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“Nyumbani” Review: Ally Fresh and Mura K.E Curate a Distinct Kenyan Musical Identity with New EP

“Nyumbani” Review: Ally Fresh and Mura K.E Curate a Distinct Kenyan Musical Identity with New EP

“Nyumbani” Review: Ally Fresh and Mura K.E Curate a Distinct Kenyan Musical Identity with New EP

… Ally Fresh and Mura K.E  present an EP that signifies a step in the right direction as far as developing a distinct Kenyan musical identity is concerned.

By Frank Njugi 

The concept of a collaborative album — a project curated by two or more artistes or with an artiste and a producer — has in contemporary times become a mainstay within musical culture. We Don’t Trust You, the 2024 album curated by American rapper, Future,  and American record producer, Metro Boomin, is perhaps the best example of how a collaborative project can result in pervasive outcomes. In Africa, this trend has also found its roots, with artistes such as Bnxn and Ruger linking up for a feel-good and melodious 2024 EP, RnB. This concept has also most recently been taken up by two Nairobi–based producers, Ally Fresh and Mura K.E, with the release of their collaborative EP, Nyumbani. 

Nyumbani seamlessly blends Dance, Benga, and other Afro-pop soundscapes, infused with lyrics delivered in English, Swahili, and numerous other African languages. Ally Fresh and Mura K.E, who also double as Neo-afro deejays, employ the services of phenomenally voiced vocalists in each of the seven songs in the EP. And perhaps intentionally, these vocalists have previously displayed rich linguistic diversity in their artistry. 

In the first track, “Mvua”, the producers link up with popular South African singer-songwriter, Aymos, who delivers a Zulu rendition of the Dholuo and Swahili lyrics performed by another featured vocalist, Labdi, a Kenyan single-stringed fiddle (Orutu) instrumentalist. “Mvua”, which translates to rain in Swahili, is a slow-flowing song with a soundscape majorly influenced by slow piano sounds that are prevalent in the background. The song is a rain prayer, and the artistes perform it as a supplication to a higher being to bless them with rain.

“Nyumbani” Review: Ally Fresh and Mura K.E Curate a  Distinct Kenyan Musical Identity with New EP | Afrocritik
Ally Fresh and Mura K.E

“Tena”, the second track, displays chords with variations that add extra flavour as the key changes occasionally. Njerae’s voice, as the featured vocalist, is joyous as she uses her lyrics — a juxtaposition of  Swahili and Kikuyu — to explore her unwavering love for a partner. This is followed by the titular “Nyumbani”, a mid-tempo earworm about the essence of a home and belonging. It features Afro-Urban recording and performing artiste, Wendy Kay, who displays her angelic vocals, alongside Luo rap icon, Japesa, who adds pizzazz with his Dholuo rap flow. The track displays saxophone riffs and single notes from an electric guitar similar to those of Benga music.

The third track, “Attachment”, features the Watendawili duo, Ywaya Tajiri and Israel Onyach.  This dancefloor track borrows heavily from Ohangla lyrical flow as the duo cleverly channel Ohangla and Benga grooves to create an enticing track full of romantic lyrics about an ‘attachment’ with a lover. Its follow-up, “To You” features Aymos and Labdi once more, alongside Grammy Award-winning Kenyan artiste and multi-instrumentalist, Bensoul. Labdi returns with Dholuo lyrics. She and Bensoul interchange the language of lyrical delivery with the same precision as she had with Aymos on  “Mvua”.

“Nyumbani” Review: Ally Fresh and Mura K.E Curate a  Distinct Kenyan Musical Identity with New EP| Afrocritik
Nyumbani tracklist

For the penultimate track, Ally Fresh and Mura K.E tracklist their 2021 song “Hutia”, which features Mùgithi, and Afro-Pop and Afrobeat artiste, Ayrosh, as the vocalist. Inundated with Kikuyu lyrics, this song is a ballad telling a romantic story in the most dramatic and humorous manner. The song’s soundscape is inspired by sounds from various traditional Kikuyu instruments, such as Kikuyu drums (kihembe), rattles (njingiri and kigamba), and flutes (muturiru).  

“Nyumbani” Review: Ally Fresh and Mura K.E Curate a  Distinct Kenyan Musical Identity with New EP
Nyumbani cover art

The last song on Nyumbani, “No More”, features  Zambian Kreative Nativez duo of DJ Blocks and Tryybo. They are featured alongside Kilifi singer, Zippie Nyumu, the vocalist whose lyrics metaphorically explore the complexities of the African youth experience. The song’s tempo emerges from percussive loop samples and deep bass lines; it kind of reminds you of Kwaito music being a House song with a mid-tempo range.

In the press release preceding Nyumbani, Ally Fresh and Mura K.E claimed to be pioneering a new era in Kenyan music through their intertwining traditional and contemporary influences which further charts a course for the future of the Kenyan sound. The question of what the Kenyan musical identity is always lingers among music heads and culture connoisseurs. By tapping into the authenticity that indigenous African and Kenyan sounds such as Benga and other native languages have to offer, Ally Fresh and Mura K.E  present an EP that signifies a step in the right direction as far as developing a distinct Kenyan musical identity is concerned.

Lyricism –   1.5

Tracklisting – 1.3

See Also
Bella Shmurda DND Cover

Sound Engineering – 1.8

Vocalisation –  1.6

Listening Experience – 1.6

Rating – 7.8 / 10

Frank Njugi is a Kenyan Writer, Culture journalist and Critic who has written on the Kenyan and East African culture scene for platforms such as Debunk Media, Republic Journal, Culture Africa, Sinema Focus, Wakilisha Africa, The Moveee, Africa in Dialogue, Afrocritik and many others. He tweets as @franknjugi.

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