Kenyan Indie label Bengatronics will on Friday 26th July launch the first album: Benga Belt Vol. 1 off the stable at The Alliance Francaise in Nairobi starting at 7pm.
Bengatronics passes for a multi-ethic, multi-disciplinary, inter-national, ethno-fusion collective that pursues an eclectic, forward thinking, futuristic flavor of Benga music from Kenya.
Benga Belt Vol 1 album is a clear attempt at unifying the pop sounds of Kenya, rooted in cultural heritage of benga music. Drawing creative inspiration from the Benga Belt of Kenya (from Kisumu in Western Kenya to Kilifi in South East of Kenya), Bengatronics explores the sonic fusion of Benga roots music with electronica, rhumba, jazz, trap, hip hop, fashion, film, literature and photography.
This album brings forth extremely nuanced cross generational and inter-tribal conversations from Kisumu to Kilifi, featuring original compositions by Boaz Jagingo, Missing Rotich, Msupa S Queen John ‘Kakee’ Kithikii Musyoki Mutua Poet and Abakisimba Troupe. The album is grounded by the prowess of Udulele John and Michel Ongaro on the guitars, Oduor Bernard Kidum on the drums and bengatronics on the DJ decks.
Guests artists at the launch of the album include Francis Danger of the Kakai Kilonzo & Kilimambogo Brothers fame, and Ricky Na Marafiki Band who have just completed recording “Soko Huru Project” an album that is inspired by Benga Music.
Bringing Benga music into focus
Bengatronics acknowledges that the Benga style of music is underestimated, endangered and its potential has been derailed. Unlike in the golden era of Kenyan music (1970’s/80’s) when Benga music was a national brand and a Kenyan cultural export, the genre is currently facing continued fragmentation along tribal lines – Luo, Kikuyu, Kalenjin, Kisii, Kamba (benga) and unethical commercial exploits.
Bengatronics breaks away from this apparent Kenyan tribal yoke to elevate Benga music as a genre that is equally as powerful as reggae – there are no ethnic or tribal tags to reggae, it has surpassed localization and grown into a global brand that is celebrated.
While the potential to work with DJs has always been there, as yet, only Bengatronics has paid attention to developing a program that can build the capacity of DJs and musicians through rehearsals, master classes and collaborative performances that elevate the genre as a Kenyan cultural export.
Speaking about the label’s new direction _mwl. Gregg Tendwa, the mastermind behind Bengatronics says: “I want to bring to life a new sound direction of Benga music, Bengatronics aims at encouraging young Kenyans embrace Benga music as their authentic culture, and not to be ashamed of it. We want to elevate Benga to become a cultural export from Kenya.”
Between 2018/19, _mwl. Gregg Tendwa worked on the full-length studio album together with Umoja DJs from Amsterdam.
Benga on the rise
As of 2017 the Benga style of music is on the rise, if the “discover-benga” movement coming out of Europe, UK and East Africa, are anything to go by. The genre is increasingly gaining interest among international Djs like Umoja (Netherlands) DJ Zhao (Germany). Ketebul Music (Kenya) has recently published a voluminous book “Shades of Benga that gives chronology to the growth of the Kenyan music industry from the 1946-2016.
The Flee Project (Germany) has recently released a film and vinyl collection that included international remixes of some popular benga tracks from Kenya. Tapping into this ever growing movement, Bengatronics will therefore fill the much needed artist representation and further the development of the acts working in this genre.