How Sheng has had a big influence on Kenyan music

Chances are you’ll learn a new Sheng’ word every time you listen to a song by the new crop of Kenyan artists. The latest word that I’ve learnt is bundas thanks to Chris Kaiga but I don’t even know what it means. I have some wild guesses but that’s a story for another day.

Chris Kaiga
Chris Kaiga

Perhaps this explains why the new sound is catching up very fast. You see, apart from the fact that the language is relatable, at least to some people, it also makes you curious. You just want to know what a particular word means so that you can use in a conversation.

Sheng is an interesting language in that you can’t say you know it fully. Actually, no one does. It’s largely defined by your environment which simply means that each neighborhoods or estate has it’s own Sheng’ words and only a few cut across.

As such if you are from Eastlands you might not have a flowing Sheng conversation with someone from Githurai. This is playing out in music because all these new-age artists come from different hoods. Therefore, they are always introducing us to new words.

Ochunglo Family
Ochunglo Family

For instance, Ethic Entertainment members hail from Umoja in Eastlands, Gwaash comes from Kariobangi South, Ochunglo Family members were born and bred in Lang’ata while Boondocks Gang members call Githurai 44 home. Like I said, each of these hoods have their own Sheng’ versions.

The new Kenyan sound might be a wave but we really can’t wish it away because apart from the fact that we are curious about new Sheng’ words, they also sound catchy in a song. You just want to keep listening and maybe that’s not a bad thing after all.

Why it’s hard for artists to be consistent

Artists are often told to be consistent if they want have careers spanning many years but the truth is that it’s really hard.

Also read: How Jua Cali has remained relevant to date

In the context of the music and the entertainment industry, consistency simply means that an artist should keep churning out songs i.e. they should not take long breaks.

This way, fans will have you at the top of their minds since you keep giving them new content to consume.

Most artists find it hard to be consistent because it means that they have to spend a lot of money.

Think of it though, to release a song, one has to buy a beat, have studio sessions with a producer to work on it, shoot a video and then market the song.


These steps are financially draining and in most cases artists don’t even have money to take care of all these things.

To add to that, this is all for one song. So when they are working on another song, they have to follow all these steps again.

I am very sure many artists would love to be consistent but they often find themselves in a catch 22 situation because of other pressing needs and end up not releasing songs for moths or years.

Why releasing albums will never work in Kenya

I always wonder why Kenyan artists insist on releasing music albums yet they are aware that it has never worked for most people who have gone that route.

Kenyans are very peculiar people. However, their behaviours are very predictable for instance, most of them prefer to enjoy enjoy one song a time rather than a whole album. It’s just what it is.

However good an artist is, they should not lie to themselves that their fans need a whole collection of songs by them. In most cases, they will end up not listening to the entire album, not even one song.

In as much as releasing an album is what most artists dream of, they should devise strategies to make it work.

For instance, they could follow the footsteps of Sauti Sol who release a song at a time and compile them to make an album.

In the last few years, several Kenyan artists have dropped albums but I have only bothered to listen to two or three.

It’s not that the songs are boring, I think the monotony wears people out however talented the artists are.

You see, the strategy of releasing albums only works abroad and for very few artists like Rihanna, Adele, Taylor Swift, Drake, Beyonce etc. because they take a hiatus to work on it thus building anticipation.

Think of it like this, musicians need songs to live longer and consistently remain on listeners’ playlists so what’s the point of releasing an entire album that no one will listen to?

Most Kenyan artists can’t grow because of their massive egos

If you ask me, I’ll tell you that in as much as most Kenyan musicians are super-talented, their careers can’t pick up or grow because of their massive egos.

The only reason the likes of Avril, Nameless, Sanaipei Tande and Jua Cali have survived in this industry for long is because of their down-to-earth attitudes.

Avril Kenya
Avril Nyambura

If you’ve interacted with any of the aforementioned artists then you’ll agree that it’s easy to strike a conversation or get along with them, even if they don’t know you.

Most new-age musicians lack this trait. In most cases, an artist will release a song which will get good reception. As a result, their social media numbers will grow, they’ll get shows here and there and some money.

Thereafter, they become new people so much so that they forget where they came from or the hard work that they had to put in before they were finally recognized.

Jua Cali
Jua Cali

In most cases, this happens because of their swollen egos, a superiority complex of sorts. It’s almost as if they can’t cope with the pitfalls of being famous which is a huge problem.

An artist who was known for his or her humility becomes arrogant or snobbish, they arrive late for shows and interviews and make diva demands. Basically, they let them fame get into their heads.

This is what leads to the downfall of most Kenyan artists because most music fans tend to ignore your music as soon as they realize that you are not approachable.

Event organizers also shy away from booking an artist when they realize that they can not keep up time or make time for rehearsals.

Also read: Kenyan musicians have done so many collabos this year and we’re really impressed

At the end of the day, the artist stands to lose the most since fewer people are consuming their music or attending their shows.

Maybe, just maybe, one day our local musicians will wake up and see the damage their massive egos are doing to their careers!

Stop asking musicians what else they do!

Sometimes I get vexed when an interviewer asks a musician what else he/ she does. It really bothers me because they don’t perceive music as a serious profession yet it puts bread on many people’s tables.
Granted, some musicians could be engaging in other activities lines their pockets but that does not mean that they are not making money from music. In most cases, they have a side hustle or something to shelter them during rainy days.

About a decade ago, if you told your parents that you want to be a musician or a disc jockey when you grow up, you would get a thorough ass whooping so to drive some sense into your head. Those who pursued these two careers were seen as jokers who lacked ambition.

However, in the last few years the tables have turned so much so that many people have had to ditch their day jobs to do music full time. They discovered that they can earn a good living while doing something that they actually love.

Most of the established local acts ask for nothing less than Ksh. 500,00  for a show – bear in mind that they will perform for an hour or less. Interestingly, people still don’t perceive music as serious profession yet local musicians laughing to the bank.

Avril Nyambura
Avril Nyambura

It’s time we stopped asking musicians what else they do because their profession is as good as any if not better. Some of the most successful artists in Kenya focus solely on their music because they have learnt that it requires their undivided attention.

Lyrics Vs Beats, what makes a song stand out?

Different people have different perception of music. Put simply, what works for you might not go down well with the next person. It’s just what it is.

For instance, when I listen to a song, I’m always keen on the rhymes and wordplay. I want to see how creative and artist is. I want to understand their thought process.

However, a good majority just need a good beat to enjoy a song. In most cases, they don’t even give a hoot about the lyrics so long as the song is dance-able.

Like I said, people are different and that’s why I want to find out what makes a song catchy for you, is it the beat or the lyrics? Or is it both?

Keri Hilson does the Odi Dance

At times, when you listen to a song for the very first time, you think it’s terrible but when you play it again you realize it’s a masterpiece.

Admittedly, the two i.e. the beat and lyrics have to go hand and that’s why when you listen to a song for the second or third time, it slaps really hard.

But the truth is one has to supersede the the other, it’s either you resonate with the beat or the lyrics. You have to pick a side.

As such, we would like to know what will get you hooked on a song, is it the beat or the lyrics? Tell us below.

Most Kenyan musicians don’t know their worth and it’s sad

Despite being super-talented and all, you’ll be shocked to learn that most Kenyan musicians don’t really understand their worth. This is a sad fact of life!

So, here’s the scenario, you are are dead broke despite being an accomplished musician. You’ve dropped three new singles since the year began.

To add to that  you have thousands of followers on your own social media pages, meaning you can easily pull crowds to a gig.


Someone, say a fraudulent promoter, approaches and asks you to perform at an out of town gig for Ksh. 10,000 and you agree because you need to sort out some bills and what not.

Who’s the fool here? Is it the promoter or the musician. It’s definitely the latter and I’ll explain why.

You see, Kenyan musicians should be aware of their worth and stop undervaluing themselves. When they accept paltry amounts for out of town gigs, they are unknowingly setting a bad precedence.

Event organizers are always in constant communication. If word goes around that you charge a certain amount for a performance, your rate card is set.


The next time an event organizer calls the musician up, they will probably offer them the same amount or much less.

At the end of the day, a musician will be bitter for getting bad rates yet they are being offered such meagre amounts because of the precedence that they set. It’s your fault bro!

Musicians should know that it’s okay to turn down amounts they are not comfortable with and that their personal needs or debts should not come before their crafts.

If a musician  needs a manager to help them evaluate how much they are worth, they should go ahead and get one. It’s totally okay!

This way, they’ll get paid what they are worth.  The musician, will also be able to do more things. Instead of performing at many small gigs and being underpaid, just have one or two and get your worth.

Some of the musicians who have been smiling all the way to the bank because they understand their worth are the likes of Naiboi, Khaligraph, Sauti Sol, Otile Brown, Nameless, Avril, Fena Gitu, King Kaka, Octopizzo, Nyashinski, just to name a few.


If you’ve been wondering how come they always have a new song every now and then it’s because they are getting paid what they are worth.

Also read: Khaligraph’s performance fee has shot to 1 million bob per show and it’s totally okay

Why it’s tough being a female musician in Kenya

Female singers in the local music industry go through a lot before they achieve success and perhaps this explains why they are fewer than their male counterparts.

Most people often assume that the playing field is levelled, but it’s not. Female singers are a disadvantaged lot and that’s why some give up along the way.

Habida Moloney
Habida Moloney

First, no one takes them seriously. Producers are always ready to cancel their sessions when a male artists shows up and that’s how they end up not releasing songs.

Secondly, they often have to give in to sexual requests if they want to make progress in the entertainment industry. Most people see them as sexual beings and not as artists.

The third reason is almost similar to the first one and that is they are paid less money compared to their male counterparts because no one takes them seriously.

Nadia Mukami
Nadia Mukami

You’ll find a male and female artist being booked for the same event and the latter is given peanuts while the male artist is laughing to the bank.

More people (read as promoters) think that female artists are dumb and have little or no understanding about financial matters. As such, they always want to swindle them.

It’s about time we started taking female artists seriously because they put in as much effort as their male counterparts if not more. Enough said.

Why it’s important for musicians to have haters

There are several songs where musicians, whether local or international, are outrightly addressing their haters and in most cases, they never have kind words for them.

Others like Willy Paul take to social media to engage in a back and forth with their critics but what they don’t know is that they would not be successful without the people who dislike them.

Willy Paul
Willy Paul

Think of it though, if you are a staunch fan of someone, you would not be honest with them because in your eyes they can do no wrong. For instance, I’ve never seen anything wrong with Sauti Sol’s music approach or their songs.

However, people who aren’t your die-hard fans are brutal. If they think an artist’s song is whack, they will tell him or her in the face and perhaps they will pull up their socks in the subsequent releases.

It’s fact that you can only grow if you have the guts to stomach criticism, whether negative or positive. Therefore it is imperative of artists to have many haters.

A good analogy is The Beat, a music show that used to air on NTV from the mid 2000s. I’m not saying that it was run by haters but forced local artists to shoot better videos because they would turn down substandard videos.

At the end of the day, the people who stands to benefit is you and I, because we are given well packaged product that we can be proud of.