The Kenyan artist’s sophomore album Maia & The Big Sky on vinyl, makes her the first Kenyan contemporary music artist to release and sell her record in the country, in recent years.
The 9-track album was first released in digital format last year. Maia describes the release as ‘a culmination of a three year journey exploring her Mijikenda heritage’. The album features notable tracks such as; Seeing Blue, Maji, Lola and PAWA which features the versatile Blinky Bill. The record’s vinyl issue will see the niche vinyl consumers have a contemporary artist’s record spinning on their turntables.
The vinyl release could not have come at a better time when the vinyl revival fever is catching up with Kenya. In recent years vinyl sales have experienced a surge all over the world mostly driven by young buyers. In the US for instance, 2017 marked 12th straight year of growth in vinyl album sales, this is according to Nielsen Music.
In Africa, things are not so different, the vinyl culture has also got enthusiasts excited about new releases being pressed on vinyl, and dusty old records once sitting in garages and by ‘to trash’ sections of people’s homes, being brought back to the shelves for sale. In the east African country, vinyl enthusiasts are coming together creating communities who include a number of DJs, that seek to promote consumption of music on vinyl. The likes of; Crate Society, Nairobi Soul Club and We Love Vinyl are holding events that bring together music lovers who gather to listen to music on vinyl at various spots around Nairobi, as they trade musical experiences, history and the vinyl culture. the highlight of this saw Nairobi Soul Club and Crate Society organize the first ever Record Store Day in Kenya in April last year, with a promise of another in 2018.
Though still sort of young in the popular realm, the vinyl’s return impact may be well understood by the likes of James Rugami or otherwise just Jimmy, a man who has been running a vinyl records & turntables shop since 1989. According to Jimmy, his dealership tucked somewhere in the city’s Kenyatta Market, has seen a shoot in record sales, attracting mostly the young, some of whom he has had the pleasure of introducing to vinyl. The businessman runs three shops including the popular stall number 570 that stock records of various genres from across the world.
Maia’s latest vinyl release is expected to help turn around the fortunes of the vinyl format in Kenya, a country that has no pressing plant, despite once having a vibrant recording industry that would see artist from across Africa and the world including international record labels press and release their music for sale in Kenya.
Other Kenyan acts who have had their albums pressed on vinyl include; London-based Owiny Sigoma Band under Brownswood Recordings. However what sets them apart is, Maia’s project is actually available on sale in Kenya.
Maia’s album embraces her captivating vocals, both in Kiswahili and English, the project is a warmly package of coastal polyrhythms interlaced with soul and folk music. The album features a multitalented band of artists that include: Radanz Narina & Allan Sucre (Bass), Debe Debe & Wakake Otieno (Percussion), Tugi Mlamba & Kato Change (Guitars), Emmanuel Obedi & Amani Baya (Drums), Chris Washburn & Jason Rae Otieno (Trombone), Owuor Arunga (Trumpet), Daniel Hoffknecht (Rhodes), as well as guest performances by Blinky Bill and Neno Kali.