Billy Black is a 26-year-old musician from Migori living in Nairobi, who just finished his degree in sound engineering at the School of Audio Engineering in Cape Town.
1. How important is sound engineering in realising your dreams as a musician?
Sound, for me, is everything! You may not know this, but our ears get fully developed while we are still in the womb. I have been paying attention to music since that time.
Having academic knowledge in sound and music has enabled me to record and mix my own music, and for other artistes too. I understand things like tone and rhythm more deeply and this enhances my music writing skills and performances.
2. Who do you aspire to sound like, and what genre of music are you inclined to?
There is no one artiste I can perfectly liken myself to, but I can recognise a well-done composition.
For instance, when Adele sings about a heartbreak, you are likely to understand the story in a really deep sense. Sometimes you can find a Muslim get so moved just by watching or listening to a song by Hillsong gospel choir. You can’t explain it; you can only feel it.
I seek to create a unique sound, but I still haven’t found a musician whose style fits mine perfectly.
But I believe if I was to go on tour with Alicia Keys, Coldplay or Simi from Nigeria, their audience would easily relate to my music because of the similarities in sound and lyrics.
Also, I think if the biblical King David would record an audio, it would sound very much like the music I make.
3. What do you like best about Kenyan music?
The diversity. And as artists, we really need to take advantage of this. We have so many different styles, and that’s our biggest advantage if you ask me.
The best part is, Kenyan music is making its way across the world. The global audience is paying attention.
4. How easy or hard was it for you to deal with geographical and cultural differences as a student and musician in South Africa?
That’s a very interesting question, actually. Being in Cape Town and interacting with people from diverse backgrounds was hard.
But at the same time, it was the best thing because I came to confirm that music is such a powerful tool.
Whenever I had to work on a film project or perform with someone, the differences didn’t matter. In that instant, it wasn’t about us being of different cultures or race.
While there, I even got to sign a non-exclusive publishing deal for my music, which is a great thing. I would certainly not mind relocating to South Africa.
5. Who do you listen to when you want to dance?
My playlist is actually quite mellow. I can’t think of a time I have played music specifically to dance! I think I only dance at people’s weddings, and it’s been a while, so if you know of someone who’s having a wedding, ask them to invite me.