Have you ever wondered about who comes up with those killer beats to your favourite song?Have you asked yourself why when some artists work with certain producers magic happens in the studio and with others it was just an epic fail?Well,every Justin Timberlake needs a Timbaland,every NWA needs a Dr.Dre,every artist worth their salt needs an even better producer.
Here are 5 Kenyan music producers who have made hits,launched careers and grown their brand outside of Kenya.(Note:I could not find any female music producers which is sad,but maybe after reading this someone will rise to the occasion.) Anyway here are 5 of the best.
1.Tedd Josiah-He is one of the pioneer music producers that sprang up in the early 2000s when Kapuka,Genge,R’n’B among other genres were gaining popularity in the industry.He formed the famous Blu Zebra Studios in the year 2002 and it was one of the few studios apart from Ogopa and Calif where you could record music.He has worked with artists such as Necessary Noize,Wyre,Kalamashaka,Gidi Gidi Maji Maji among many others.He has produced compilation albums,’Kenyan 1st chapter ‘and ‘Kenyan 2nd Chapter'(one of which I own by the way,really good stuff).In the year 2008 he left the country and worked under a company Steel Drum Studios and get this he had to start at apprentice level before being head of programming and working with brands such as Sony and Nike.He is back in the country though with the aim of giving Kenyan music a push in the right direction that will get us recognized on a world platform.
2.Robert’Rkay’Kimanzi-You might hear some artists call him ‘Mwana Abuja’.He is a child of Burundi and came to Kenya in the early 90s and literally started from scratch.He was part of a gospel group Shammah that included artists such as Taji(now his wife) and their song Ukilya Moko which was written by Mbuvi and produced by Rkay began a trend of funky gospel that still spread the message of good news.In the year 2007,he spearheaded the Wakenya Pamoja project which became a peace anthem at a time when the country was most volatile.In the same year he scooped Kisima Awards Producer of the Year.He runs a company that deals with artist management,music publishing and distribution,film production,record label and a recording studio.He is also the first gospel producer who managed to cross over into secular music and still make hits.
To date he has produced over 60 albums in East and Central Africa.Oh and if you still don’t think he is a big deal,he was approached by the World Bank to take part in a study about the Kenyan Music Industry.Enough said.
Personal Favourite:Nitafanya-Lady Jay Dee and Kidum
3.Dr.Eddie-‘Who is that?”Well you know the songs ‘Tobina’,’System ya Kapungala’ and ‘Kiriro’.The first two being so huge they were played EVERYWHERE and the last worship song which had a Kikuyu chorus that even had Luos like me struggling to learn it because it was so good?That was Dr.Eddie (Edward Omondi).This guy produced the 3 songs all the way from Eldoret and had to move to Nairobi because the demand for his work was huge.Oh and fun fact he didn’t charge Daddy Owen for the songs but the publicity from the songs paid him back VERY handsomely.He plays the piano and the drums as well so he is no one trick pony.So for all of you who were wondering who ‘Dr.Eddie’ was,now you know.
4.Kevin Provoke-Many of you will associate Provoke with Wangechi.As a producer he has gone above and beyond the call of duty and basically given her a new lease of life not just in her music but as a brand as well.I mean,Wangechi hasn’t been around for too long but she already debuted on Coke Studio.That is huge.Provoke if you didn’t know is partially deaf…let that sink in for a bit.He began producing out of frustration when as part of a group Vaksin (that name though) could not find a producer who could produce their sound.But as luck would have it,they did not last long and after a while he flew out(Kenyan lingo for going abroad) and attended Popakademie Music School in Germany attaining a diploma in sound production and engineering.He has launched the career of Xtatic as well who ended up being signed by Sony South Africa so from my assessment I would say his is not a fluke.
Recent work:Cardiac arrest-Wangechi
5.Jaaz Odong0-I have always loved that name.Fun fact his brothers,Shaq and Zamar are also artistes and Zamar is currently at the Berklee College of Music.Jaaz is only 26 years old and has worked with the likes of Fena,Kato Change,Eric Wainaina,Atemi,Kagwe Mungai and has produced Karun’s album Sun and Moon.He recently also made his debut on Coke Studio and worked with Navio from Uganda and G2 from Mozambique on songs that could make it to the Coke Studio album.Jaaz who studied Business Management and I.T at African Nazarene University describes himself as a music producer, content creator and sound engineer and is co-founder and Director at Sound Mind Ltd.What I love about his music is that all his tracks sound different yet you can still feel his personality all over a song.Now that is what we call art.
Recent work:Let it Go-Kayane &Jaaz Odongo ft Foozak
The people mentioned above have certain things in common-a good ear for music,a willingness to engage an artist and a hunger for good work.They are constantly learning and improving on their craft because they understand that no amount of fancy equipment can trump good music.All of them own a company and understand that music amongst other things is a business and they treat it with the seriousness it deserves.
So for all of you upcoming producers from the comfort of your bedrooms and Mac computers take a minute to study your craft.You will be suprised how much you have to learn.
My two cents,