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MEET THE WOMEN
AMPLIFYING VOICES
AND IMPACTING CHANGE
IN KENYA’S CREATIVE COMMUNITY

by Tela Wangeci
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Tela Wangeci is an upcoming music journalist and curator in Sub-Saharan Africa. Passionate about Kenyan music, she joined the music scene at 19 years as a music journalist. She then worked with UnKut Africa and participated in the UnKut HipHop Awards Kenya 2020.

Currently, she is a music journalist NATIVE Magazine and BEDA Magazine. Gaining international by-lines in the Pan African Magazine, Rolling Stone and more Tela aims to bring light to the underground hip-hop scene and empower creatives. Mainly teaching artists their art is also a business. She is also a PR practitioner working under Camille& Co. and C&C Distro.

Tela Wangeci owns her podcast called Newz Podcast, as she specializes in but is not limited to popular African music culture, specifically African HipHop. She has interviewed and profiled major upcoming Kenyan acts such as Wakadinali, Boutross.

The Nairobi creative scene is cathartic, fast and riveting. The union of compelling creatives and their impressive cultic following reflects a shift that the scene has witnessed in the past five years – creatives are popping up now more than ever. Women have been making significant marks amid this revolution and across various cultural scenes. From fashion and events to entrancing the public with their hypnotic DJ Sets, women are etching their names onto the face of the creative scene. 

In Kenya, a country struggling against misogyny, gender-related violence and sexual harassment, women are using their voices to own and amplify their sexuality in protest of the status quo. Take sultry singer and songwriter Maandy, who is relishing her moment. Loud, fierce and bold, she resists societal expectations of what a woman should be. Reclaiming her freedom with the raunchy “Mmmh Mmmh” and the party anthem “Shash na lipgloss”, Maandy makes one thing clear: she is liberated within her sexuality. “I feel like Maandy is the real embodiment of what a bad bitch should be,” Fadhili Odewo tells me when I ask her what she thinks of Maandy. For a long time, men have owned sex; they’re free to sing about lustful relationships while women are deemed promiscuous. But thankfully, Maandy is unapologetic in her work.  

Maandy is not the only artist doing this. Rapper, singer and songwriter Dyana Codds made her big debut with a radio freestyle that had Nairobi at her feet. Growing up, it was common to hear that girls are to be seen and not heard. But Dyana Codds has a different testimony. Women in creative spaces are undoubtedly pervasive, and artists like Maandy and Dyana Cods are the loud voices needed to amplify the movement even further.

Creative output has always been a medium for protest with women’s voices emerging to tell the stories of those who aren’t able to, across Kenya’s art, music and culture scene in the last 5 years. Artists such as Bakhita are also standing up and using their music to amplify what they feel. Operating as an artist/set designer and overall creative, Bakhita is paving the way for people in the community who can’t speak for themselves. 

In February “The Whinedown” announced Kenyan singer and songwriter Victoria Kimani as the guest star at its next event. As a vocal artist empowering women all over the country, she will be the perfect advocate for the event that prides itself as a celebration of which aims to celebrate women and their sexuality with one rule: no men allowed. Something that started as a small residential event has come to represent the movement against the patriarchy and is seen as THE event for women to celebrate their diverse identities

While this event disrupts the status quo and aims to do so without any conflict or inflammatory mobilisation of protest, this last year people were forced to leave the event as it was shut down mid-way through. To many Kenyans, this reflected the society they exist in; raising the question of whether they can live in harmony. However, the beauty of music, style and events is that they provide people with a platform to express such questions.

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Another medium that is increasingly employed to celebrate women’s liberation is fashion. Looking at alternative artists across Kenya, one thing stands out: their stylist is always Luca. Starting at a thrift store and slowly morphing into the closet whisperer, Luca has been on an upward trajectory as she succeeds in representing women in the fashion scene. Thanks to her, you may find it easier to relate to artists in music videos in recent years. The videos have become more personal, the clothing is exquisitely detailed and she finds a way to portray her own identity in her work. Speaking to a local publication, Luca expresses that she is making her mark with the pieces she puts together. “At the end of the day when the industry wins we all win,” she says.

Who else can better understand this statement if not Antonate Aiko? If you are a fan of hip-hop videos, you may recognise this belle stunting her moves. In an industry dominated by men, it takes more than sheer luck to make it. You need GRIT. “As a dancer, I am not only supporting the music industry; it goes much more to football, film and even art,” she replied to me on Instagram, after posting her latest adventure; a Football Game involving AFC Leopards. “I often share my dance videos online to show guys that you can also stumble across them. Through my dancing I enable other people to discover new music cause my friends will definitely watch,” she says.

While these women, among many others, take their position in the industry, mobilising and establishing powerful platforms for their art and identity, there remains a lot to be done. Cases of misogyny are rife, sexual assault is far too commonplace, and sexually driven unprofessionalism is a daily occurrence. However, what was once seen as the resilient domination of the patriarchy and acceptance of these events as normality, is now beginning to be destabilised. Women use their creative outputs to forge their identities and express themselves through their art; creating an amazing creative scene in Nairobi. These women will continue standing up to make their voices heard, challenging the notion that they should be relegated to cheerleaders at the back.  

 

Discover more from Kenya with True Music and Boiler Room x Ballantine’s True Music Studios.

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