Music

Trapped in Italy, Kenyan DJ completes two songs, enrols for master’s

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Summary

  • Most of the artists who worked on the album were already part of the label and so a good rapport already existed among them, while those recruited from outside the label were also able to connect easily to the vibe of the production.
  • It is convenient to categorise this album in the Afro House genre, but Rooster feels that there are much broader elements within the music.

One of Kenya’s most popular Electronic Dance Music (EDM) DJs was in the middle of a European tour earlier in the year, promoting his new album when, as fate would have it, he got caught up in Italy, which at the time was the global epicentre of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Since I was in Italy when the pandemic struck, I managed to complete videos for two songs on the album, worked on more production, and also enrolled for a long-delayed online Masters Programme,” says producer and DJ Jack Rooster.

It has been almost a decade since Ernest Wambari started a career in music, first as a DJ, and eventually getting his radio show Café Mocha, every Sunday from 10 am on HBR 103.5FM. Wambari, who is also a trained journalist and computer scientist adopted the stage name Rooster because ‘it is forward-thinking, authoritative bird’ traits that he admires.

His debut album “Nyumba” a collection of 11 EDM tracks spanning across different genres, from House to Hip Hop and R&B, has taken almost five years to complete, from recording the first song “Siangalii Nyuma” to completing the last track “Sports Car” early this year.

Working with Decimal Records, the brainchild of veteran urban music producer Eric Musyoka, allowed him to focus primarily on the creative aspects of the project while the label handled logistical support.

“Musyoka and the team were available for collective sessions including renting a house in Diani and having a one-week songwriting/production workshop,” says Rooster.

Most of the artists who worked on the album were already part of the label and so a good rapport already existed among them, while those recruited from outside the label were also able to connect easily to the vibe of the production.

It is convenient to categorise this album in the Afro House genre, but Rooster feels that there are much broader elements within the music.

“I view this album more as an Electronic Dance Music (EDM) album and it borrows heavily from other genres like Hip-hop and RnB which heavily influenced me while growing up. House music is a vehicle that can carry multiple genres within it.

The new single and the accompanying video from the album is a funky 80s dance flavoured groove called “Afrika Disco” featuring vocals by 23-year-old vocalist Khuhani.

The idea for the hook came to Rooster while he was cleaning up at home, he recorded it on his phone and shared it with the rest of the team, the so-called Decimators, at their next studio recording session. They all liked it and got into the studio booth to record it together.

“Musyoka and I then fleshed out the chord progression and we left it to simmer for a while. Fast forward two to three months later and we had the full song structure and Khuhani had written her parts, we recorded her vocals and Musyoka finalised the mastering of the track,” says Rooster.

According to him “Afrika Disco” is a song mainly representing the nightlife and clubbing cultures of Nairobi and Africa but is also the story of two people who found love on the dance floor.

“It takes us back to a time before the pandemic and gives us hope that such times when we will mingle freely on the dance floors will soon return,” he says.

“Khuhani is immensely talented and on this album, I was looking to work with young artists that were not too well known yet. This album is for the future and I believe every track on it will age well in time.”

One of the highlights on the album is a throwback to the classic road safety anthem “Dereva Chunga Maisha” recorded in the 1980s by the veteran Kenyan musician Sam Muthee.

“I grew up listening to this song every morning as I prepared for school. It was always playing on KBC Radio, so when a friend of mine told me that he knew Sam Muthee’s son, I was keen to meet the veteran himself,” he says.

The two met in Nairobi when Muthee was visiting from the UK, where has since relocated and he gave his blessing to a reworking of the song. Three years later, an EDM version of the song, titled “Dereva” is now part of the album “Nyumba.”

The album is available across digital music platforms, iTunes, Spotify, Soundcloud, Boomplay, and Deezer.