New East African pop sound with hip-hop and R&B vibes

September 2009 -

Those who still associate the Swahili rumba by artists like Simba Wanyika with Kenyan pop music are still living in the 1980s. Not that there is anything wrong with that classical East African Afro-pop, but the youth in Nairobi of the 21st century have since moved on to things that are entirely different. R&B and hip-hop are also extremely popular there, albeit mixed with traditional rhythms and sounds. The result is known as the New East African Sound, and three representatives of the genre will be heard extensively in the Netherlands in September 2009.


The New East African Sound evolved in recent years thanks to the arrival of the Penya label and its recording studio in one of Nairobi's poorer districts. The project was made possible by support from the Dutch organisation UpToYouToo, which works to help youthful Kenyans find employment and latent talent to develop.

The first result was an album by the Kenyan rapper Goreala, who came to the Netherlands last year thanks to UpToYouToo. His record made the European World Music Chart. Penya has since introduced a number of new CDs that clearly demonstrate the breadth of Nairobi's contemporary pop.

Stan, whose full name is Stan M. Nganga, is a young singer-songwriter who composes songs in both English and Swahili. The music on his debut album Kenya Debut is relaxed-jazzy, sometimes sounding like a demure Michael Jackson. The rhythmic background, however, is unmistakeably East African.

The Sauti Sol quartet started out a number of years ago as an a-capella group that can be heard on its Mwanzo album as a smoothly-singing group with a sultry reggae background. The accompaniment is modest and tasteful and the voices are heavenly. Stan and Sauti Sol will be making numerous appearances in the Netherlands in the weeks to come together with Penya's latest discovery: Kenyan soul singer Dela. The sound of the boisterous Nairobi youth of 2009.

Information on the Dutch tour of Stan, Dela and is on the UpToYouToo website.