Veteran Kenyan dancehall hitmaker, Swabri Mohammed, better known by his stage name Redsan, is gearing up for the launch of his fifth album at the Carnivore on Saturday.
The album launch will be graced by among others, Jamaica’s Demarco and Nigeria’s Tiwa Savage.
Ahead of the highly anticipated launch, Redsan has opened up about the album, his hiatus from the music scene, his well-guarded family, and more.
Are you excited for your fifth album launch?
Yes. Versatility was all about style. I got signed to Sony Music Group after that. They liked my style, saying that nobody was doing it as big as I was in Africa. They had noticed that Brick n Lace were at a Kenyan artiste’s album launch (in 2009) and had started following my work since then. They said they would push my music worldwide and that’s always been my dream.
Why “The Baddest” as your album title?
My fan base has continuously grown throughout the years, which means they are from a range age groups. This is for the love and support they have shown me throughout the years, which has also motivated me.
What do we expect in the album?
I am going to mash up Afro beats and dancehall. Dancehall has a bit of Afro beat in it, so it’s not far removed from what I have been doing.
Was this all, together with being on the Safaricom Twaweza Live, a plan?
Yes. After 2013, you’ll notice I didn’t release so many singles and I went silent. Once the album was ready, we planned a major launch in Kenya first before touring the world. Home has always been my priority. We released “Shoulder Back” and “Whine Fi Mi” to taste the market since Afro beat had taken over. I’m glad Safaricom and NRG Radio came to support the launch.
What do you do when you are “silent”?
I watch out for who could be a threat on my platform. Even though I’m working on the next thing, my eye is still in the industry. My mission has always been to take our industry to the world so that they know that we too have prowess and they can come work with us.
What do you see now, 24 years later, in the music industry?
I started out with the Kalamashakas and Five Alives, but kept pushing the bar higher and higher. Now we have artistes and upcoming artistes who are walking on the road we paved, earning a living and I’m just proud of that.
What is your secret for staying relevant this whole time?
Planning correctly. Invest in your talent and wait for the right time to do things. So many artistes react to someone else’s release of a hit song, not remembering those people have a vision. Stick to your vision and don’t just fight a song that people already love. We shouldn’t be limited to just thinking regionally. That’s why West Africans will come here a few times a year and we don’t go there. We need to create avenues that other musicians can follow as well. I’m the first Kenyan releasing an album under a major record label, Ali Kiba and Wiz Kid are my label mates. I’d like for other Kenyans to try and tap into that avenue.
Why haven’t you and Wyre done a collabo yet?
I never foresaw Wyre being a dancehall artiste, having known him since he was a producer with Tedd Josiah. I respect him for his contribution to the dancehall genre.
When he came in, I was already breaking out internationally, so there is a plan that both managements want to execute that can’t be interfered with.
Management want to know how we’ll do it, the revenue streams and distribution platforms. Projects (albums) sell more than singles and you don’t have to go through third parties to get revenue. We’re friends, though.
Are you really married? If so, do they live in Kenya?
(Laughs) I am married but you’ll never see my family, not even on social media. I’m very private when it comes to them because there are times they would want to be themselves and they can’t do that with me in public.
I love spending time with them at home since I tour a lot, and they keep me grounded. I don’t want them to be victims of cyber-attacks from haters who can’t get to me.
What can you tell us about them?
(Laughs) My wife is Kenyan and very beautiful. We have three kids; a son and two daughters. We are also expecting another child. We will know his or her sex after birth because we love the surprise.
Are they the only reason you don’t go out?
No, it’s also to maintain and protect the brand. If everyone sees me all the time, then who’s going to come to my concerts?
Are you and Tiwa Savage are working on something?
Yes. Unfortunately, the album was already set and our managers are still talking. She’s done amazing dancehall collaborations so she was an easy choice. I’ve also just done a bad, bad collabo with Khaligraph Jones for his catalogue, but working with him on a track of mine too.
How important is faith to you?
I’ve never drunk alcohol, smoked, done drugs, I pray five times a day and I’m married. It’s one of those blessings that comes from growing up in a close and religious family. Your relationship with God is only as strong as you want it to be. What I loved about my wife is she didn’t care who Redsan was, she wanted Swabri Mohammed. She told me that I would have to marry her to prove that I’m serious about her. She’s also helped me a lot.
What do you do for leisure then?
Produce music, swim, watch movies, hit the gym.