Born Bill Sellanga, Blinky Bill is a musician, DJ and producer. Alfayo Onyango caught up with the world renowned act to talk about his latest release
Blinky formed one-third of former celebrated Kenyan electronic fusion band, Just A Band (JAB). He excelled in the group being the lead producer managing to explore different sounds in house, funk, soul and disco.
The band toured the globe and represented Kenya on different stages becoming unsung local heroes after propelling Kenyan art outside of the borders. After the group announced their split in 2015, Blinky began his solo career. He would DJ at events such as Kenya Nights, and went on to release his first and much anticipated solo project in 2016, We Cut Keys While You Wait.
The extended play (EP) was a six-song offering featuring Kenyan acts Shappaman, Sage Chemutai and Maia Von Lekow. The EP saw Blinky venture into his usual unpredictable eclectic sound experiences that have further enabled him to secure deals with Sony Music France, that will distribute his debut album.
Currently, the renowned sound collector is in Europe with his band touring cities across France, Switzerland and England in a bid to promote his debut album, Everyone’s Winging It and Other Fly Tale.
He has been behind many productions for MDQ, Fena Gitu and EA Wave, among others, and has had the privilege to play as a DJ in shows abroad including Ted Talks, and Sway in the Morning. Here is what he had to say about his new project.
You’re easily the pioneer of alternative music dating back to your JAB days. What kind of music did you grow up listening to, and what are your biggest influences musically?
Thank you, this wouldn’t have been possible without my Just A Bandmates, they were instrumental in introducing me to music that I would never have had access to, and vice versa. I grew up in a household where my dad used to listen to a lot of Congolese music 0f Franco, Arlus Mabele and Diblo Dibala.
My mom was into church music. I lived in Eastleigh where the number 9 matatus introduced me to hip-hop, funk, RnB and reggae. Currently, my influences are Pharrell Williams, Chronixx, Quincy Jones, Mura Masa, Kaytranada, the Internet, Sun El, Missy and Busta Rhymes.
Your just dropped your debut album, Everyone’s Winging It and Other Fly Tales. What’s the inspiration behind it?
The inspiration has been life man. We’re all trying to figure it out, and even if you think you’ve figured it out, there’s a lot you don’t know. So a lot of the music here is personal reflection. Plus, I like long titles. The music covers a wide range of genres that I enjoy and want to venture into as you will experience soon.
You achieved great success as an artiste from Kenya with JAB and you have continued to excel as an individual. But what is your opinion on music legislation in Kenya?
I think that Kenya could do better. We are lagging behind in terms of developing, incentivising, and celebrating talent. But also, the people that run the bodies seem to be clueless as to what is needed to make these sectors thrive.
You can’t think of Jamaica without thinking of Bob Marley, that’s a country that knows the power of its artistes as ambassadors. We need legislation to protect artistes and the work they produce as well as to ensure Kenyan music doesn’t get the short end of the stick when it comes to airplay.
With a decent track record as a producer for Fena Gitu, Kagwe Mungai, MDQ, Octopizzo and Mayonde, for an artiste to have a timeless record, what do you recommend?
I suggest truly knowing your sound and then refining it and also incorporating a vibe that showcases where you are from. In your opinion, what will it take for talented upcoming acts to succeed in the industry?
Work, practice, always improving the formula, be yourself!
The most promising artistes in 254 right now are?
So many. I always say Nairobi right now to me is one of the most interesting music scenes in Africa. I think Sichangi is next no doubt, Suraj as well, Wanja Wohoro is dope, Manchild and Bahati Bookings are doing their thing. I’m always on the lookout for a fresh vibe so, I am happy to be put onto anyone doing something that is on the next wave.
You haven’t lived until you have heard what albums?
Asa-Asa, K-South Flava-Nairobizm, Michael Jackson-Off the Wall, Mylo- Destroy Rock and Roll and Outkast-Stankonia.
Your favourite Kenyan performers are?
K-South, Muthoni Drummer Queen, Makadem, Maia Von Lekow and Khaligraph Jones.
You wish you lived in which era of music?
I think I would have loved to be in the 70s, a lot of of my favourite music acts are from the 70s.
If you met with President Uhuru Kenyatta, what’s the most burning thing you would tell him about music in Kenya right now?
Man, I would love to chat with him about what can be done to support the scene. We have so much potential, but we are being held back by very small things. Instruments are too expensive, we have the wrong people handling arts and sports, royalty collecting bodies need streamlining, so many things.
What’s your favourite song off the new album?
Happy — it samples Nigerian artiste Asa, and she was gracious enough to let us work on it. It was a big honour.
Which artiste do you think you can be comfortable making music with for eternity without desire to collaborate outside?
Sichangi and Kwame.