On the evening of Thursday 17 November, Kenyan singer Mary Hamboga Matufi, alias Almaz, will make her debut performance at the weekly event, Thursday Nite Live at Choices in Nairobi. Thursday Nite Live is an initiative of Roots International, and has for the last five years brought outstanding musical acts from East Africa and beyond to the Kenyan audience. The weekly showcase seeks to promote and provide a much-needed platform for indigenous Afro-inclined music.
Almaz is a sultry singer and has overcome varied music industry odds to pursue a solo career, which she embarked on in early 2010. She has been on the Kenyan music scene for more than a decade.
“I started off singing background vocals (BGVs) for numerous house bands along the Kenyan coast. After successive years singing behind the shadow of other artists, I finally opted to boldly step out into the spotlight as a recording artist,” Almaz told Music In Africa.
Some of the artistes she has shared the stage with in the past include Suzanna Owiyo, Nairobi-based Burundian artist Kidum, American rock guitarist Markus Kamau, Zimbabwean mbira player Queen Mashie, Makadem, and Iddi Achieng among others. She has also worked with various bands. Almaz describes her sound as Afro-fusion with elements of Afro-Jazz. While she draws influences from around the world, the core element of her music is a distinctive African touch. After years of singing live, Almaz is ready to make her music available to fans who can’t make it to her performances. She says she is finishing work on her debut album dubbed Muyogi.
Work on the 12-track Muyogi should be completed by the end of November. “I have re-worked some of my singles such as ‘Nakuota Wewe’, which she says was produced under the Grandpa Records label. ‘Nakuota Wewe’ (I dream of you) was released in 2014 and the artist says it was more inclined to Grandpa Records’ style.“All the credits of that beautiful song are mostly owed to Grandpa’s producer Jilly Baby however my debut album is more of me and my style of music, hence the need to rework it,” Almaz offers. Initially the album was set for release in 2015 but the artist is ensuring that the album will be ready this year.
Speaking about her show at Choices, Almaz says: “my performance at Choices will be my first-time. I’m excited and looking forward to a thrilling concert to entertain my fan base and lovers of Afro-music.”
With BGV’s adoption of different styles, depending on the artist they are working with, Almaz says it was an important platform for her to develop her skills as an artist. She, however, laments that it is difficult for BGV’s artistes to be treated seriously.
“As a BGV, it is often difficult to get recognized as a talented singer. Fans want to see you at the fore front to take you serious. This is what inspired me to pursue a solo career.”
Almaz sings in French and sprinklings of English, and has a preference for her indigenous Pokomo dialect and also Swahili. She says she is working on several projects right now, however she cannot reveal more at the moment other than it includes collaborations with well-known Kenyan musicians and several more from different countries.
A keen cultural promoter, Almaz hopes that the world can experience the culture and the voice behind her Pokomo communal roots through her music. “I'd like to share this heritage, inspire and heal the world through my music.”
The show begins at 8:00pm and is free to the public. For more information visit the event’s page