The April 9th B&W Nairobi Festival will be headlined by AKA, the “Supa Mega” hip-hop star from South Africa.
He will run the stage with his chart-topping tracks such as
We’ll also be enchanted by the revolutionary soul sounds of Nigerian/German Nneka, whose evergreen hits like
Kenyan urban soul "Fenamenon”, Fena Gitu, will take it back to the East African scene, where she is currently dominating with hit tracks like
The day will begin with a showcase set by the next generation of artists and creatives, identified as Nu Nairobi, and end with Producer/DJ Suraj who will close out the night with his signature sound of electronic beats over ethnic tribal vibes.
Ukweli came into the spotlight early last year after producing a track featuring American artist Willow Smith. ‘Get Lost’, which was also a collabo with electro-singer JABS, is a minimalist arrangement of ambient sounds and lyrics. The 19-year-old describes his productions as
and this may have a lot to do with his background, being partly Tanzanian, Somali, Seychellois, and Ethiopian. Still, he is able to create a distinct sound especially with the use of percussion and the blues signature that runs through most of his tracks.
For Ukweli, sounds are flexible and allow him to weave across styles and genres. Many of his songs feel psychedelic, sampling and cutting through a variety of genres from jazz to blues to hip hop. His series called ‘Monday Blues’ features three tracks: ‘Champagne and Reefer’, ‘Love and other Drugs’ and finally ‘Whisky & Jazz’. Aside from the alcohol and drugs in the titles, the songs sound almost completely unrelated, although, if played in one sitting, they have a dizzying effect.
More recently Ukweli has been working with other artists, including Joseph Kiwango and Karun, on their LPs. Ultimately, he likes to keep his audiences constantly surprised and the most important part of his set while preparing to perform is the song selection. He likes searching for obscure records that aren’t appreciated enough and introducing them to the audience. Ukweli’s show will definitely be an exclusive experience for the Blankets and Wine audience.
Janice Iche’s trademark is mellow performances: slow, graceful and layered. In a lot of her recent material, she fuses soprano and tenor background vocals to spoken word pieces themed around the empowerment of women.
“I am now trying to go tech and start performing in a loop station. That should be fun,” she says.
Her rendition of Jamila Woods’ ‘Blk Girl Soldier’ layers the spoken soprano verses with a subdued humming in the background. She also does this with her own piece ‘Black Woman Power’, backed by a soprano drone.
Because her material is not as mainstream or conventional, Janice connects with her audience by tailoring set lists for each show. “Since my music isn’t so hyped, I’ve realized there truly is an audience for my type of music.” When she was featured in the AFRI-NA-LIDA concert, she sampled Erykah Badu and did a memorable rendition of Outkast’s ‘Hey Ya’. Her voice is quite explosive and adapts well to different genres of music and sounds. The effect is haunting in Jinku’s ‘Time’ where she is featured, clean cut without instruments in her cover of The Neighbourhood’s ‘Sweater Weather’ and within electro beats in ‘All for You’.
Among artists who inspire Janice are Fela Kuti, for his ability to put both himself and his audience in a trance; Sade, for her gracefulness; and Lianne La Havas for her strong presence when performing on stage. Janice also lists Rupi Kaur as her favourite poet.
Kerby’s music has developed from an incubated space filled with “love, confidence, assurance, ideas, feedback and energy.” His sound is mostly free flowing with ambient backgrounds and smooth progressions.
She’s insecure about her body/staring at the glass/while walking down the lobby, he raps in ‘Secure’.
His most recent hip hop and rap collection Metro Empathy features a wide range of artists from Janice Iche to Mr Lu to Kijo. The 17-track collection is deeply reflective and shows a high degree of sensitivity on Kerby’s part. ‘Dreaming Wide Awake’ lacks urgency, and there are long spaces of time filled with contemplative sounds. There is a lot of depth in the song ‘Power’ from the echoes in the refrain.
Kerby’s performances are about taking time and working together with his team to deliver a worthwhile show for his audience. “I have a focused team, producers, engineers, film, photography, health and nutrition, costume and props, stage and lighting,” he says.
Kerby speaks with awe of his favoriteB artists Frank Ocean and Stevie Don Dada. Ocean’s ‘White Ferrari’ and ‘Godspeed’ are among tracks he loves to blast in his headphones. “Even when on high volume, they won’t strain my central nervous system.” Similarly, Kerby’s music does not strain the nerves and is great to unwind to. He hopes fans can bring their true selves for Blankets and Wine in what will potentially be a mood-shaping performance.
Kahvinya caused quite a buzz in the music scene with the release of her meditative track “Up in there”, produced by M3. At 18, the Afro-pop artist will be the youngest performer at Blankets and Wine in the City concert series this coming April.
Her first release, “Heartbeat” in late 2015 garnered her a lot of attention, especially online. She says she moved from being terrified of the stage to establishing a flow with her audience.
“I like my performance to be an experience,” she says.
And although she is young, her music tastes are old. 'Not super old,' she's quick to add.
Kahvinya's jazzy sounds are evocative of her influences: Erykah Badu, Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, while the Afrobeat infusions can be traced to her love for Miriam Makeba. Among her favourite performances is the Stevie Wonder tribute by Beyonce, Ed Sheeran and Gary Clark Jr, to which to date she remains in awe of.
For her own live shows, she likes to gauge her audience; vibing them as they vibe her back.
Material for her music is drawn from her environment and “everything about life”. For instance, she was spurred to write the acappella song “Incubator” after watching David Cameron's film, Avatar. The deceptively-simple performance clearly shows her love for nature and is reinforced by the deep, layered tones.
Kahvinya says her next release, “Sensual”, will be vivid and explicit. “I've always wanted to do that,” she adds.
Catch Kahvinya on 9th April 2017 at Ngong Racecourse for Blankets & Wine