Albums offer a perspective of the artist’s mind, and many Kenya artists have in 2020 granted us that access. From gospel to secular, a number of singers released exciting projects, some undoubtedly classics, from an otherwise tough creative space following the outbreak of coronavirus.
Midnight Train - Sauti Sol
Sauti Sol released their fifth studio album ‘Midnight Train’ in June 2020. The album which is the first under their new management, Universal Music Group, featured artists such as Sho Madjozi, Soweto Gospel Choir, Mortimer and Sol Generation.
With tracks such as Suzzana, Rhumba Japani and Insecure, Midnight Train had record-breaking streaming numbers and showed the music mastery of the boy band who produce their own tracks.
Zaidi – Mercy Masika
Two decades in, songbird Mercy Masika is undoubtedly a cornerstone in the Kenyan gospel industry. The singer, who is from the renowned Masika family, released her 8th studio album Zaidi in May.
Zaidi is an overflow of her pursuit for God and she sings of her wish to know God more. All 11 songs were produced by Still Alive Productions, a label she has worked with for many years.
Jungle Fever – Octopizzo
Kibra - bred rapper Octopizzo ended his fan’s long wait by dropping his much-anticipated album ‘Jungle Fever.’ Unlike his previous albums which mainly spoke on poverty and issues affecting the youth, Jungle Fever sees Octo champion the African culture and spirit. The album’s unique production samples Luo Ohangla sounds, and shows the rapper as a risk-taker who is not shy of experimenting with different sounds.
‘Jungle Fever’, which came two years after his last album ‘Next Year’, is also a display of this mature sound, and Octo’s interests and love for music are well delivered between bars in this afro-rap rhumba fusion project. The 15-track album has a number of collaborations, featuring artists such as the legendary Suzanna Owiyo on the track ‘Lela’, Maya on ‘Swaga za Wapi and ‘Zambe’ and Blinky Bill and fellow Kibera rapper Zzero Sufuri on ‘Kibanda’.
Just in Love – Otile Brown
R&B singer Otile Brown released his first studio album ‘Just in Love’ in June. The album was initially a ten-song project but he released a 39-song deluxe version in September. Since making his entry into the music industry in 2015, Otile has established himself as a leading musician in the region.
Just in Love, with collaborations by Mejja, Khaligraph Jones and Juma Jux further enhance his position. In the album, he draws inspiration from different genres and explores the relationship between men and women.
African Pop Star EP – Nadia Mukami
African Popstar was a special presentation to African music with an aim of inspiring female upcoming as well as already established singers. The 23-year-old Nadia Mukami worked with different producers in the 7-track project to create a unique sound.
It explores the theme of love and is a combination of modern classics with hard beats such a Tesa featuring Fena Gitu and Khaligraph Jones, and soothing harmonies in Wangu with Sanaipei Tande.
Songs of Solomon – Willy Paul
Willy Paul released his highly anticipated album ‘Songs of Solomon’ in November. The album has high profile features from Mejja on ‘NYE’, Juliani on ‘Nomare’ and Camp Mulla duo Shappaman and Taio on ‘Tired’. The ironic ‘Songs of Solomon’ title continues to push the debate of whether Willy Paul is a gospel or secular artist.