Maandy Kabaya

Rapper Maandy Kabaya.

| Pool

The rise of female gengetone rappers

What you need to know:

  • Rapper Amanda Mitchelle aka Maandy has several singles under her belt.
  • Another artiste making waves with her lyrical prowess is Sylvia Ssaru.

When Amanda Mitchelle, popularly known as Maandy, finished high school in 2015, her first instinct was to train as a deejay.

In her mind, a career as a doctor, engineer or lawyer was not appealing.

“From a very young age, I knew I wanted to do something in entertainment, but I was not sure what it would be. Then, when I was in high school, I decided I wanted to be a deejay. So after I completed my secondary education, I started deejaying immediately,” she says.

She adds: “I love the music, the creation of videos, parties, concerts and award shows that surround the entertainment industry. I always made sure I watched all the music awards. That lifestyle always intrigued me and I wanted to be part of it.”

Her mother did not object, and she paid for Maandy to go to a deejay academy.

“My mum is a free-spirited person. She supported my dreams, but of course she advised me to be careful,” Maandy says.

Then in 2017, she decided to become a recording artiste. This, she says, is all thanks to the connections she made while deejaying.

New sound

“I love rap music and used to write lyrics for rap songs in high school. So one day after I told a friend of mine who is a music producer about it, he challenged me to get into the studio and record something, and after that my fate was sealed,” Maandy explains.

In 2017, she released her first single, “Chef”, which captured the verbal feud that was going on between two well-known rappers. She went on to release “Like a Boss”, “Watiaji” and “Energy”, which are included in her album “Kabaya”.

Although gengetone has set its roots with the young generation, it is still a puzzle to older people because of the vulgar language that most artistes use.

“When I started out, gengetone was male-dominated, and there is always a lot at stake for female artistes due to the language that is mostly used in this music, and the raunchy dancing,” she says.

“I was very much alive to the fear of being judged due to the content of my music and being given a not so pleasant label, and as a female artiste, there is a certain image I wanted to maintain. So I took it as a challenge, and in my songs I limit the (foul) language, and whatever I sing about I would want it to be my truth.”

That is why in songs like “Sirudi Home” she uses language that does not provoke negative emotions in her fans.

“Gengetone is not bad. I think it just came as a shock to Kenyans, but in my opinion, it brought some freshness in the industry. People were hungry for a new sound and gengetone came in to satisfy that,” Maandy says.

Lewd lyrics

When the music group Ethic released their controversial hit song “Lamba Lolo” in 2018 it was clear that a new wave of artistes with a different sound were claiming their stake in the music industry. Music as it was known by people born in the 70s and 80s was being redefined by the new kids on the block, Generation Z.

And it has since provoked harsh criticism from Kenyans who argue that gengetone cultivates bad behaviour in young people because of lewd lyrics covered up in deep Sheng, and the explicit music videos associated with it.

In fact, a good number of gengetone artistes found themselves in trouble with former Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) chief executive Ezekiel Mutua. In 2020, Dr Mutua reported the song “Soko” by Ethic to YouTube, arguing that its lyrics normalised rape and paedophilia.

But this has not stopped young people from embracing the art, especially female artistes.

Last year, rapper EQue burst into the limelight with her hit song “Chuma ya Doshi”. The title became a popular phrase among Kenyans on social media.

Another artiste making waves with her lyrical prowess is Sylvia Ssaru.

“One day I decided to record myself with my phone rapping and posted it on Facebook. The next day I woke up to more than one hundred texts and notifications because my video was trending,” Ssaru says.

Sylvia Ssaru

Rapper Sylvia Ssaru.

Photo credit: Pool

“I remember at that time I could not afford to go to the studio, so all I did was record more freestyle videos and post them online,” she adds.

But eventually, with support from friends and family, she recorded her first song, “Nyama”.

“I have been in the industry for a short while and I have grown in terms of popularity and music. This is a clear indication that gengetone music is here to stay and people love it. And right now people recognise female artistes,” says the 19-year-old rapper.

The two artistes’ persistence and determination to excel has also captured the attention of fellow performers, who are lining up for music collaborations.

For instance, Ssaru was recently featured in one of rapper Timmy Tdat's latest songs, “Hapa”.

“Young girls should not be afraid to get into gengetone. If you have the talent go for it, because this is the time,” Ssaru says.

“The industry is thirsty for new blood and I would like to see more women on this platform. Let us break the myth that it is a male-dominated industry.”

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