Image courtesy of royalreelphotography.co.ke
Rise early and create
I got to meet and see Valentine Ziki for the first time at The GoDown gig. For those of you who are not in the know, The Godown gig is a monthly live music event which happens on the last Sunday of every month at The Godown Arts Centre. It was just after her performance (which was more than entertaining to say the least), that we managed to get her contacts and set up an interview which was quite adventurous to say the least(Nairobians specifically artists, we really need to know our city).
The interview was held at Kuona Trust. Trust me finding this place the first time is no walk in the park and we learnt that google maps at times can lead you into the highway. After getting lost a few times we were able to finally locate the venue and here is what she had to say:
Please could you start us off by telling us a few quick facts about yourself?
I am passionate, meticulous but at times disorganised, fashion savvy and private.
You mentioned fashion, what inspires your fashion sense?
My main influence is music. It’s all music related in that I like my craft to relate to what I wear and translate the same to my fans.
Was there a life before music or what was your journey before you started doing music?
I started out as an actress at the Kenya National Theatre. In high school I was into poetry and I consider it as my first love. I still do some poetry to date. I founded the Sanaa fusion event back in 2010 which was a fusion of dance, poetry and music.
That’s interesting, so how can you describe your sound?
My sound is experimental with some elements of soul and afrosoul. I classify it as avant-garde* music.
*Avant-garde music is music which is at the forefront of experimentation or innovation in its field. It may critique existing aesthetic conventions, reject the status quo in favour of unique or original elements, and deliberately challenge or alienate audiences.*
What inspires and motivates your craft?
Due to my poetic background I always aim to tell stories through my music. The end game is influencing the world.
That’s nice so who are your musical influences?
My music influences range from Bi Kidude, Franco to Lauryn Hill to Sampha. I also dig Sarabi’s and Maia’s sound.
Do you have any projects that you’d like people to give a listen to?
Definitely. I released my first EP entitled Get It back in January 2015. It was a solo project. I hope to release and EP titled The Camouflage Sessions and a full album.
What can we expect in the EP?
Just expect honesty and a journey that’s all I can say for now.
So far in your journey do you have any bad experiences you can pinpoint?
There have been several that I wouldn’t wish to get into but I’s say that sound determines the success of an event. Without proper sound I am usually very apprehensive.
What advice would you give an aspiring musician?
I would tell them to rise early and create. After that, they should strive to expose themselves through gigs and social media. That way they will have a fan base that will help them build a strong foundation that will help them pop off and most importantly get feedback.
On the other hand, there’s the stereotype that to make it you don’t need to be yourself. This has led to a lot of fakes in the industry who end up falling apart. This brings about the pattern of inconsistency within the industry. People need to be authentic, that way the music will sell itself and outlive the creators.
What would you like to address in the Kenyan music industry apart from the common issue of supporting their own?
First of all, i believe that right now support is no longer a huge issue. It’s still an issue but compared to the past we have come a long way. One of the main issues plaguing our music industry is the misconception that there’s a full stop to learning. Once someone goes mainstream they stop reinventing themselves and re-branding in that the same tricks they used while they are coming up are still being applied. This leads to stunted growth in the industry hence you hear things like the Kenyan music production is a joke or it’s not dynamic. Which is not true.
I’d also like to see more female producers and studio engineers. Most of all I’d suggest more gigs and less festivals. This is because most of the festivals aren’t festivals per se. On the other hand not many people can afford a festival and I feel gigs are a bit more personal and the artiste is able to connect more with the fans as compared to the former.
Those are some pretty eyeopening sentiments. So ending on a positive note what has changed from the time you began to now?
Personally and as a country, I feel like we are more willing to go out of a way to explore different sounds from different Kenyan artistes without being branded ‘not Kenyan’.
To connect with Valentine Ziki and to listen to some of her music, you can find her via the following links:
PS: To avoid misinformation we’ve done some editing and made some updates with regards to her background, her upcoming projects , her musical preferences and her involvement with Sanaa fusion as the founder.