…Navy Kenzo looks set to explore the world with Most People Want This. And they are doing this on their terms with their Tanzanian heritage…
By Emmanuel Daraloye
The first time I learnt of the music group, Navy Kenzo, was through Empire Records 2022 expansive collaborative album, Where We Come From, Vol. 01. Their Dancehall tune, “Hold On,” alongside Fireboy DML, was one of my standout tracks off that album. I was hooked. By the time I checked out their two previously-released albums, Story of the African Mob, and Above Inna Minute, my admiration for the Tanzania-based group skyrocketed. On March 8, 2023, Navy Kenzo made a comeback with their third studio album, Most People Want This, which was distributed by Empire records.
Aika Marealle and Emmanuel Mkono, also known as Aika and Nahreel, form Navy Kenzo. While the duo is based in Tanzania, their music has travelled across the globe. They have also collaborated with artistes like King Promise, R2Bees, Patoranking, Mr. Eazi, and many more.
Marealle and Mkono met in India while studying for their first degree. They dated. On their return to Tanzania, they both decided to explore their talents, joining the same group, Pah One. Their exploits in the group were however limited, and they later left the group in 2013 to form Navy Kenzo. A “Navy” is a group of people sailing, and “Kenzo” is a Japanese word that translates roughly to “wise.”
Navy Kenzo has been in existence for close to a decade. They get stronger every day as they sharpen themselves, and explore other genres while co-opting influences from other cultures. Fragments from these influences are scattered on this twelve-track album, Most People Want This. Except for “Don’t Let Go,” which features Fireboy DML, all other tracks feature Navy Kenzo alone. It shows their resourcefulness and capability as artists.
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Within a half-hour time frame, Navy Kenzo tells their stories. The topics flit strangely between love and sex, and they collide sometimes. In a world where one can comfortably substitute one for the other, Navy Kenzo smartly follow through with this dual role as they take the listeners through their world.
“Madness,” which opens the album, details the antics of naysayers. While they are not oblivious to these issues, Navy Kenzo vows to strive for success. This might not sound like the right topic to start an album with, but the song’s instrumental arrangement makes it more pleasing. The shimmering guitar pick, the sleek kick, and the beautiful piano chord all collide to give “Madness” an infectious feeling.
Navy Kenzo complements each other. When one falters, the other effortlessly blends in. On “Don’t Let Go,” Nahreel provides the Reggae flow to Aika’s R&B verse. The impeccable mix of genres comes off well. It is a testament to the groundwork that goes into their music creation.
“Hold On,” the track from the Empire Records compilation project, was included in this album. The Dancehall tune sees Fireboy and Navy Kenzo swapping energies as they strive to draw their lover into their arms. It’s a sex-inspired tune. Fireboy’s one-minute-long verse is effortlessly rendered.
“Company” is laid on a melodious production that shimmers with guitar and kicks. Navy Kenzo’s heartfelt lyrics preach love as they crave attention from their lover. The hook is repeated in such a soulful way that it registers in the mind.
The bopping track, “Tonight,” is a copious exploration of what happens in the bedroom. The sexual undertone in the lyrics is not glaring; yet, you can’t but notice it if you listen attentively.
“This day, I don’t smoke anymore,” Navy Kenzo confesses on “Sip N Whine.” The fast-paced track invites you to the dance floor. The lyrics are ordinary, yet the production takes over you.
“How many times do you wanna say you want me / baby boy you know that it’s ok to correct me,” Aika sings on “Pull Up.” A mid-tempo groove, it clocks in at the two minutes, twenty-three seconds mark, and sets the tone for the next track, “Manzese.”
“Manzese,” a song that celebrates a love story born in Manzese, a popular town in Tanzania, was written by Aika and Francis Jacob, Aika’s assistant writer. On this record, the central message is the need to keep the flame burning in relationships. “Manzese” finds Navy Kenzo crafting an R&B-inspired tune, one that can stand the test of time.
“Too Long” finds Navy Kenzo at its dazzling best. The Dancehall-spiced track is ensconced in sex talk. The duo tends to come more alive in fast-paced productions.
Over a lush and percussion-based production, Navy Kenzo invites the listeners into the dance floor on “Ting.” It’s a detectable club tune. “Corner” is laid on skittering drums, boisterous baseline, and guitar pick. Just like the preceding track, it’s dance-centered with an overt tribute to the Caribbean.
The album closer, “Manzese (Choir),” features the input of a choir who take the song to another level. The choir, with their angelic vocals, gives the song a spiritual feeling. It transports the listeners to church without them going to a cathedral.
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Although it’s difficult to know the reason this album is named Most People Want This, or what Navy Kenzo meant by the title, this is an album I would recommend to anyone. The cheesy title can be excused since the content is lovely.
Navy Kenzo sells to listeners the Tanzanian culture and lifestyle. Although the lyrics are sung mostly in English, giving their sound a broader audience, they are also spiced with Swahili and some native Tanzania languages. Through this album, you get to understand why Tanzanians love life, what makes them tick, and so on.
Navy Kenzo is not the most pristine songwriter around; however, they stick to their selling point which is their innate ability to create melodies. They profusely explore that arc on Most People Want This. The decision not to feature many artistes on the album is less noticeable as they fill in most of the vacuum by giving the listeners adorable songs in the space of 30 minutes.
While their last album, Story of the African Mob, celebrates and uplifts the African essence, Navy Kenzo looks set to explore the world with Most People Want This. And they are doing this on their terms with their Tanzanian heritage.
Lyricism – 2
Tracklisting – 1
Sound Engineering – 1
Vocalisation – 2
Listening Experience – 1
Emmanuel Daraloye is Africa’s Most Prolific Freelance Music Critic. He has over 500 album reviews in his archive.