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Kampire at Kilifi NYE.

10 Kenyan & Ugandan House Musicians You Should Check Out

Here are some house acts coming out of East Africa that you simply have to hear.

Throughout the years, house has been an underground genre in East Africa. But that's all changing, as electronic music scenes have been recently gaining a foothold across the region.

The upswing in popularity is mainly due to the increase in multi-day music festivals such as Uganda's Nyege Nyege, the Africa Nouveau Festival outside Nairobi and the Kilifi New Year's Eve in Kenya's coast. The festival and party scene has turned many underground artists into regional touchstones for house heads.

Many of these house artists lean heavily into traditional African sounds blended with electronic beats that are becoming hard to ignore.

Here are 10 Kenyan and Ugandan house acts you simply have to hear.


SURAJ

Suraj is a DJ and producer based in Nairobi, Kenya who combines modern electronic music with African soundscapes, instruments and vocals, even bringing live djembe players to some of his shows. Suraj grew up in Kisumu, Western Kenya's capital, starting his journey by playing tablas, eventually switching to his spot behind the decks. In 2016 he released his first original production, "Wawere," which combined Dholuo lyrics and a vocal riff by singer Olith Ratego over an electro twist.

He later co-founded Midi Minds Kenya, an organisation created to produce modern format local music and develop underprivileged musicians. Suraj is also the creator of the Savanna Sessions podcast and events series, which aims to raise the level of discourse in the industry, creating an online and offline experience centered on Suraj's alternative take on recorded music and live performances

Follow Suraj on Facebook

KAMPIRE

The freakishly-talented Kampire Bahana is a writer, DJ and arts organiser based in Kampala. Kampire began her DJ career in 2015. After honing her craft at Hollywood in Jinja, home of Nyege Nyege Tapes. She then went on to rock the stage at Nyege Nyege. Kampire has also performed at Amani Festival in Congo, Africa Bass Culture in Burkina Faso, Africa Nouveau Festival and Kilifi NYE in Kenya. She also opened for high-profile acts like Diplo in Uganda. Kampire's sets perfectly mix nostalgic and contemporary African sensibilities, while kicking in some Lingala licks with deep house and faster beats.

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JACK ROOSTER

Born and raised in Nairobi, Jack Rooster's life has been shaped and influenced by the vibrant rhythms and sounds of the capital city. In 2011, Jack made the transition from avid music collector to DJ and producer. Within a year of his official debut, Jack was already playing at international festivals and guesting on various radio shows while holding regular residencies at some of Nairobi's most sought-after venues.

For five years, he has hosted the popular weekly radio show, Caffè Mocha. He is also the creator of the hit iTunes podcast, Deeper Sounds of Nairobi. The list of acts Jack Rooster has performed alongside is ridiculous: Clive Bean, Dinka, Boddhi Satva, Culoe De Song, Professor, Mi Casa, Mafikizolo, Black Coffee, Morgan Heritage, Toya De Lazy, Tim Westwood and Tinie Tempah. His legendary long form sets are garnering a loyal base of rabid fans within the Nairobi scene.

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LECTRONICA CIRCLE

Known as 'The EDM Rastas' Lectronica Circle duo David Gilbert and Kevin Kinuthia have been producing their signature sounds since 2012. They have the gift of finding the most unique voices in the region such as Vanessa Vonroe and Sally Ayugi to produce an instant hit.

They have also collaborated with dancehall star Wyre the love Child on his track "Light It Up," a fusion of crazy energy-splicing dancehall and EDM Lectronica Circle regularly use vernacular in many of their tracks in order to familiarize the Kenyan market to the electronic sound.

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DJ RACHAEL

This woman is a badass. A trail blazer in her field, she has been hailed as the first East African female DJ, and she's been spinning for the better part of two decades. She herself admits that she's constantly reinventing herself to remain relevant.

She is currently part of the Nairobi-based Santuri Safari East Africa Deejays, a collective of deejays and music producers from Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania.

She is also the founder of Femme Electronic, a platform for female DJs and electronic music producers in the region. It involves training, workshops, mentoring, showcases, residencies and events aimed and addressing the severe gender imbalance in the music industry in East Africa, and the electronic music scene in particular.

Follow DJ Rachael on Facebook

DYLAN-S

Dylan-S is a music producer and DJ from Kenya whose jams have taken direct influences from his surroundings. His sound has been described as abstract, defined by the funkier, minimalist and darker forms electronic music frequently found in the underground.

He has played all over supporting artists such as Art Department, Subb-an, David Glass, Mosca, B-Traits, HNNY, MJ Cole, DJ Zinc, Tom Shortrerz, Russ Yallop and many more. He has releases on Deep Tech Records (USA), Whoyostro (Ukraine) and Groundid Music (London/Nairobi).

Follow Dylan-S on Twitter

SOLVATION

Solvation's contact with the Nairobi club scene and coincidental online encounter with the music mixes of Kenya's Afro House maestro Jack Rooster, led to the genesis of a new beginning in his journey.

Solvation has grown his reputation and made a solid name in Kenya's house music scene, having started from small campus and house parties to rocking big stages such as 6AM-Kenya's annual Earthdance-Nairobi and curtain-raising for renowned international acts such as South Africa's Problemchild Ten83.

The DJ studied architecture at the University of Nairobi and now infuses the timeless concept of design process and a few basic principles such as dynamism, symmetry and asymmetry in the building of his sonic landscapes.

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ENCHAN

Enchan is derived from 'Naitobir Enc'an' which in Maasai means the bringer of rain. Born in Mombasa, he's now frequently spotted rocking Nairobi stages. A natural storyteller; Enchan weaves his tales through his deep tribal house and minimal techno.

His belief is that rain is essential to all life, just as good music is essential to the human soul's well-being always shines through when he takes over on the decks. Enchan's sets are crafted to invoke groovy moods and deep feelings in the audience while gluing them to the floor. He considers himself a vessel of music on the path of healing the world, one dance floor at a time.

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DJ VIDZA

DJ Vidza is one of the ladies making a big splash in the industry. She regularly performs with 'Noise On Demand' a DJ collective comprising of DJ Panik, DJ Sir Loin & DJ Sesi and her groovy Afro House mixes regularly fill up the dance floors of Nairobi's hottest clubs.

Follow DJ Vidza on Twitter

DARK MEME

Dark Meme started deejaying at Steak Out in Kampala while he was still at university. After falling in love with house music while on sabbatical, he became a resident house DJ at Mishmash Kampala. Now, with several festivals under his belt and his break through with the famous Hatari Voltage Kampala parties, he's blowing up across the region. He strives to find the perfect sound along with Santuri Safari. Meme is a major part of the explosion of creativity and innovation is currently being experienced in the East African house music scene.

Follow Dark Meme on Facebook

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Photo: Mucyo H Gasana | @dailyinteractions.

Interview: Kenya's Xenia Manasseh Has Arrived

We talk to the fast-rising Kenyan artist about her debut EP, Fallin' Apart, being chosen for Mr Eazi's emPawa program and her two latest singles.

I meet Xenia Manasseh at a café as she apologetically explains that she needs to send off some songs, "you don't have WeTransfer do you?" It's about 4:20 in the afternoon and she recaps how her day has been going so far. "I haven't eaten all day. I've been trying to find a personal assistant." I ask her if things have gotten busier since her debut EP, Fallin' Apart, dropped in October, she looks up, pauses, and simply nods in relief as she finally manages to send off the tracks.

In the last year, Xenia moved to Nairobi from Atlanta. She completed and released her EP, was chosen to be part of Mr Eazi's emPawa program this year, opened for Rema's Nairobi show, recorded with Extra Soul Perception and performed on the same stage as Blinky Bill and GoldLink. As she recaps the year, you begin to realise that her stories are all rooted in meeting the right people, manifesting what she wants and gratitude.

The vulnerable-yet-soulful presence you come to know on her EP is a contrast to the bubbly and funny 23-year-old at the beginning of a promising music career. Signed as a songwriter with the Atlanta-based The UpperClassmen Music Group, she recalls taking a songwriting class at Berklee College of Music, "I couldn't write a single song, all those assignments never happened." She credits her place burning down in Boston to breaking her seven-year writing hiatus, and her subsequent move to Atlanta allowed her the change of environment she needed to continue writing.

This fast-rising Kenyan artist sat down with OkayAfrica to speak about her EP, her powers of manifestation and her two latest singles.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Keep reading...
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Dedan Kimathi Waciuri, shown at his trial in the Nyeri forest, led an armed military struggle known as the Mau Mau uprising against the British colonial government in Kenya, 1956. (Photo by Authenticated News/Archive Photos/Getty Images)

Remains of Kenyan Liberation Leader, Dedan Kimathi, Believed to Have Been Found After 62 Years

UPDATE: The family of Dedan Kimathi is standing by earlier reports that his gravesite has been found, despite a statement from Kenya's Ministry of Interior calling the news "false and misleading."

UPDATE 10/29/19: Dedan Kimathi's family is standing by earlier reports that his gravesite has been identified, despite a recent tweet from Kenya's Interior Ministry, calling the news "false and misleading."

A foundation in the late Kenyan liberation leader's name shared a statement on Friday, claiming that his burial site had been located after 62 long years. The news was welcomed and celebrated by many Kenyans who had long been anticipating the identification of his remains.

However, over the weekend Kenya's Ministry of Interior denied the claims. According to an AFP report on the Japan Times, Kimathi's daughter Evelyn Wanjugu Kimathi stood by the original report, telling the AFP that the family released the statement without the government's knowledge or involvement. "We, the family, are the ones that went to Kamiti Maximum Prison, and were able to find the place he was buried in an unidentified grave," she said.

A video shared by the Dedan Kimani foundation appears to show a group of supporters gathering and signing around his 88-year-old widow, affectionately known as Mama Mukami Kimathi following the announcement, which comes just under a week before what would've been Kimathi's 99th birthday.

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Still from YouTube

The Gorillaz Enlist Fatoumata Diawara for New Track 'Désolé

A stunning collaboration that we didn't even know we needed.

The Gorillaz enlist none other than Malian singer Fatoumata Diawara for their latest single "Désolé," the second single from the hit-making British band's Song Machine installation project.

"Making Désolé with Fatou was a real moment for me, you know," the band's drummer Russel Hobbs is quoted as saying in a statement via Pitchfork. Désole translates to "sorry" in French, but despite it's apologetic title, the song is a laid-back groove, elevated by vocals from lead singer Damon Albarn and Diawara, who sings in English, French and Bambara.

"She's an African Queen," Russel adds. "This lady made the song what it is, beautiful, like life. What can I say about Désolé? They say sorry is the hardest word, but that's not true.... Try saying antidisestablishmentarianism with a mouth full of gluten free cronuts on a speed boat without licking your lips."

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Diamond Platnumz and Tanasha in "Gere" (Youtube)

The 7 Best East African Songs of the Month

Featuring Diamond Platnumz x Tanasha, Sauti Sol, Rayvanny, Sheebah, Victoria Kimani and more.

February has been dominated by familiar voices in East African music.

Here are our picks of the best East African songs of the month featuring Diamond Platnumz, Sheebah, Rayvanny and more.

Follow our East African Grooves playlist on Spotify and Apple Music.

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