WILDCARD WEDNESDAYS: INTERVIEW WITH YTHERA

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Ythera has such an unusual voice…in a good way. Listening to her sing is like listening to a singer from another musical era almost as if one of the queens of Soul has been reincarnated through her. I think she looks a bit like Jill Scott and her eyes are the most beautiful and spell binding that you will ever see.

We caught up with her and this is how the whole thing went down.

1.You describe your music as Soul Afro Funk. Could you break it down for us or as Pastors say ‘unpack’ what this means for those who are not musically inclined.

I coined the term Soul Afro Funk because my music is inspired by a mix of different genres such as Afro Fusion, Jazz, R n B, Funk, Raggae and Neo Soul. It’s very flattering that you mentioned Jill Scott up there because she is an all time musical favorite of mine!

2.I did a bit of digging and found out that you are part of a collective known as Siri ya Muziki,tell us more about it, how it began, what you do and what you have achieved so far.

Siri ya Muziki started off as a band back in 2012. It was initially an all girl group consisiting of friends who went to high school together (Moi Girls Nairobi A.K.A Quabbz). It has since grown to become an all round musical entity  with a live band for hire, a music learning centre, as well as a fraternity of artistes involved in positive social change. We have done various trainings as Siri Facilitators to influence positive behavior change in youth in rural areas using music as our tool for communication. It is important for us to be able to use music, a universal language to bring people together and shape society positively and part of this is reaching out to the youth who are the future leaders.

3.You have interesting song titles like Kinky Hair. What inspired this particular song about hair?

Thank you . I have always had an interest in hair. Infact ,as my final year Project in campus (I studied Journalism in USIU,class of 2014) I decided to make a documentary on hair and how people perceive it in our contemporary society. I’m proud to say I got an A on that (hehe). I also went natural in 2011 and during that period,up until now, I dedicated some time into understanding how to take care of my hair and loving it just as it grows out of my head from root to tip. That journey inspired me to write the song ‘Kinky Hair’ which encourages us to be proud of our roots quite literally and figuratively .It’s all about that self-love.

4.You released Kijana on Valentines Day 2014 and Hot Blooded Man on Valentines Day 2015. Is this intentional?

Yes it was. Kijana was my debut single release and it was a special dedication,a sweet love song to all the lovers on Valentines Day. Hot Blooded Man however was like an anti-love song. A cautionary tale about that man who likes to play with womens’ hearts. It was a differen take on love that I also wanted to share on this day .

 5.Congratulations on winning the Local New Musician of the Year Kenya Buzz 2015. How did you find out you had been nominated and how did it feel eventually winning?

That was the first accolade that I’ve ever won that involved a public vote and it felt pretty darn good! I found out from a dear friend of mine and I couldn’t believe it. The category was filled with other amazing musicians who I applaud for their work and also happen to be a big fan of them. It always feels very nice for an artist when their  work is appreciated.

6.You describe your music as ‘music with a message’.How important do you think it is for artists to at one point of their career stand up and speak up about social issues?

I’ll quote Nina Simone on this one. “You can’t help it. An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times.”

I believe that artists should entertain as well as educate. So many people regard artists as influential people, trend setters and opinion leaders and shapers and that’s a huge responsibility; One that should not be misused or even taken lightly. It may not be what we ask for sometimes, but it’s the nature of our work and comes with the  job description. If you have a voice to help people and speak up, use it.

7.Last year you had your first debut solo concert Awake. How was the whole process of organizing your own concert ?

It was an amazing experience. I will tell you its not easy and requires a lot of planning and thought,just as anything that is worth doing in life. I learnt so much from that period of time and it made me realize that there is never a ‘perfect’ time to do anything.You just have to decide, set your mind towards it and work at it. Of course it was not without it’s share of challenges and rough patches but I was able to overcome that. I had an amazing team that helped me make the event a success.It was definitely one of the main highlights of 2015.

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Ythera during the Awake concert

 8.Your look is rather interesting and I read that you are pretty much a DIY queen do your own hair, make your own clothing. How has that skill helped you as an artist?

We are living in a Do It Yourself Time and I love the fact that I can create with my own two hands. This ‘skill’ has helped me alot. As an artist, image is an important tenet and doing DIY looks helps me be creative and be  a bit out of the box.

9.Which artist have you been likened to that has made you blush?

Someone recently told me I sound like Dela and I swear I didn’t sleep that night (lol). It’s always very flattering to be compared to an accomplished and talented artist . I’ve also been compared to Fena and a Swedish arist called Seinabo Sey ,who also plays for #TeamBigEyes (hehe).

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Seinabo Sey

10.When you can no longer sing what do you hope your legacy as a musician will be?

I hope that I would have made timeless music. That even long after I’m gone future generations will still listen to my songs and be able to relate to them. I hope that I would have made a difference in our music industry and left it better for those coming after me. I hope that people will look up to me as a person of integrity and as someone who made a good career off of music. Lastly , I hope people would remember me fondly and think, “Damn,that girl could sing!”

11.Famous last words from Ythera

Life is too short so do what you love unapologetically and without fear.

You can find her music on Soundcloud and also subscribe to her Youtube Channel.

Yours truly,

Red

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