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Music

Love, Lust and Longing in Steph Kapela’s New Album

Steph Kapela
Songwriter and rapper Steph Kapela. PHOTO | COURTESY 

"Releasing a new album during this period when the world is facing a pandemic is not such a bad idea after all," says singer, songwriter and rapper Steph Kapela.

Kapela, whose debut album was released digitally two weeks ago, says the pandemic is both a blessing and a curse, because while physical contact is limited, the isolation has created a huge demand among music fans for digital content.

After the last few years performing in the shadows of established artists like Muthoni Drummer Queen, King Kaka and Khaligraph Jones, Kapela has finally ventured on his own with his debut full length album “Vikky Secrets”.

The title of the album borrows from the name of a popular international lingerie brand and according to the artiste, just like lingerie is alluring, the album is packaged to draw the attention of listeners to the deeper meaning of the music.

“The melodies are catchy but the substance is in the content, as in the lyrics, the stories, the experiences,” says the 35-year-old artist.

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The nine songs on the album explore the roller coaster of relationships, from intimacy and fantasies to the regret of lost love, the good, bad and ugly.

“I want to hold nothing back and deal with all of it, love, lust and longing because I feel many people need that right now when they are isolated from their loved ones,” he says.

The songs form a chronological sequence in the life of a relationship, from ‘Pamoja’ a soft ballad accompanied by a sweet piano, that celebrates the bliss of a new love. ‘Waste No love’ in which the man admits to his imperfections but pleads to be loved for who he is.

By the time the album gets to ‘Mara Ngapi’ the relationship is breaking down with arguments and questions about the failed dates and the missed calls.

The man then go out in search of a new relationship in ‘New Girl’, ‘Taste’ and the feel-good anthem ‘Ambassada.’ The story comes full circle on "In The Booth" when he reaches out, with regret, to his original love.

“Artistes go through many emotions while creating music and it is left to the audience to interpret the music in their own way, based on their own experiences,” says Kapela.

The album has been three years in the making and is the first part of a larger body of work that was originally intended as a double album before plans were scaled down after the disruption caused by the pandemic.

“There may be a hunger for entertainment during this Covid-19 period but at the same time, consumption habits have changed and so artistes have also to be strategic in the way that we present our material,” he says.

Steph Kapela whose real name is Stephen Nyankuru is an alumnus of Dagoretti School where he started singing as an understudy of the duo Amos and Josh, who achieved national fame after emerging runners up in the 2014 edition of the TV talent show Project Fame.

The name "Kapela" (a corruption of a capella) came from a school teacher who was impressed after watching a performance by Nyankuru and Mokua Rabai, who is now a member of the Nairobi Horns Project.

“That was the foundation of my music career and we really charmed the ladies with our harmonies,” he recalls.

After high school, he went off to the US where he spent a decade, what he calls a ‘whole life’ making music, stating a family and generally understanding the world. His musical interests were developed as he spent time recording and touring across many States,

He returned to Kenya in 2015 having firmly established his music career, connected with the artist Atwal Adwok, and featured prominently on his album ‘Trap Heaven’ the following year.

In 2017, Kapela switched to the independent label Callivan Creatives and released the EP titled ‘Step by Step’ two years later.

Working with established artistes has opened his eyes to how the business functions and enabled him pick up useful tips to navigate the world of music. He was a guest artist on the song ‘Blessings’ on King Kaka's last album and the experience of that process has been useful in his own project leading up to the release of "Vikky Secrets."

It was through his collaboration with Muthoni on "Kenyan Message" from her latest album that he was connected to his current manager.

The sound of the album transcends all his influences from hip hop to R&B.

“You can't really put this music in a box because there is a contemporary, streetwise edge to my R&B, there is rap, and even spoken word,” says Kapela.

‘Vikki Secrets’ is available across local and international online outlets.

It is distributed by Africori a pan African music platform that delivers to a network of more than 200 international platforms.

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