One Of The Best Artiste You’ve Probably Never Heard Of
Kagwe Mungai is probably one of the best artistes around, but funnily one of the least documented. The 21 year old music graduate combines a variety of genres including: house, hip hop and jazz; and he calls his style afro funky.
Mungai has loved music all his life and took up singing and rapping 6 years ago.
Armed with the skills he learnt at the University of Southampton, he believes his music is going to be the next big thing. Mungai takes his inspiration from the beauty and stories of Africa. His greatest admiration is reserved for Michael Jackson, who also doubles as his favourite artiste, together with Pharrell Williams, Marvin Gaye and Hugh Masekela,
Recently, he released a new mix tape ‘It Only Gets Better’ and its simply amazing. Some of the songs are the type you listen to over and over again. ‘Get Down‘ is a track inside the tape and listening to it all of a sudden rekindles childhood memories. He has redone the popular children song “Jig-a-lo” in a funkier, lively, and adult friendly way. (The track is embedded below.)
This week, we caught up with Kagwe Mungai and these are some of his answers to our questions.
nairobi wire: Would you briefly tell us who you are:
Kagwe Mungai: The name is Kagwe Mungai the 1st. I am an international musician with a degree in Music. I am a certified saxophonist, composer, a songwriter, producer, drummer, singer, poetry enthusiast and rapper.
nw: I’ve listened to some of your tracks and though that’s not my genre, I can listen to them again and again. That said, how comes few people have heard about you and more so your music and what are you doing to change that?
km: Thank you for your kind words. There are a few perspectives to it. Some would say that its reach is quite wide. Radio stations in the UK, Canada, Australia, Portugal, Angola and Kenya have featured Kagwe Mungai Music on numerous occasions.
I don’t believe the music that I do is mainstream “money” music. Not that I have anything against mainstream music. What I do is very personal and seeing as many people do not know me, they also don’t know my music. My plan is to be more passionate and hope that my hunger will attract a passion for what I do.
Philosophy aside, I have been in the UK for 3 years now and only began performing this year. Between Uni, part time jobs and actually making the music, my “offline”promotion suffered. I am in Kenya for a while now and this a key focus area.
nw: You said you studied music in the UK, and in one of your tracks, you add that not everyone was pleased with your decision. Tell us what motivated you and the whole experience.
km: When I was choosing my degree, passion was always the main motivational factor. If you do something passionately and diligently the result will always be positive. Uni was a fantastic experience. I was blessed enough to go to a great university and meet some of the most amazing people from around the world. The exposure has allowed me to meet all sorts of individuals from hip-hop superstars like J. Cole to rising stars like Cerys Weetch and other underground veterans in the UK music industry.
nw: Are your relatives and friends supportive in your music endeavors?
km: Yes!!! Extremely…I often have people with their jaws down when I tell them my parents approve of my choice of career. I feel so blessed to have such an amazing support system. Some of my strongest assets are my family and friends. At all my shows they have always been front row center. They are my biggest fans and have been there every step of the way.
nw: You describe you genre as “afro funky”, tell us more..
km: Afro funky is the closest description I’ve found of what I do. On my mixtape “It Only Gets Better” I have spoken word, house and hip-hop tracks featured with influences of pop and jazz. The main constant in however is the “Afro”, and in a “funky” sort of way I incorporate and blend the different genres and give my music an African voice that even non-Africans can enjoy and appreciate.
nw: I happened to like your version of ‘jig-a-lo’ in ‘Get down’ is this your favorite track too?
km: Haha. Thank you. I like that question and my answer is always the same every time. As untrue as it may sound, I love all my songs and musical works equally. They’re like my children, I can’t possibly love one more than the other. That said I had quite a lot of fun making “Get Down”. I even had some of my friends come into the studio to record the Ladies and Fellas parts.
nw: For how long are you in Kenya and what are you up to?
km: Yes I’m back in Kenya now for a couple of years but I don’t intend on camping here. I’m here to win Africa’s heart. Currently I’m working with several African musicians (mainly Kenyans) including an artist from Angola and another from Tanzania.Other than that, you should expect to see a whole lot more of Kagwe Mungai: On your TV, on the web, live in concert and on great magazines and publications like Nairobi Wire
nw: You have a whole lot of talent; you are a saxophonist, songwriter, producer, drummer, singer, poet, DJ and rapper, did I miss any? So are these self-taught or did you learn them in school?
km: Thank you. My family is quite artistic. Whether it’s the actual capability to create the art itself or just a strong appreciation for the arts. My older brother is a DJ and several of my relatives play instruments or sing. That said, I did learn majority of these arts over time. My music training was phenomenal. I had some of the best teachers in the country both in high school and at university. What I do is a gift from God and I’m forever grateful for that.
nw: So where do you see yourself in 1 years time?
km: Learning. I once read somewhere that Denzel Washington still takes acting lessons. Given his accomplishments as an actor one would imagine that he wouldn’t need them but he apparently says that even if it’s the tinniest improvement he treasures it. I see myself a lot more developed. I intend to push myself beyond my boarders and push those boarders even further. Oh and I’d love to get into acting.
for more on Kagwe Mungai’s music;