Songwriting is an art unto itself, not to be confused with performing- Jo Stafford

The most powerful thing in this world I believe it to be music.  Music has the ability to make even the highest of mountains go plateau. It heals…it communicates with our emotions…it just is. It probably is the second eternal thing in the eternal list of two: the soul and music. They, whoever they are, say that life is never too hard when you can afford music. It is the ultimate savior for the soul, especially that which needs replenishing.

I am not bestowed with knowledge of music making. I would be vain writing about the how to’s in music. However, I do know good music and bad music, regardless of whether I like the genre of music or not. I am not a lover of Lingala music. But if I understood the language, I’d easily point out a good composition and a bad one. Yes there is music in the swaying of twigs, the chewing of gum and the slapping of slippers against the floor. There is also music in the silent flight of the clouds across the sky. There are probably no rules in music. However, I do have a problem with ‘some’ form of music…Kenyan Music.

I have listened to a lot of music from Kenya over time; from the time I started singing ‘marobo tandarobo’ in the age of watoto wa Nyayo to this age in time. I must say it has evolved from the artsy compositions of the Kalamashaka to music that is now Genge. The last time I attended a gig, an already established musician graced our ears with loud yelps of ‘jeya jeya jeya jeya jeya mikono hewani’ all the way from the beginning of the performance to the end. Tell me how this kind of music is supposed to do all that which music is expected to do to the soul.

Music communicates that which words cannot communicate. In its own way, it just communicates. Where the word stops, music takes over. However, I believe good music is that which puts together these two…the music itself and words. It goes way beyond powerful when this is achieved.

This is where I remind fellow artists that music needs songwriters-whether you are the songwriter or someone else is doing it for you. Words are somewhere in the skeleton of music. Probably other things fill up the flesh to make a complete composition. But there is something that lyrics in a song hold that nothing else can communicate. Music tells the stories of our life through words. I know many of you will agree with me …or not, that most Kenyan Musicians take lyricism way lightly. Sometimes I tend to believe that all they ask for when they are making music is a beat and within seconds, a hopeful hit is produced, eventually turning out to be a major flop. No matter how melodious you might make it, a repetition of ‘mikono hewani mamanzi wakatike’ all through the song is never good enough. It is a shortcut to having released a track.

A friend of mine who is very familiar with music production tells me that the problem with the Kenyan scene is that a good percentage of the clientele is not the type that will listen to what you are saying. As long as the beat is danceable, then the music flows! People do not have time to listen to your lyrics. They just want to dance and lift their hands up in the sky. I do not know what your sentiments on this are, being a part of the clientele. But I do know that music in itself evokes feelings, even before words. But when words are brought in, they have to make sense; they have to evoke something in me…kind of lyrics you want to cram from newspaper cuttings or google .

I would therefore advice the novice that we so love to call ‘upcoming artists’, a word I so find negated , and even the already established, to take seriously the need for professional songwriters, or even to familiarize themselves with the skill that is songwriting if they intend to write their own music. You need that like our country needs good governance.

Lets write music…it is the melody and the words.