Thursday, February 22, 2007

KENYA . .(P for Popular)

Pulse - Cover Story
Gone with the lyrics
Last Updated on February 23, 2007, 12:00 am
By Caroline Nyanga

While growing up in Nairobi’s Eastlands, Henrie Mutuku was interested in a several music genres. Kenya’s foremost female gospel artiste learned how to play piano at a tender age and later became a back-up vocalist for gospel artistes Izzo and Pete Odera.

The experience helped shape her as a recording artiste and concert performer, all the while influencing her style in music.

Her big break came when she was featured on a compilation album titled Rebirth, produced by Steve ‘Soulchild’ Ominde. If she thought that her career was riding high, it was about to approach dizzying heights — awards began flowing her way.

Captured hearts

Her hard work and consistency finally bore fruit, allowing her to stun many and get the nod for the highly coveted Kora Award for Best Artiste East Africa (2002). She went on to win the hearts of local music fans and consequently won two Kisima Awards: Best Female Artiste and Best Contemporary Gospel Artiste.

And her successful year was just starting. The release of her debut album, Simama (Stand), went on to contribute hit songs like Usichoke, featuring Rufftone and R Kay and Manzi wa Maana (featuring KJ of Redykyulass).

-Henrie Mutuku

Manzi wa Maana captured the hearts of young women, quickly becoming an anthem of chastity and virtue, all the while redefining the true essence of a beautiful African woman.

Henrie was later to curtain-raise for Billboard topping recording artiste Bebo Norman. This experience undeniably ushered her into a spiral ascent as a household name and presented her a platform to step-up and embrace her destiny as Kenya’s foremost female gospel artiste.

Went mute

It also presented her with an opportunity to make her first music video — Nakuhitaji — created by the local Christian TV station, Family TV, for the promotion of the Bebo Norman’s tour. She recorded another music video for the song Amini, from scintillating album Simama.

Then the queen of gospel music went mute. The songstress seems to have sunk into an abysmal quagmire, prompting observers to assume that she could have dropped music for something else.

The singer, who ruled the airwaves with her powerful voice, has since been relegated to the musical backwaters.

In fact, her international profile is lower and pulsers cannot even remember her songs. Henrie has been absent from musical concerts and gigs for more than two years now.


She, however, dismisses the claims, saying her reason for keeping a low profile is pursuit of quality music.

"I would like my fans to know that I am still very much in music as a full time career," she says, adding that her work will soon speak for itself.

These days, Henrie spends her time singing at a local church, Buru Buru Baptist, and is promising her fans a major comeback.

"I strongly believe that when they hear what I have been working on, they will be able to judge for themselves," she says.

No sex

The singer says she is coping well musically and further advocates abstinence as opposed to the use of condoms.

"I believe that sex outside marriage is a messy matter. I think we are stronger than that and we can abstain just as stated in the Bible," she says. Passionate about many causes, especially the containment of the HIV/Aids scourge that has ravaged Africa, she has participated in various fundraising and awareness activities for its prevention.

In addition, Henrie has worked with the Protecting Life Movement, as well as in the care of Aids orphans and patients, not to mention her work in Bible translation and literacy.

The musician also reveals that at some point she moved out of her parent’s house, but returned after a lot of soul-searching.

"I gave the idea a second thought and realised that east or west, home is best, considering that is where I grew up," she says.

Habib inconsistent

Another musician who has vanished is rapper Habib Mmari (the late E-Sir’s brother), who was once famed for the songs Dunda and Fever, featuring his cousin Manga. The rapper did a collabo with Richie Longomba dubbed Bata, last year, but critics still feel that he has been inconsistent.

Habib attributes this to the many problems and obstacles he has had to face over the past few years.

"I have had problems getting the right producers to work with, despite having done enough songs," he says.

Habib says he took a six-month break in 2003 to pursue computer studies.

"I must admit that pursuing music as a career has not been easy and that at some point I had no choice but to quit in 2005."

Part time job

He urges other musicians to aim at releasing quality albums instead of singles if they hope to succeed.

The musician states that he is doing well as he is almost done with his debut album. "I am currently working on an album dubbed Maisha Ya E-Sir which should be out this year," he says, adding that it contains serious music, making him different from the rest.

The musician who works at a Tours and Travel Company says that music is just a part-time job.

"I concentrate more in doing the family business as opposed to music," he explains.


Genge female rapper Rat-a-tat, who was once considered Calif Records’ First Lady, has also been keeping a low profile. Her claim to fame remains her collabo with Pilipili in the hit song, Morale. Most believe that she is out of the game, but she refutes the claims as baseless. "Although I have been down for a while, this doesn’t mean that I am out," she says.
It’s hectic for Rat-a-tat

Rat-a-tat released a single of the same name in 2002, and equally featured in various collabos with Pilipili, Nonini and Gadaffi. She says that although she has done some singles, her producer Clemo intends to put them in Calif Records compilation album.

"Clemo is a busy person working with many other musicians. I still don’t know when he will release the compilation," she says.

She won the Kisima Award for the Best Collabo for the song Morale with Pilipili in 2004, but claims that at some point she had to give up singing so she could return to college and also sort out certain issues.

"By the year 2005 I decided I could not take it any more and quit, but Clemo gave me the will to go on," she says.

Today, Rat-a-tat, an employee of Panari Hotel, admits that combining music and a day job has been hectic. "All the same I am trying to balance both the best way I can but for me music will always be a part time career."

She is currently working on a collabo album with rapper Lady S that should be out this year.

She says afterwards she will concentrate on doing a solo project.

Big Pin seeking maturity

Big Pin, 2004 Kora Award winner for Best Male Artiste East Africa, attributes his silence to too much pressure, especially after winning the prestigious award.

Fondly referred to as the Luo rap king, Big Pin also apportions blame on the delay of his Tera Mos video that he says took him back to the drawing board.

"The fact that it was released six months after the song meant that it didn’t have any impact on people," he says.

However, this is not all, the musician says. He also felt it was time to sit back and reflect on doing mature music.

For him, quitting music is the last thing on his mind. "What I did was take a break on releasing as opposed to writing and recording." He plans on pursuing music as a full time career, although the going has not been easy.

"I’m still trying to catch up with the game as I sit back and plan on what to do next," he says.

He is also involved in a family mining business and says he sometimes has to travel a lot, making it difficult to focus fully on music.

"I believe there is so much to be done this year and music being my first priority, I want my fans to know that there is something in store for them this year," he says.

Mighty King Kong

-King Kong

Observers are in agreement that reggae musician Mighty King Kong must have lost his touch after the release of his two albums, Ladies Choice and Cinderella.

This is because he was trapped in a bad contract for his third album, The Return of The King.

However, the contract lapses on February 26, 2007.

"I want my fans to know that my third album is ready and besides a fourth one dubbed That’s the Way It Is featuring the best of my compilation music will be out this year."

King Kong states that his reason for being quiet is due to the fact that he has been reorganising himself.

"I am currently looking forward to working with many other producers, including local music agents, who will help distribute my music locally and abroad."

The musician says he is glad that everything is now working out well for him, especially after the frustrations and blackmail that marred his life over the past few years.

King Kong is now pursuing music as a full time career and says this is the only thing he knows how to do best. Besides, he has set up a foundation dubbed Kings and Queens Foundation aimed at helping the less fortunate, including children with disability, which is situated at Caston House opposite the General Post Office. King Kong says its aim is to promote up-and-coming talent both here and internationally.

"I want my fans to know that I never quit music at any point," he says.

Lady S in problems

Genge rapper Lady S, who is currently working on a compilation project that should be due by end year, reveals that she has had some technical problems as far as re-doing some of the songs are concerned, hence the silence.

"The fact that I am working with many other people has not been easy, since getting the right time for each one of us has proven difficult," she says.

Lady S is a 2005 Kisima and Chaguo La Teeniez nominee and says she intends to pursue music as a full time career, no matter what it takes. She says her fans should brace themselves for a few singles any time soon.

Vinnie Banton

Vinnie Banton admits that he has been away for a while. Although I took a break for almost five months in 2006, I can now confidently state that my solo album is ready," he says.

The musician believes that his album, Straight From Githurai, will make a difference in the local scene.

"I want my fans to know that I have lots of surprises in store for them and only time will tell," he says.

Vinnie says that he and Mr Googz had an album ready in 2004 before the latter became born again and switched to gospel music.

"I couldn’t use the songs we did together, because it would have brought complications on my part and, therefore, I had to start from the scratch when he left."

Vinnie and Mr Googz were famed for the songs Githurai, Fed Up and Supastar, to name but a few. Vinnie says in 2005 he worked as a mobile deejay for five months in Upper Hill.

He now plans a major comeback and says he is working on a video for one of his latest songs, Dance With Me.

For Vinnie music is both a hobby and a career.

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