One of the hottest issues that always comes up when discussing strategies on how Kenyan music as a whole can be better recognized among the provider’s of Africa’s most popular music (a privilege shared by Western and Southern Africa in general, Nigeria and South Africa in particular) is how to come up with a recognizable or unique Kenyan sound.The most direct answer for me has always been to go back to our roots and gather some inspiration from what the late greats in the 60s, 70s and 80s left behind. Besides, most of the hugely successful pop songs these days are actually a revised version of a tune from the good old days.
Nigeria’s Afropop is thriving due to its unique use of it’s age-old, tried and tested traditional rhythms from their own cultures. South African stuff on the other hand sounds as good as it does because of the seamless and connected growth of it’s music industry – from traditional music and it’s subsequent fusion with modern genres like jazz, leading to new sounds such as mbaqanga, jive, kwaito, and so many other awesome variations.As for Kenyan music, there is a clear, somewhat rebellious gap between the stuff from the past (the rhumba, benga, funk, psychedelic bands from the 70s and 80s) and local music on the airwaves today, informed mostly by the short golden age of Kenyan hip-hop from the late 90s and the Ogopa-Genge boom in the early 2000s.
That being said, there are signs that this gap is slowly being bridged by forward-looking (or is it backward-looking) producers and artists who are beginning to utilise our timeless traditional rhythms and also sampling the classics, such as what Lectronica Circle did with Ang’o and Rabbit’s recent collabo with Safari Sound Band. The outright leaders of this emerging culture-shaping and revivalist movement are captains of cool, Just A Band, and youth-endorsed hip-hop artist Octopizzo.
After working together on Dunia Ina Mambo, a comical tribute to the awesome theme song of the gritty 90s cop show, Tahamaki, Octopizzo hit the studio with Just A Band’s Blinky Bill and they’ve created another musical tribute. Their new collaboration is called Something For You, a track that should spark instant recognition from Kenyans over the age of 28. Why, you ask? Something For You samples a funky soul classic from the 70s – You Can Do It by Slim Ali and The Hodi Boys, a massive hit back in the day, selling 40,000 copies in Kenya alone!
The crowning jewel of this track is without a doubt is the stellar production, mainly handled by Blinky Bill, with Musyoka and Dillie joining the fray to give it an extra oomph. The slowed down, pimped up instrumentation of You Can Do It spiced up by some delectable bass licks and hints of samba elements in the background makes hitting the Replay button simply irresistable. If music was actually edible, I’d eat this all day, everyday, why lie. Lyrically, Octopizzo is his usual self, this time seducing the girl of his dreams with cheeky, explicit bars that don’t beat around the bush: “Me ni Oscar, na we ni Lupita / so ni obvious utanifuata, nikipita”.
The video, directed by German photographer and video director Daniel Obradovic, also has quite some character to it and is a breath of fresh air in an industry saturated with same-looking, yawn-inducing music vids of dance crews prancing about the CBD smothered by a haze discotheque fog. Shot on location at Kibera (Olympic Primary School, I think), Something For You serves up a colourful visual treat. It bridges the vast gap between Octopizzo’s own roots (experiencing the fun and games, ups and downs of childhood and young adult years in Kibera – much like any of the kids in that video) to the great success he has become today.
THE BOTTOM LINE
All the stars aligned for this track, from the glorious prodcution to the top-notch and intuitive video directing. The finished product has turned out to be what I believe is Octopizzo’s most accomplished and properly balanced track yet.