Producer, DJ and rapper Blinky Bill is the face of the disruption of the music business. The innovative, multi-dimensional artist combines the best global influences with African roots.
Blinky represents a contemporary, edgy urban sound that is being fronted by a generation of artists in the continent and is gaining traction globally. It is music with a devoted fan base that hardly gets airplay on mainstream radio but instead relies on live shows and online streaming platforms like SoundCloud.
BDLife caught up with Blinky early this week as he returned from a Europe tour that saw him play several dates at festivals in the French cities of Dijon, Lyon and Paris and his first ever performance in London.
His debut album cryptically titled ”Everyone’s Just Winging It and Other Fly Tales” was released on October 19 and has been positively received by fans, if online reaction is anything to go by. The project has 12 songs all self-produced by Blinky.
He says the album expresses the idea that human beings float through life doing their best, sometimes succeeding, other times failing, and that our existences have their share of upsets. He uses the music to live up to his credentials as an experimental artist who defies the routine production template and instead channels a sound that transcends genres with an eclectic range of influences.
He draws his inspiration from Kenyan pop music of different generations, from the 1970s funk of the Mighty Cavaliers of the dance music produced by the Ogopa DJs in the early 2000s.
The sound is founded on synthesizer driven electronic beats, with a variety of Afro-pop samples that create just the right atmosphere for Blnky’s clever rapping that switches from English to Swahili (Sheng).
“I have a good idea of how my songs start but I hardly ever properly know how the music will end,” he says.
The process starts with Blinky making a beat as he did on one of the stand out tracks on the album “Mungu Halali” and from then he instinctively knows what he wants to say in the music and whom he wants to play on it. The song is a funky upbeat piece featuring female guest vocalists, Lisa Oduor Noah, Sage, Sarah and Wambura Mitaru.
There is a host of other collaborations on the album including “Feeling It” with Muthoni DMQ, a track that was also featured on Muthoni’s album released earlier in the year. It is the same song that appears on the soundtrack to the controversial Wanuri Kahiu-directed film “Rafiki”.
“Oh Wah” features the distinctive vocals of the singer Nneka from Nigeria along with South African singer, songwriter and producer, Petitte Noir.
Renowned Zambian poet, singer and rapper Sampa the Great drops her hypnotic rhymes on “Let That Go”.
“Showdown” is an infectious synthesizer — driven beat groove featuring two new Nairobi based acts, Mvroe, from the group EA Wave and Kiwango of Cosmic Homies. It was produced when Blinky started experimenting with bass sounds in the studio trying to create a bridge between African percussions and electronic rhythms.
The video for the song, the first to be released from the album, is a reflection of the feel-good vibe of the song with a cast of mostly young ladies grooving in a party atmosphere.
Blinky (real name Bill Salanga) who takes his stage name from a famous cartoon character, started his career with Just a Band, a group that he formed with his college mates at Kenyatta University in 2003.
They became an international success thanks to the song “Ha-He” whose video became an Internet sensation in 2010 thanks to the fictional superhero character, Makmende.
Blinky attended the One Beat Music programme of the US State Department in 2013 and the following year became the first Kenyan participant in the Red Bull Academy of Music, a global music training institution that brings together some of the best musicians in the world.
After three albums, Just A Band took a hiatus in 2016 to allow the members to pursue their solo projects. Blinky first project away from the group was the EP “We Cut Keys While You Wait” featuring five songs including collaborations with soul/jazz singer Maia Von Lekow and ShappaMan formerly of rap group Camp Mulla.