East African Powerhouse group Elani is back on the music scene after more than a year-long hiatus.
They broke their silence with ‘‘Heartbeat’, the first release off their sophomore album, “Colours of Love”, and followed it up with the more recent call-to-action single ‘Mahindi’.
The trio of Maureen Kunga, Brian Chweya and Wambui Ngugi spoke about why they needed to take a break and what they plan to do differently after their comeback.
What were you guys up to for one and a half years?
Wambui: The break gave us an opportunity to explore other things we can do beyond music. I was thrown into so many new things that made me realise I have underrated my problem solving abilities. However, it also re-affirmed our decision to do music as a full-time thing.
Brian: It’s been a time of great personal discovery, taking care of my son and bonding with family. I have also delved into investments and just learning from older guys how to grow my portfolio.
Why did you feel the need to take a break?
Wambui: To be honest, at some point we actually felt lost. The first year was great; everyone was celebrating us, we made some money, but also the pressure started to mount up. You know when you lose focus in life, you can end up following the trends down a path that was never meant for you.
Maureen: Shortchanging our audience is the last thing we would want to do. We would have probably burnt out had we continued and who knows if we would have come back from that.
Your fans really complained about your silence why did you stay away for so long?
Brian: We must be doing something right if people missed us; some stop singing and no one even notices. It was such a frustrating time for our fans; some would ask us to release a photo album even if we didn’t have music. It was also frustrating for us, to see demand for content we had but we couldn’t release it.
Maureen: Competition is often misconstrued in our industry, so we are expected to release content every time someone else does. During our break we were in very many studios, creating content without pressure. There are songs that we recorded and re-recorded almost three times.
What is the one thing you have learnt during your break?
Wambui: That time is one of the most precious things we have; you could lose years before you notice it.
Maureen: Showbiz is hard so sometimes you need a break. You need to be authentic; music from the heart goes straight to the heart.
What’s new about your comeback?
Wambui: This music has me so excited, I look forward to see how many hearts it will touch. We are more focused on the business end of things too.
How exactly will you handle the business of music?
Brian: With experience comes vision, and we want to be a brand that stands out. We have more responsibilities now, so music has to make sense. We have put in structures so we can target bigger deals.
Wambui: Our management team has actually increased. We are working with brilliant minds to really help us commercialise our art.
A few years back you made a huge loss in a self-sponsored event, are you planning to venture into that again?
Brian: Music is everything for us; we invested money into our own event because we wanted to push the envelope. Anyone who doesn’t take a risk cannot win big, so we will continue to push limits. Nonetheless, our experience taught us a lot. Sponsorship is critical in event execution. You have to start sourcing for sponsors like 12 months in advance to avoid going into debt as we did.
Your new single ‘Mahindi’ is very political. Is that the direction your music is taking?
Maureen: Love songs have always been our primary focus, but we have always added our voices to issues affecting society. We will not stop now. We were vocal about MCSK and royalty accountability, we did a song on domestic violence and we were now addressing food security.
Give us a few highlights of your upcoming album and when it drops.
Maureen: It’s a love song album which journeys through all the phases of a relationship, representing each with a colour that you will see in all our branding. Yellow represents puppy love, red for a couple falling in love, grey is for when doubts come into the relationship and someone starts picking calls in another room, black is for the break up, and then the white phase is for when they find hope again. The style of each song will be determined by the theme but that signature Elani harmony is a constant.
I really can’t reveal the exact date, but songs will be released fast enough for people not to forget. Because the album is an unfolding story, there will be experiential events for fans to engage with it.
What’s your advice to artistes?
Wambui: Focus on what you are supposed to be doing not what others are doing. It is very tiring and things that you used to love become a drag. Don’t be afraid to take a break, music is only one part of you. The more pieces you add to that puzzle, the better you become and the more you push the success envelope. However, as you diversify be careful not to spread yourself too thin.