Performing Arts

Kagwe Sings Out Depression, Love, Insecurity


Kagwe Mungai releases his album this weekend. PHOTO | COURTESY

For musician Kagwe Mungai, his album launch this weekend will be the culmination of a long journey across several countries and working with many musicians and producers over more than seven years.

The multi-talented singer, rapper, actor and instrumentalist will officially launch his debut album, Spectrum, at the Alchemist bar in Nairobi's Westlands this Saturday.

“The 15 songs on the album take you on a journey of moods, from party songs to those speaking about love and heartbreak, and the more serious topics like the challenges that we face as a country,” says Kagwe.

The live show will be featuring a nine-piece band 'Tha Movement' with whom he has formed a performance partnership from previous live concerts.

“This is one show that I have dreamt about for a long time so fans will experience Kagwe Mungai in a complete live setting,” he says.

The music is presented in diverse genres from hip-hop, to the Afropop wave that is sweeping across the world. Kagwe says he has used the different songs to convey the range of emotions that humans undergo in the course of a day.

“I could wake up in the morning in a good mood, by lunchtime I may be frustrated about a national scandal and by evening I am listening to heartbreak songs after being dumped by my girlfriend. By the night I am in a great mood looking forward to the next day,” he says.

“Ogopa Mungu” is a gospel song on the album, which was inspired by an old choral piece that was shared on Instagram.

“I created a beat from the music, did a lot of chopping and cutting and guest artist Mr. Seed was the final ingredient in the recording."

As the album progresses the theme switches to mental health on “Boys Don't Cry.”

“There is a phase of depression that I went through myself and I am hoping to use my experience get the issue on the front burner,” says Kagwe.

Bien Aime of Sauti Sol is a guest songwriter on the album contributing 'Pressure' featuring the world-renowned Kenyan trumpeter Owuor Arunga.

“It a socially conscious song that describes the pressure that the country faces from economic to insecurity.”

“Till the end” is an R & B song featuring Nigerian star Niniola who has earned the endorsement of world-renowned rapper Drake for her hit song “Maradona.”

Kagwe's career started in South Africa where he lived for three years from 2003 as a teenage schoolboy playing drums in a rock band called the Jack Rascals that performed gigs in different malls around Johannesburg.

He returned to Kenya in 2006 where just like most young people at the time he aspired to be a rapper but could not find the beats to rap along to.

“I decided to create my own beats using an old software and I discovered that playing instruments strengthens your ability as a producer.”

“I was like 'I don't know anyone who plays the saxophone, so I am going to be that guy that plays the sax.”

He took lessons at the Conservatoire of Music and away from the formal class would practice with cover versions of Kenny G. Kagwe then moved to Uganda for two years from 2007 and was granted internship working alongside legendary Ugandan producer Steve Jean.

It is this internship that he credits with earning him a place to study music at Southampton University in the UK from September 2009 because he had to submit a music composition as part of the admission process. The agreement with his mum was that if he was going to study music then he also had to do a secondary degree, which was in Management Sciences.

“I had to juggle between two degrees, three jobs and still make my own production of music,” he says.

By the end of his time in university he released a mix tape with guest vocalists appearing on songs that he had produced.

After graduating from university with both degrees, he returned to Kenya to pursue his goal of building a following that would then propel him to the world.

The music on the album 'Spectrum' is created using the digital process with influences of his classical training as a musician.

“The samples and borrowing of the classical style is present on my current music, even though it may not be immediately clear to everyone,” he says.

The album is available on all digital platforms while physical copies will be available during the concert.