The evolution of Kenyan music has taken great strides in the past 10 years than it did in the previous decades combined. The level of growth and international recognition that Kenyan music has attracted in this decade is just commendable. Nobody ever thought that Konshens would do a collabo with an upcoming Kenyan group let alone the narrative that Kenyan music actually pays. That gives us a reason to highlight some of the top Kenyan artistes who have been very instrumental in shaping the local music industry in the past ten years. These artistes have dominated our airwaves for at least six years and counting.
- Sauti Sol
The Kenyan boy band of Bien-Aime Baraza, Willis Chimano, Savara Mudigi and Polycarp Otieno has been a key figure in putting Kenyan music on the global map. They made the Kenyan music scene their regular playground and dominated the airwaves despite the evolution and emergence of new genres from across the continent into the Kenyan market over the years. The boy band, which traces its roots back to 2005, has made quite a statement in the past ten years. The boy band started our decade with some hot sauce after doing a successful collabo with P-unit by releasing Gentleman, where they then made a bold move and did “Nishike” about 2 years later and the country exploded with excitement. Ever since then, the group has been on top of their game.
They have released two albums, “Live and Die in Afrika” and “Afrikan Sauce”. They have also had an amazing album tour this year, hitting a number of countries across the world. They have managed to brag about international collabos such as Grammy-nominated Nigerian artiste Burna Boy, Nigeria’s Yemi Alade, Tiwa Savage, Patoranking and 2Baba, Tanzania’s Vanessa Mdee, Nandy and Ali Kiba and SAs Mi Casa just to mention a few. They have also started their own record label, Sol Generation that has managed to successfully launch the careers of Bensol, Nviiri The Storyteller, Kaskazini and Crystal Asige. This has surely been their decade!
Owen Mwatia aka Daddy Owen will live to be remembered as the man who single-handedly revolutionised the gospel industry. The “System ya Kapungala” hitmaker did it when others thought it was impossible, he set the foundations for what is today’s Kenyan modern gospel industry. The veteran gospel artiste kicked off the decade in style by winning three consecutive Groove Awards Male Artist of the Year between 2009 and 2011. He also won an award at the MTV Africa Music Awards thanks to his song Tobina in 2010. He has blessed us with two amazing albums within this decade, Son of Man in 2013 and Vanity in 2016. Even though he has not dominated the final quarter of this decade, he was the biggest gospel artiste the country had a privilege of having in this decade. His popularity might not be at its peak as we head into 2020 but the gospel industry will always be grateful for his pioneering effort that opened doors to all the modern gospel artistes of today.
3. King Kaka
The ‘Swahili Shakespear’ aka King Kaka gave us a different sound when the industry was experiencing one of the toughest transition periods. The one artiste who has produced the highest number of songs compared to the rest of the other artistes in Kenya in the past ten years, he truly deserves to be called King. From the days of Dodoma featuring Harry Kimani to Wajinga Nyinyi, from Tales of Kaka Sungura to Eastlando Royalty, King Kaka has managed to release 9 albums and over 40 music videos in his name. The spoken word rapper has truly dominated this industry and asserted his position as the king of spoken word rap. His poetic approach to music creation has seen him release projects that have elicited a lot of public reaction towards the state of the country, something we have to commend him for. He is also the founder and CEO of Kaka Empire records which boasts of artistes like Femi One.
4. Khaligraph Jones
Respect the OGs, a popular phrase that has been affiliated to the influential rapper, Khaligraph Jones aka Omollo aka Papa Jones has been a huge highlight of this year. Ever since coming into the limelight after the 2009 Channel O MC Africa Challenge, the OG has built up his empire to become the most sought after local rapper right now. From doing cyphers, freestyles and refixes to becoming the face of the Kenyan hip hop industry, the OG has engraved his name in the industry within the past ten years. He has also featured in the Coke Studio Africa for a record two consecutive seasons, earning an opportunity to work with international acts like Rude Boy (P Square), DJ Maphorisa, AY, Rayvanny and many more. This is in addition to adding a number of international collabos to his name including Tanzania’s Rostam and Nigeria’s Ycee. He has also begun the cypher series dubbed Khali Cartel, which is no doubt the cypher series of the decade. Finally, he is the founder of Blu Ink Corporation. If there’s one thing we’ve learnt in this decade it’s that we must respect the OGs!
5. Mejja (The Kansoul)
Mejja aka Okonkwo is one of the biggest rap acts who has consistently dominated the Kenyan rap scene throughout the decade. He is definitely a crowd puller and often comes across as a comical character which cements his position as the main attraction of The Kansoul. He made a very bold statement at the beginning of the decade with his “Niko Poa” and “Landlord” hits which I have to say have been among the anthems of the decade. He followed this with “Jana Kuliendaje” and it became another street anthem about two years later. Together with his Kansoul group brothers, Madtraxx and Kid Kora they have continued to release club bangers after club bangers since the group’s formation in 2014. They have also been a key figure in supporting the new wave music popularly known as Gengetone.
The Comeback King’s journey is one that can only be compared to a true Kenyan Hip Hop legend. The former Kleptomaniax member left the country begging for more from the popular group back in 2009 after releasing the Now Is The Time album in 2009. Fast forward, almost ten years later, the Kenyan legend made a comeback with Aminia and Malaika which were both released on the same day in 2017. Ever since then, Nyashinski has been releasing hits after hits, with his latest being Lift Me Up. What an inspiration!
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9. H_art the Band
10. Fena Gitu