If you are looking for a high quality album of sweet romantic songs with a relaxed Afro pop flavour, then the new album from the multi-talented singer, songwriter and performer Benjamin Webi is strongly recommended for you.
The album title “Lukundo” is the Taita word for “love” and according to Mr Webi this is the one word that describes the 13 songs on the album.
“This album is not just songs compiled together, it is a declaration of what I believe in and value. It is not just about love, it is a work of love,” he says.
The songs that are mainly sang in Swahili with some English and his own Taita language are sweet romantic tales written and arranged by Mr Webi and co-arranged by one of the most in-demand producers in East Africa, Robert “R-Kay” Kamanzi.
His first two albums were predominantly written in English, but on “Lukundo” Mr Webi sings in languages that are close to home.
“I need to express the music exactly the way it felt and so this is it. There are also very few pop songs that have been recorded in the Taita and so I am delighted to compose songs in my own language,” he says.
Outstanding songs on the album include “Pamoja Milele” a mid-tempo groove with an infectious guitar bridge and “Nikuskize” which Mr Webi describes as a song about some of the harsh realities of love and relationships.
There are interesting duets like “Nalola” a village love story written in Taita and recorded in acoustic style together with Angela “Shinde” Mwandanda while “Aliye Wangu” was a song he wrote and the singer Dela turned up as the perfect choice to sing it as a duet.
“She was happy to record the song and she loved it the first time she heard it,” says Mr Webi.
The songwriter and performer has had an association with gospel going back to his stint as music director of the Mavuno downtown Church worship team, so it is no surprise to find deeply spiritual songs on his album like “Baba Yetu.”
He says the general scope of the album is inspired by family values and his own relationship with God.
“The expression of the gospel can be done in a way that is practical and relates to everyday life,” says Mr Webi.
The influence of working on a song with Bien-Aime Baraza of Sauti Sol can be heard on “Tusibadilike” and Mr Webi explains that the collaboration came about from the moment he randomly mentioned to his friend that he was writing songs for a new album.
“Weeks later, I went to Bien’s house with my guitar and we played with different arrangements. I told him that I wanted to write a special song for the people who have stayed long and consistent in their relationships,” he says.
Bien wrote the pre-choruses while Mr Webi wrote the verses and they settled on a simple, one word chorus, the same formula that he used on “Nalola”.
There is a lively playful song on the album called “Pesa” in which he brings back memories of the childhood storytelling sessions that would begin with the signature phrase of “hadithi hadithi” and end with a moral of the tale.
The performer who plays acoustic and rhythm guitar worked on the album with a band of accomplished musicians like Benjamin Kabaseke on lead guitar, Maina Makumi on bass, keyboardist Victor Kimetto and vocalist Sheila Kanja.
This album was the first time that Mr Webi worked with live musicians on a recording and the connection between them grew so tight, that he now uses the same band even at his concerts.
He is a singer, songwriter who first came to mainstream attention after being named the winner of the Kenyan chapter of the Airtel Trace Music Star competition in 2015.
He is actually an industry veteran with more than a decade long recording experience and two previous albums to his credit, ‘‘Outside My Window’’ (2005) and “All I can say” in 2009.
His original style was R and B/ Gospel but this third album veers towards stronger Afro-pop influences especially zouk.
“The urban music market would typically consume more of the R&B but I also want a wider audience that is inclined towards a stronger African sound,” he says.
The album ‘‘Lukundo” has been released digitally via webi.bandcamp.com and on iTunes.
The details on buying physical copies of the album are available on Mr Webi’s Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts.