Kenya music artists are among the music artists in Africa who are driving transformation in Africa’s music industry. The music industry in Kenya has undergone tremendous changes over the years. The once struggling industry has changed to become profitable and enjoyable for many.
Many Kenyan artists have fearlessly pursued their passions in music in the recent past. Even with Covid 19, the music industry, which has left the dance halls and landed on YouTube, has continued to flourish. In this article, we feature the top 10 musicians in Kenya who have dominated the industry for some time.
List of 10 Elite Kenya Music Artists
1. Otile Brown
Otile Brown is an incredibly talented R&B artist. He is an independent singer, songwriter, guitarist, and actor. A famous Kenyan artist, he gained media attention in April 2017. This was after premiering his debut studio album, “Best of Otile Brown.” The album was supported by his singles, “Basi,” “Alivyonipenda,” “Shujaa Wako,” “Dejavu,” and “Aiyolela.”
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After the breakthrough, Otile has garnered awards such as, “Male Video of the Year,” in 2018 and “East African Song of the Year” in the same year, making him popular also in East Africa. Otile has not always been an independent singer. He was previously with “Dreamland Music Label.” He parted ways with the group in March 2017 to become an independent artist.
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Otile Brown, whose real name is Jacob Obunga, was born on 21st March 1994 as the lastborn of four. He was born in Kisumu and raised in Mombasa. He started writing songs and singing at the age of 13. The artist’s most popular single, “Such Kinda Love” was released in May, becoming an instant hit. He has also released hit after hit, making him one of the top successful Kenyan artists.
2. Khalighraph Jones
He has won international recognition, let alone being a top Kenyan music artist. Brian Ouko Robert, who goes by the stage name Khalighraph Jones or Papa Jones is a renowned Kenyan Rapper. Born on 12th June 1990 in Kayole Estate, Nairobi, Jones started his musical career while still in elementary school. Officially though, his musical career kicked off in 2008. This was at a function named, “Words and Pictures.”
Papa Jones is among the Kenya music artists that specialize in the hip-hop genre. He came into the international limelight after winning Channel O Music Video Awards Emcee Africa in 2009. Then, at the fifth Annual African Music Magazine Awards 2018, he was got the title, “Best Rap of the Year.” That was in Texas.
This king of rap has been named the Best Hip hop Act at the Soundcity MVP Awards in Lagos, Nigeria, and ‘The East African Rapper of the Year’ by MTN Uganda. He has also been nominated for the BET Awards. His latest song, “Nikwa Nishoke” is a hit. It is highly innovative, and it uses crispy instruments.
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Mejja is the stage name for Major Nameye Khadija. He is a renowned Kenyan genge artist. Born on 23rd March 1979, in Nyeri, Kenya, Mejja started singing while still in primary school. At the time, he sang together with his brother Wambugu. The duo went ahead to form a group by the name, ‘Ghetto Clan.”
It was not until the year 2008, that Mejja had a breakthrough. This was after releasing his song titled, “Jana Kuliendaje.” The song was a favorite in Kenya and gained him an award at the Kenya Chaguo la Teeniez.
When he later released “Landlord,” in 2011, he came into the spotlight. In 2014, Major Nameye formed a group by the name, “The Kansoul.” They released their first song, “Dabo Tap,” in the same year.
Mejja has been in several collaborations. In 2020 alone he was in, “Cheza Kama Wewe,” by Trio Mio, and “Utawezana” by Femi One, among others. He also featured in Bensoul’s hit “Nairobi,” alongside Sauti Sol in 2021. Mejja’s latest song, Tabia za Wakenya,” is very humorous and it pokes fun a the mannerisms unique to Kenyans.
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4. Sauti Sol
Sauti Sol is an Afro-pop band. It is composed of Bien-Aime Baraza, Willis Chimamo, Savara mudigi, and Polycap Otieno. Before becoming an African popular music band, it was an acapella group. By then Polycap had not joined. The group had been formed by the first three in 2005, who had met at Upper Hill High School.
When they met the guitarist at Alliance Francaise, they formed “Sauti,” a Swahili name for Sound. Later on, they added the Spanish word “Sol” meaning sun to their name. ‘Sauti Sol” is supposed to mean ‘Voices in the Sun.’ After releasing their second album “Sol Filosofia,” the group earned itself several accolades and nominations. It has since been hit after hit, successful tours in Africa and Europe, and leading in Kenyan chats.
The group has also gained international attention with shows in both Europe and the US. These Kenyan music artists have also had accolades, nominations, and television appearances. The nominations include Kisima Music Awards, the MTV Europe Music Awards, and the BET Awards.
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5. Sanaipei Tande
Natasha Sanaipei Tande is among the top Kenya music artists. Popularly known as, ‘Sana,’ Sanaipei is a singer, actress, Karaoke host, radio personality, and entertainer. She was born on 22nd March 1985 in Mombasa. This is also where she grew up. When Sanaipei won the Cocacola Popstars (East Africa) talent search, she rose to fame.
She featured in Kenyan rapper Jua Kali’s hit single “Kwaheri,” then released, “Najuta.” Natasha has been a presenter in Capital FM, Kiss 100 FM, and Easy FM (Nation FM). In September 2015, Sanaipei left the radio to focus on her music career.
She released several singles and at the same time made her television debut with a starring role in “Aziza,” a Kiswahili soap opera. Year 2020 saw her release “Mdaka Mdakiwa,” “kunitema,” and “Yako.” She also featured in Mukami’s “Wangu” off her African Popstar EP.
That music video garnered four million views on youtube in only its first week. It was named the biggest Kenyan collaboration of the year. Currently, Sanaipei stars as “Nana Tandala” on “Kina,” a Kenyan adaptation of the South African series, “The River.” It airs on Mash Magic Plus.
His real nameis Nyamari Ongegu. This top Kenya music artist was formerly a member of the Kleptomaniax, a group he formed when he was still in high school. The other members of the group were Collo and Roba. It was when he was in this group that he burst into the limelight.
The group later joined the Ogopa DJs label. It released its single, “Freak It,” along with other singles. When they released their diss Track, “Tuendelee,” they topped the charts for months. Nyashinski went solo in 2020. He writes both street and uplifting tracks. “Now You Know,” was his hit single that gave him a comeback into the music scene.
7. Nviiri The Story Teller
This singer, songwriter, video editor, and guitarist’s real name is Nviiri Sande. He grew up in Eastlands and worked at his father’s garage. This was where he practiced his songwriting skills. His submersion into music got him fired from the job, however. Nviiri has written several songs for Sauti Sol Boy Band.
The famous ‘Melanin’ is one of them, and through his songs, the Band has won several awards. It featured in Patoranking, making a hit in Eastern and Western Africa. This song is considered the best-hit song that was ever done by the boy band. Though a Bachelor’s degree holder in Mechanical Engineering, he chose to follow his passion, music. He taught himself how to play the piano using a laptop and also practiced songwriting.
His Songwriting technique is more of storytelling, and that is what makes many people like to listen to his songs. Nviiri’s most famous song was “Pombe na Sigara,” which has had over seven million views on youtube. Nviiri truly is among the top Kenya music artists.
Michael Kennedy Claver is his real name. This Kenyan artist coined Naiboi from ‘Nairobi Boy.’ He is the CEO of his recording company. Naiboi is a recording artist, a songwriter, a singer, and most definitely one of the top Kenyan music artists. He began his music career in 2003.
Starting as a music producer, he produced records for several Kenyan and East African artists. He also set up a record firm, Pacho Entertainment, signing up upcoming artists to groom them in music. Initially, his stage name was Rapdamu.
In 2014, he transitioned from a record producer to a full-time recording artist. In 2015, his collaborative record “Daktari,” featuring Frasha saw rise to fame in the Kenyan music scene. His September 2018 single, “2-in-1” was a huge success in Kenya. It has garnered over 4 million views on youtube.
Avril’s real name is Judith Nyambura Mwangi. She is a popular songwriter, singer, and actress and one of the top Kenya music artists. Initially signed to one of the top labels the Ogopa DJs, Avril has risen to become one of the best female musicians in Kenya.
Avril is best known for her hit singles, “Mama,” “Kitu Kimoja,” “Chokoza,” and “Hakuna Yule.” She has won two Chaguo la Teeniez Awards, one Kisima Music Award, and one Golden Mic Award.
This Kenyan music artist was born on 30th April 1986 in Nakuru, Kenya. She has been in the entertainment industry since 2007, specializing in Afropop and R&B genres Her latest song,” Gikeno – Happiness” is in Gikuyu, English, and Swahili languages. It has Afrofusion beats.
Rosemary Wahu Kagwi is the full name for the popular Kenyan musician, Wahu. She is a longtime Kenyan music artist. Born on 22nd March 1980 in Nairobi, Wahu grew up to become a singer, a songwriter, and an actress. She was formerly a fashion model. Since releasing her first three singles, “Niangalie,” “Liar,” and “Esha,” she has been in the limelight.
In 2008, she received the MY+TV Africa Awards for best Female artist. Wahu is married to a fellow top Kenyan music artist Nameless, since 2005. The couple recently released a song together called “Feeling.” Its storyline has its basis on a true story.
None of the Kenyan top musicians realized instant success. They have worked hard to be where they are. Music too has its ups and downs. In the end, those determined come out shining. These Kenya music artists have proved to be hardworking and innovative. They are shinning in the international world too. Soon, they might dominate the African music industry. Who is your favorite?