You must learn how to kick, how to punch, how to push, you just work twice as hard, you must be twice as smart. Being a woman is a full time job and half the pay.” The lyrics are taken from a spoken word interlude titled Dear Mathilde by Muthoni Drummer Queen, addressed to all newly born baby girls with a message to toughen up and grow resilience in the face of misogyny.
It is one of the last pieces she wrote for her new album “SHE” an ode to the African woman, ‘a celebration of her beauty, strength, innovation and resilience’.
Four years since the release of her second album “MDQ”, Muthoni returns with a collection of socially conscious edgy rhythms that is officially launched tonight at The Alchemist in Westlands. It an 11-track collection of infectious, club and radio friendly songs by the singer, rapper and drummer inspired by the experiences of different women.
The multi-genre album, switches between dancehall oriented tracks like the superb “Million Voice” with Muthoni at her most powerful vocally to the loud guitar and drums riffs on “No More”. But there are also deeply soulful moments on the album like “Caged Bird”, the reflections of a young woman who goes against her mother’s wishes and pursues her dream of becoming a dancer.
“It is a song about giving yourself the freedom to live your truth, it’s about self-care and self love,” says Muthoni. There is even a bluesy-rock element in “Make It Right” featuring a guest appearance by the Swiss band The Rambling Wheels.
The strike by doctors in public hospitals in 2017 gave rise to the hard-hitting socio-political commentary on “Kenyan Message” as Muthoni decries corruption and mismanagement of public resources.
The hook borrows from the hip-hop anthem “The Message” by US rapper Grandmaster Flash whose theme of widespread poverty, as Muthoni notes, sadly still rings true in the Kenyan context. For this album, Muthoni once again works with the Swiss producers Greg “GR” Escoffey and Jean “Hook” Geissbuhler with whom she formed a partnership on her 2014 release “MDQ”.
The album was made in a series of three “bootcamp” sessions, a relentless itinerary of writing and recording music, live shows and video productions that started in January 2016.
As the songs came to life, so did a corresponding lead character appear for each song as it became clear that this was a project based on the struggles and triumphs of women, hence the title.
Each song on the album therefore narrates the lives of different women from Nairobi dealing with their internal struggles and building their lives. The characters borrow heavily from ‘real life women’ in Muthoni’s world. ‘Million Voice” is the anger and frustration of a 24-year-old girl, a child of parents who fled the civil war in Somalia in 1992, but is still classified as a foreigner even though she was born and raised in Kenya.
“I cannot believe he’s a criminal, I didn’t even know him a murderer,” Muthoni sings in the dancehall influenced song “Criminal”.
It’s a song based on the real life story of the widow of one of Kenya’s most wanted criminals Simon Matheri who was killed in a shoot out with the police in 2007.
Muthoni says a lot of creativity and effort has gone into making the album release concert with a combination of music, dance, performance and visual art.
SHE is available for digital streaming/download on iTunes, Spotify and Amazon and in physical formats. Renowned Kenyan artist, Michael Soi, has designed the album sleeve artwork.