Unsung heroes whose lyrical prowess propels the music industry

Nviiri the storyteller.

Unlike the rappers and singers who are in our faces every day, there is a group of creatives who are not highly regarded; songwriters.

The majority of singers of all genres work hard to write great lyrics and memorable tunes. In many cases, they get all the credit. Little is said about the songwriters who are behind most of the hits.

The art of ghostwriting has seen some creatives make a career out of it, where they write for established artists.

It’s not every day that we hear of Kenyan designers landing top-tier projects internationally, but when it happens, it’s worth celebrating. A few months ago, Kaycyy Pluto from Kenya was in the spotlight for writing songs for Ye’s album. donda. The Kenyan-born rapper won a Grammy for his contribution. The tracks he co-wrote were Hurricane, Praise God and 24.

In 2020, Kenyan R&B/Neo-soul star Xenia Manasseh scored writing credits for Teyana Taylor’s 2020 project The Scrapbook. Manasseh was credited for co-writing shoot it which stars Taylor and Big Sean.

Late last year, Bensoul and Sauti Sol celebrated becoming Grammy-winning songwriters after Nigeria’s Burna Boy won Best World Music Album. They have been credited for their contribution to the twice as big album.

Locally, we only celebrate songwriters after they’ve been successful. They are often not sufficiently recognized for their work. Some are barely known. Experts say songwriters could soon change the local music scene.

In the Kenyan context, we look at some of the recognized songwriters behind the pen.

pitson

The newly ordained gospel singer is an ardent songwriter of our generation. Famous for his hit single Lingala Ya Yesu, Pitson wrote some of the biggest hits that rocked the airwaves. The Nisaidia hit maker has a fair share of secret doodles for the likes of Daddy Owen, Size 8, Makena, Laura Karwirwa and Mercy Masika.

His success led him to start Pitson Pen and Paper, a songwriting company.

Beloved

Bien-Aimé Baraza is a singer, songwriter and guitarist. His singing style is soulful and his songwriting skills are celebrated by many. He sometimes wrote songs for other artists like Elani, Amos and Josh and Wendy Kimani.

Mr Vee

Venanzio Githae is a gospel crooner with an enchanted pen and although he was not much celebrated as an individual artist, he wrote tireless hits. He wrote Mercy Masika’s evergreen hit Mwema and follow-up Nikupendeze. His works include Military, VIP, Fundi wa Mbao with the Gospel Fathers and Just awaya collaboration with the late Kaberere.

He also wrote most of Kenty’s songs when he left MOG, the most notable being their collaboration with Subira. So far, Mr. Vee has worked with established artists like Daddy Owen, Mercy Masika and Janet Atieno.

Josh

Josh is an Afro-pop singer, songwriter and one half of the popular – albeit now estranged – duo Amos & Josh. He is famous for writing most of their songs when they were still together, including their collaboration with Calvo Mistari as well as Baadaye featuring King Kaka.

Bensoul

The phenomenal artist is arguably one of the best songwriters of our time. His musical style is a fusion of Caribbean and Afro Pop. The producer/multi-instrumentalist plays bass, acoustic and electric guitars, keyboards, drums and violin. He has written songs for a host of top African stars including Kidum, Alikiba, Nyashinski and Mercy Masika.

Nviiri the storyteller

The singer-songwriter, guitarist, performer and video editor signed to Sol Generation Records co-wrote melanin. Nviiri has been celebrated as one of the most authentic songwriters with unparalleled talent.

Moji Short Babaa

The funny, short-bearded man of what was once Kelele Takatifu is also the mastermind behind massive successes. He wrote and co-wrote the former group’s singles and their album Ndoto za Kupaareleased in 2015. He is also behind the hit Mr Seed Kumbe, in which he stages Bahati. Short Babaa also co-wrote Ben C’s and Nduati’s Hatudaico-wrote Christ Cycoz’s A bit more and most of the songs from their album Cycology and DK’s song Kwa Yesu Sawa.

He also wrote Shani Sintamei’s book Chosha and award-winning Masterpiece Chini ya Mwamba, Nimekubali and Trust among many others.

Konkodi

The former shisha seller, born Noah Nganga, is not only the protege of rapper Bon-Eye but a good low-level writer. During the female battle “Who’s sicker”, Konkodi co-wrote Conoka, a diss track aimed at settling scores between Njeri and Femi One. In 2019, he embarked on a project that gave birth to Femi One’s Hi one.

Brian Nadra

Brian Nadra is an up-and-coming Kenyan artist signed to Musyoka’s label, Decimal Records. Taken from Jack Rooster’s album NyumbaNadra is the mastermind who wrote the hit Complicated.

Rigan Sarkozi

He is talented in both singing and songwriting. He previously sang secular songs before switching to gospel music. He wrote some of the writings of Daddy Owen and the late Papa Dennis, a notable one being Olala, which he co-wrote with Dennis.

MOG boss

The singer is not only vocally gifted, he also writes the most poetic lyrics. The biggest beneficiary of her brilliance might be Vivian. Most of his tunes are written by him from Teren Teren, Caution, Charm and chum chum. He also wrote songs for Santorini Bae, formerly known as Syd. He also wrote the last project he did with Kenty as MOG Tosheka and dropped a few verses in size 8 Vumilie as well.

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