how things play out, I am going to be here. A lot of artists get disheartened when things do not go their way but for me, I want to be here. I might do other things but music is not something I can deny. Kenya’s Music  Industry is still young and it is about time we start uping our game. Not just as artists, but the whole structure and everyone involved.  We need to build each other and I want to be a part of that process. So even if (God forbid) I lost my voice, I wouldn’t stop being in music because I feel like I have much to offer, just from the way I think, to the way I put things together, brand myself, my art and my talent, that’s what sets me apart from the rest.

Future Collaborations you aspire to work on…

There are plenty of artists whose work I admire including Tanzania’s Joh Makini, Uganda’s Radio and Weasal and Kenya’s Kaligraph Jones, Sana, Victoria Kimani and Sauti Sol. Beyond East Africa, I would like to work with Nigeria’s  Cynthia Morgan and WizKid  and South Africa’s Heavy K production- wise.

What’s that one thing as a music creator that you would like to be remembered for even when you are no- more?

I want to leave behind a legacy that will have me be remembered for having made the most out of the least.  We are yet to reach our potential as a country and I would like to among those remembered for taking us as a country to another level. I want people to have conversations saying “Remember how Ndegz did it or…Ndegz did this and paved the way for us” And if I can be that guy who puts Kenya on the map or makes it easier for the next Kenyan artist to do what I am doing, then I would have lived a full life.