In 2015 I had the pleasure of meeting Holly Rahman, a Kenyan musician of the band Ndoto Afrika. The band blends traditional and modern sounds to create a unique blend of catchy fusion music (trust me, you will be humming their Window Shopping tune all day). We interviewed them to find out more:
Hi Holly. Tell us about yourself and Ndoto Afrika – what’s your story?
They say stories live forever and one famous Kenyan writer keeps saying that a story is good, until another is told. We are here to share with the world how wonderful it is to be born and raised in Africa. Sadly, the urban African youths are so consumed with the modern technology that they no longer are willing to sit by the evening fire and listen to stories. So we will have to transmit these stories to their iPhones and iPads in the form of music, the universal language.
Where are you from?
From Kenya, in the East of Africa. To be more specific, we hail from a small village in Siaya County where most of the renowned Luo musicians come from. Ever heard of Otieno Aloka (the famous Ohangla artist)? He is our next door neighbour back at the village. We borrow each other’s salt from time to time.
Why is the group called Ndoto Afrika?
We represent a dream. A dream every African youth aspires to achieve. We represent the African Dream. Ndoto means ‘dream’ in Swahili, a local African language and Afrika is the Swahili way of spelling Africa.
Why are you interested in branching from purely urban music to a traditional/ urban mix?
The love for our motherland. There is a popular saying that ‘others call it the ‘Dark Continent’ but to us it’s just home’. A home we have known all our life. So, for us, it’s the pride we derive in the motherland that makes us focus our effort in restoring the almost-lost glory of our cultural music. We just want our great grandchildren to have an idea of what it was like in the days of their grandparents, and hope that is not too much to wish for.
Who are your musical influences?
Right now, it will have to be Eric Wainana, Otieno Aloka, Gee (The Gambia) and X Maleya (Cameroon)
What’s it like being an artist in Nairobi?
If hell has an alias, then call it Nairobi – any upcoming artiste. But nothing is easy the world over, for anyone. Music is a huge challenge and if you venture into it with a high expectation of becoming an overnight millionaire or celeb, then you are in for a rude shock! There are so many artistes fighting for an audience space and what’s making it twice difficult is that you have to compete with international foreign brands who in most cases are the radio favourites. A brother has to dream on though, giving up is so ‘unAfrican’ they say.
Anything else you want us to know?
In the banks of these rivers, shoes of these great lakes, thickets of these forests and slopes of these mountains, there lies a sound so beautiful and pure that you can never find anywhere the world over. The African sound is just so unique and diverse that you can’t help but love it. And we will be bringing lots of it to your ears, so soon.
Ero Kamano (Thank You!)