‘Vaida’ takes country by storm in new wave of vernacular music

Harry Richie

Harry Richie composer of the hit song "Vaida"

Photo credit: Pool

Many of us have by now interacted with Vaida, whether through participating in the viral Tik Tok challenge or shaking our heads as we watch the video.

Like a storm, the Luhya love song swept everything out of its way to the top with its Isikuti beats and captivating lyrics. And with it Harry Richie – the composer of the song – was transformed from a village singer to a national superstar.

It was so well received that it had the likes of popular Tik Toker Azziad Nasenya among those who posted dance challenges to the song.

According to Richie, this success is not a matter of luck; he believes a good song will always stand out regardless of the language in which it is rendered.

“We have grown up listening to Lingala and Rhumba music whose lyrics we do not understand. However, we just love the music,” Richie says.

Born Harrison Ondunyi in Bunyore, Vihiga County, he started making music for fun early in life. And for him, singing in his local dialect was a natural decision.

“We should embrace our cultures. I believe I was not born in the Western region by mistake and I think variety is good,” he says.

He adds: “I did not think that Vaida would blow up the way it has. I remember while in the studio telling my producer that I wanted to create something different from what I have been doing; a song that is made from the traditional Isikuti beats but complimented with other traditional instruments like the bell.”

And of course, just like in many other Luhya songs, the signature phone conversation was not left out.

Richie owes his musical prowess to having first worked with gospel singer Joseph Shisia of the Omundu Omulosi hit song back in 2008. Shisia encouraged him through music lessons and live recordings.

Richie is among many current artistes who sing in their vernacular languages that have achieved national fame.

Like Richie, Brizy Annechild is making waves on the local music scene with his song, My Jaber, sung in Luo and in collaboration with music group H_art the Band.

“My sound is ultra-urban ... I realised that singing in the Luo language was what spoke about me as an artiste,” Brizy says. The song remains one of his biggest hits, with four million views on YouTube.

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