Mayonde’s voice has always been quite a force to reckon with right from the moment she burst into Kenya’s soul and alternative music scene as Diana Nduba. In addition to her amazing set of pipes, the Coke Studio Africa regular also has a way with songwriting that results in beautiful, soul-massaging music. Her most successful release, Isikuti Love, still sounds as fresh as it did a year ago and will continue to do so for a very long time. At this high point in her career, Mayonde seeks raise the bar a little higher. She’s just released her debut album Magic in the Air via online vendor mookh.
The production team on Magic in the Air consists mainly of Mayonde’s husband and Just A Band member Mbithi Masya and Jim Chuchu, the genius behind Adeiyu. Newman Owor, Sedar Oddenyo and Joe Were also chip in and add some extra oomph to some of the songs. It’s therefore not surprising that the album has a consistent sound throughout, balancing off between the usual soul/alternative sound we get from a Mayonde-Mbithi production and a dreamy, sunnier variant of Jim Chuchu’s cosmic folk with a few splashes of jazz here and there.
Like a journey to outer space, Magic in the Air transports the listener to another world. It first nudges you awake with Good Morning, alluding to all the possibilities that lay ahead. The lift off phase follows with Isikuti Love, Isuni Yilu, Angels and Better Than Other Lovers (which sounds like an alternative version of JAB’s Probably For Lovers). You’re then welcomed to zero-gravity, outer space territory by Closer to the Sun and head beyond our galaxy in Find Our Way, Magic in the Air, Ajabu Ya Musa, Rise and Garden. My Insanity begins the jazzy descent back down to Earth, smoothly landing with Goodbye a subtle nod to Swahili Nation’s Mpenzi and/or Kool and the Gang’s Ladies Night. Everything is alright with the world after that.
As expected, the songwriting is well-crafted and fitting for the overall concept of the album. Mayonde views love as a spellbinding, out-of-this-world experience; a part of the universe that we are still trying to understand, whether it is in those profound moments like walking down the aisle, remembering loved ones who have passed on or the simple, playful thoughts that are almost taken for granted like having a sukuma wiki garden in the backyard. The standout moments of the album are in Isikuti Love, Find Us A Way, Magic in The Air, Rise and My Insanity. Overall, every song is a work of art.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Magic in the Air is a perfect debut album crafted over the course of three or so years and well worth your 500 bob. Don’t hesitate, buy this album NOW.