Music

X-mas Songs by Kenyan Musicians

TistheSeasonew

Singer Atemi Oyungu (in red) and veteran artist Eric Wainaina (far right) with band members performing the eighth edition of the “Tis the Season” at The Hub Karen, Nairobi. PHOTO | NMG

Summary

  • Individuals and families wherever they may be in the world hold on to the best memories of the festivities through the music that they have grown up hearing every Christmas.
  • There has emerged a deliberate effort by Kenyan musicians to add their interpretations of traditional Christmas songs to the traditional repertoire of popular names like Boney M, Jim Reeves or Kenny Rogers.

The Christmas spirit is memorably captured through the traditional carols and contemporary songs that have been the soundtrack of the celebrations of the season through generations.

Individuals and families wherever they may be in the world hold on to the best memories of the festivities through the music that they have grown up hearing every Christmas.

While Western pop and country music renditions of Christmas songs have typically dominated our celebrations, in recent years, there has emerged a deliberate effort by Kenyan musicians to add their interpretations of traditional Christmas songs to the traditional repertoire of popular names like Boney M, Jim Reeves or Kenny Rogers.

Producer and arranger Victor Seii released out two volumes of his Christmas series “Well Seasoned” in 2005 and 2011 with a host of artists including Eric Wainaina, Harry Kimani, Sauti Sol, Wendy Kimani, Patricia Kihoro, and Dan Aceda.

This year, despite the restricted conditions under which artists have been compelled to operate due to the Covid-19 regulations, several top musicians still managed to get into the studio and to record new songs for an album to celebrate Christmas.

“Tis the Season” is the brainchild of Atemi Oyungu and Eric Wainaina who have jointly produced an annual concert of that name since 2013. This year they have been challenged to explore new formats of presenting the music in a fun and accessible manner to fans wherever they may be.

“After the year that has been, it is only right that we get something wholesome for Christmas,” says Wainaina. “This family of musicians has been working hard these past few weeks to ensure we deliver a gift worthy of you.”

He explains that in addition to a carefully curated socially-distanced live concert, The 2020 edition of “Tis the Season” features a TV Special on two nights, the first of which went out on air and was streamed online last Sunday and the second which is broadcast tonight. This year's project also includes the release of the first official “Tis the Season” album containing recordings of the songs performed during the show.

The duo pulled together an amazing array of talent as guest artists on the album released to coincide with the concert at the Hub in Karen last weekend and the premier concert on NTV. “All the songs are those that you recognise, the only surprise is the way we have changed them, with some traditional African rhythms and beautiful harmonies, Afropop, Afro jazz, even gengetone, a raw urban style combining rap and dancehall that has been embraced by the youth in the last two years,” says Atemi.

The first single from “Tis the Season” is “Yesu Amezaliwa (Do you See What I See) a mid-tempo rumba driven groove with delightful guitars and vocals from Bien-Aime Baraza of Sauti Sol Atemi, Wambura Mitaru and Eric Wainaina, before hitting a climax as Wyre blesses the track with his trademark dancehall delivery.

The Christmas classic “Little drummer boy”has been transformed into an uplifting rhythm in sync with the festive spirits as it builds up from an uproarious celebratory chant with an ensemble featuring some of the country's most outstanding talent: singers like Mayonde, Manasseh Shalom, Karimi Rimbui and Kagwe Mungai who drops some very sleek rhymes on the track.

The performance had other catchy dance tunes, tailored towards a Kenyan Christmas, especially Chris Adwar’s “Bus to Usagoo” a humorous take on Christmas travel that has been a favourite with audiences at past editions of Tis the Season, and “We Three Kings” a mash-up with “Safari Ya Bamba” by Isaac Kimani, Karimi Rimbui and Wambura Mitaru. Both songs are also on the album.

This edition of Tis the Season showcases some of the country's fastest rising talent including singers Kendi Nkonge, Lisa Oduor, Charity Nyambura, and Vinny Ngugi, who has already established himself as part of the duo TeleVision.

The TV Special also featured special appearances by Jacob and Kavutha Asiyo, Aaron Rimbui, the group H_art the Band.

Kavutha also appears on two tracks on the album, "Silent Night" "Tidings of Comfort with Eric.

The band comprised very experienced musicians, Marvin Maveke on drums, Asaph Uzele on bass, guitarists Benjamin Kabaseke and Ivy Alexander, and Victor “Tots” Kimetto on keyboard.

The second concert in the “Tis the Season” series is live on NTV tonight Christmas Eve from 10 pm.