This is like nothing we have heard before, and here’s why.
Bill ‘Blinky’ Sellanga is what the future of Kenyan music looks like; the 36-year-old producer and front-man for the iconic ‘Just A Band’ dropped his solo album ‘Everyone’s Just Winging it and other Fly Tales’ in October this year to an eager and expectant audience.
Bill started off at Just a band in 2008, dropping the critically acclaimed ‘Scratch to Reveal’, which explored several genres and directions including jazz, hip-hop and electronica. The band then continued to produce and release more work in the albums, ’82’ in 2009, BLNRB the EP in 2010 and Sorry for the Delay in 2012.
Before his solo project in 2018, Bill dropped an EP dubbed ‘We Cut Keys While You Wait’ in 2017 and worked closely with artists MDQ, Fena, Kagwe Mungai and Mayonde on several projects including Party Nation and Karun Mungai’s Make Believe single this year.
So why is this album so monumental to the art scene?
Everyone’s Just Winging it and other Fly Tales is an exploration of the creative’s mind with a ‘big bad sound’. In this album, Bill has traversed every single expectation the Kenyan audience has of the Kenyan artist. Pushing himself to the limits in terms of writing, production and art direction, the album has set the bar for any hip-hop act to come after him (or any work he will put out after this.) It is nothing like we have heard before and now we have expectations.
Kenyan music has no place of its own on the map, with the exception of global acts such as Sauti Sol, we continue to struggle to find a niche for ourselves in comparison with Tanzania’s Bongo, Nigeria and Ghana’s Afrobeat and South Africa’s House and AfroPop. With an ever-changing, ever drifting music direction, it is not a surprise that most Kenyans don’t ‘consume’ Kenyan music. This album, however, promises to change the game; with its unique, authentic sound, Bill tells the Kenyan story in a way we know best – catchy, sometimes satirical and often elaborate lyrics that define the Kenyan experience.
“Si ni warui/ Kwani hujui/ Tutawaroga ka waganga wa Kitui/” – Don’t Worry
“But my country keeps hurting my soul/ I can’t watch the news no more/ They don’t want the truth I know/ We sweep it under the rug and then they/ want us to dance” – Oh Wah.
“Might deal but I can’t say I don’t feel/ Knocked down many times but never stay down” – Happy
When you first listen to the album, you’re immediately taken back to his Just A Band roots with similar funk almost jazz feel but with a little more alternative hip-hop integrated into it. The second track ‘Atenshan’ fuses stellar beats and lyrics to get you up and dancing almost immediately it drops. Bill then takes us through the fusion of trap and African beat in ‘Don’t Worry’ and ‘Bills to Pay’ before carrying us through several emotional roller coasters in ‘Winner’, ‘Mungu Halali’,’Oh Wah’ and ‘Happy’, each exploring themes of success, struggle, providence, the artists’ plight and the human condition.
The album is both playful and insightful in its writing and exploration of issues primarily facing the average Kenyan and although it will not leave you feeling particularly sad or happy, it gives you a lot to think about while making for great road trip music. Everyone’s Just Winging it and other Fly Tales, will force you to take a beat and appreciate the craftsmanship embedded in Blinky’s production and direction.
It is hard to pick a favourite out of the 12 track album because each track has a unique feel and emotion to it, the kind of diversity this new era of music requires the artist to have.
The album features a diverse array of both Kenyan and international acts including Mayonde and Muthoni Drummer Queen on ‘Feeling It’ (part of ‘Rafiki’ the movie’s soundtrack), Chemutai Sage, the Mitaru sisters and Lisa Oduor Noah on ‘Mungu Halali’, Sampa the Great on ‘Let That Go’, MVROE and Kiwango on the popular ‘Showdown’ and Petite Noir with legendary Nneka on ‘Oh Wah’.
With potential chart-toppers such as ‘Atenshan’, Blinky evidences the power and capacity for good, quality Kenyan music. Bill also spoke more about the process of coming up with this album on Redbull with Mayuyuka Kaunda.
Blinky Bill through this revolutionary album, has created a unique and untapped platform, a platform that will push the artists to not only create but to create authentically through their journeys and experiences in order to redefine the Kenyan music scene – a step towards the future.
You can stream/buy the album on Spotify (here) or Apple Music (here) or listen via YouTube to some tracks from the album (Blinky’s YouTube Channel)
Speaking about music that’s on fire, check out our interview with Amani G.