Empawa music initiative is seeking to promote promising independent African musicians by providing resources, knowledge and experience to make their craft global. Alfayo Onyango puts into frame the performance of Kenyan artistes selected for the mega programme
When popular Nigerian music star Mr Eazi jetted into the 254 in November, 2018, he was hungry to propose a fresh initiative called Empawa, backed by Kenyan sport betting company Betpawa.
In eight months, the project has managed to mentor, inspire and equip a number of promising African artistes without music recording deals with industry skills to take their craft to the next level. This is in a bid to propell their fledging careers to international spheres.
“All it took for me to start my career was a music video worth US$1,000 (Sh100,000). Since then, my career has allowed me to tour the world, own a business and directly employ over 100 people. The real motivation behind Empawa is providing a similar opportunity for emerging artistes and mentoring them to become entrepreneurs like myself,” says Mr Eazi.
Upon announcement of a process that would include an artiste sending a video clip of them performing a song of their choice (own composition or cover song) via social media platform Instagram, more than 4,000 entries were received. A panel of music experts including the Pour Me Water hit-maker Mr Eazi vetted the contestants and selected 100 acts to proceed to the next stage.
The top 10 artistes left for Cape Town, South Africa, for a thorough mentorship programme from some of the world’s best music executives, producers and legal music advisors.
Among the mentors were the zealous producer Diplo, British singer and songwriter Raye, South African pop star Tresor and a host of successful individuals in the music business. They exchanged information, value and skills besides recording in a state-of-the art studio set up at the residence.
The party also got a chance on South Africa Broadcast Channel (SABC) — South Africa’s national television — where they performed during its breakfast show. Talented 19-year- old up-and-coming Kenyan rapper Bey T stole the show.
The Cape Town retreat proved a huge success, with Mr Eazi following through with a promise to grant each participating artiste in the top 100 US$3,000 (Sh300,000) to produce a music video that will be branded by Empawa and shared widely through their stewardship.
In the undisclosed top 100 artistes from across Africa chosen by Empawa, reported seven members from Kenya beat the odds while two made it to the top 10. Seventeen-year-old Nikita Kering was unbelievably flawless with her bona fide song Tragedy. Bey T’s charismatic freestyle raps, however, was the centre of attention. From that moment, the two fast-rising artistes have immensely risen following their endorsements by Mr Eazi.
However, the Top 100 list was littered by familiar Kenyan faces such as Karun (former Camp Mulla member), deep-voiced folk singer Tetu Shani, femcee Monski, Boutross Munene of steadily rising rap group ADFamily and singers Yviona Reign and Wanja Wohoro.
So far, Karun’s latest music release Glow Up, Bey T’s If They Dunno, Yviona’s Fanta, Wrong by Boutross and Tragedy by Nikita have been received amazingly well, with Shani’s African Sun and Wanja’s Youth about to hit our screens.
“I learnt about Empawa on Twitter and I decided to give it a shot after Blinky Bill shared the information online. We had to wait for them to pick the top 100, then got in touch with us via email congratulating and informing us about scheduled releases. Here we are now and I’m so excited for people to see what we have come up with,” Shani tells Spice.
Karun’s Glow Up video was an avant-garde for Kenyan music. Combined with her soulful vocals, sublime song writing and awe-inspiring delivery, she puts up an incredible display of what exactly makes her so lovable amongst her legion of fans across the world.
With a great camaraderie cast and a powerful sister-love message on the Ukweli and Sichangi-produced jam, this was another example of why Karun feels different from many of her Kenyan counterparts.
Empawa’s mission to showcase the continent’s emerging music talent is made apparent through Kenyan compositions that have utterly displayed a sharp desire for resources to be pumped into the music industry, in order for the music to be recognised.
“Empawa is another big look for me and from the moment I heard about it, I identified it as one of the stepping stones for putting Kenya on the music map. With my ‘Shrap’ style, I knew I could offer something different that’s not being done anywhere in the world besides here in Nairobi and people love it.
This was something I had to challenge myself with and I am glad to be selected among the best 100 acts in Africa,” says Boutross, who even after making it to the top 10 couldn’t secure important travelling documents on time to make it to South Africa.
He says: “Let it be a lesson for all up-and-coming acts that despite the talent you have to pay attention to other things. I believe if I went to South Africa it would have been a huge experience for me, but I’m not sulking over it. I know better things lie ahead for the Kenyan music and myself.”