Gospel Music Mixes with Afropop at Koroga

Mercy Masika. PHOTO | COURTESY
Mercy Masika. PHOTO | COURTESY 

To coincide with the month that highlights the achievements of women, this weekend’s Koroga Festival will be celebrating the talents of three top African female music performers.

The event that takes place under the theme of ‘Queens Rock’ is headlined by Nigeria’s Yemi Alade, one of Africa’s most successful contemporary female artists. It also features top Kenyan gospel performer Mercy Masika and Sage Chemutai, a rising Afro fusion star.

“This is also Women’s History Month so to be part of an all-female line up is great,” says Sage. “Fans will watch three amazing musicians put on an awesome show,” says the singer, songwriter and instrumentalist.

Alade comes to Nairobi just after a trip to Paris, France last week where was part of a campaign that shares the success stories of women through an online video series.

She was selected by the French wine brand Luc Belaire as one of the female artists highlighting her journey to success. The campaign that coincided with the International Women’s Day is focused on self-made artists through exclusive interviews with Luc Belaire CEO Brett Berish.

Alade has spoken publicly about her struggles against sexual harassment in the music business before she became famous with her signature hit “Johnny”. As a young singer looking for opportunities in the industry, she had to rebuff the advances of several record label owners, producers and promoters.

The University of Lagos Geography graduate started her career in a group called Noty Spices after completing school. She released her debut album “King Of Queens” in 2014, and since then has enjoyed a string of hits earning her the unofficial title Queen of Afrobeats. This refers to a contemporary music style that mixes traditional and contemporary rhythms like Ghanaian highlife, Ivorian coupe decale and pop music.

It has been a very special month for Alade who celebrated her 29th birthday on Tuesday. Her third album “Black Magic” was released in December 2017 and by the end of January had hit one million streams on Spotify.

Alade will share the stage at the Nairobi’s Carnivore Grounds with two Kenyan female stars that represent different musical formats. Mercy is one of the leading voices in the country hugely popular gospel music scene while Sage is a fast-rising multi-talented Afro-Fusion performer.

“I am excited because it has always been my desire to reach audiences beyond the church,” said Mercy.

Asked if she was planning to do anything different in her performance given the secular nature of the event, she responded: “I like what I do and I believe I was selected on that basis, so I am going to stick to my style.”

Besides her hit songs like “Mwema”, her repertoire would include a lot of praise and worship.

“The three artists on the bill all have different styles and personalities and it is up to us to showcase the best that we have as individuals,” she says.

The gospel singer is also using her music and fame to champion the rights of refugees.

Sage is very upbeat about this weekend’s Koroga Festival.

“I have prepared a set that is true to my evolution as a musician. People just have to come to the event and enjoy a mix of songs they know combined with my new releases,” she says.

Sage started out as a vocalist and keyboard player. She established her own career through a song called “So Alive” featuring rapper Octopizzo before releasing her debut album “Expose Yourself” in 2015. She has performed alongside international acts like British Grammy Award winner Estelle and Franck Biyong from Cameroon.