News

Australian-Kenyan Pop Songstress Okenyo's 'Just A Story'

Listen to Australian-Kenyan songstress Okenyo's "Just A Story," the lead single off her forthcoming 'Mirage' EP.


Australian-based, Kenyan-rooted singer/songwriter Okenyo delivers sharp soul-pop with "Just A Story," the lead single off her forthcoming Mirage EP. Starting with thick guitar curls, the sparkling track sees the musician reaching for air from the depths of a cloistered relationship over drum clasps and airy electronics. Okenyo penned the song with an almost stream-of-consciousness flow after a weird encounter with a friend one day. "I wrote [the single] on a hot afternoon in my apartment in Sydney after having a strange altercation with a friend and I can remember the verses just spat out without stopping," the singer mentions in a press statement. "Just A Story" consequently carries that great urgency. The artist, who takes inspiration from both classical literature and Erykah Badu, seems keen though on simply telling a relatable, musically exciting tale on the track. Listen to "Just A Story" by Okenyo, and read a short Q&A about her African heritage below.

Okayafrica: Can you expand on your Kenyan background?

Okenyo: Jambo! My mother is from Australia and my father from Kenya, I was born and raised in Australia and have not yet been to visit my hometown, but as soon as I get a spare minute!

OKA: What's the Kenyan or African influence in your music?

Okenyo: The older I get the more I realise my African heritage is such a part of who I am as an artist. There are many differing qualities between African and Australian so I think there's a mix of Aussie relaxed approach but also strength and pride coming from my Kenyan side.

OKA: How does that come out in "Just A Story"?

Okenyo: When it comes to music, for me a big part of the heart and emotion is in the percussion, I can always feel the rhythm and that has been in my body since I was young. Throughout my adulthood I've become more in tune with how my ethnicity plays a role in my art.

Music

6 Samples From 'Éthiopiques' in Hip-Hop

A brief history of Ethio-jazz cultural exchange featuring songs by Nas & Damian Marley, K'naan, Madlib and more.

This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

popular.

How Nigerian Streetwear Brand, Daltimore, is Rising To Celebrity Status

We spoke with founder and creative director David Omigie about expression through clothing and that #BBNaija pic.