What stands out the most about Stella Mwangi’s musical repertoire to date are the small yet significant surprises she occasionally pulls, serving as a subtle rebuttal to those that assume they can predict what her next record will sound like.
Stella’s breakout hit Take It Back and the follow-up She Got It / Kool Girls, combined with her Eve-like looks made the assumption that she was purely a rap artist who did her thing in English a very sensible one indeed. Well, her next outright hits – Biacara and Haba Haba – revealed that not only could she switch it up and drop bars in Kikuyu, but the Kenyan-Norwegian could also whip up a sweet pop song that would catapult her into the semifinals of the 2011 Eurovision Contest.
This fluidity and non-restriction to genres has contributed towards making Stella Mwangi one of the more accomplished Kenyan artistes around with at least something for everyone. It’s not every day that a Kenyan artiste gets to collaborate with the likes of Mohombi and Nitty Scott MC, or get on the soundtrack to a Hollywood film and an American TV series. Stella’s been there and got the respective T-shirts.
Her latest release is entitled Chukua Hatua which is Stella’s initiative as an ambassador of Safi International, a Norwegian organization that has introduced the Safi E-Cooker, a bio-ethanol stove to the East African market aimed at providing a cleaner, healthier, safer and environmentally friendlier alternative for low and middle income households that use firewood and charcoal as fuel for cooking.
Teaming up with Abakasimba, a collective of musicians, poets and dancers that performs with various traditional Kenyan instruments, Stella raps about self-empowerment as a first step to effecting the change we seek and a change of attitude from being to doing that can see us push away gatekeepers who want to maintain the status quo. This message is delivered alongside a delectable nyatiti-accompanied beat complete with a orutu solo somewhere in there too. It all comes together in a beautiful, unmistakably traditional Kenyan way.
The video directed by Mushking stays on the Chukua Hatua message throughout, telling a hilarious story of a girl fed-up with lighting up a charcoal jiko every day deciding to invade a cooking show in order get her one of those Safi E-Cookers. She nearly choke slams an idle, up-to-no-good boy on the way there because one should know better than to get in the way of a focused human being!
THE BOTTOM LINE
Stella Mwangi has pulled out yet another gem from her bag of surprises in this collabo with the Abakasimba Troupe. Safi International could not have chosen a better ambassador to articulate what they intend to stand for – constant re-imagination and innovation for the better.