What do you get when you blend Kenyan artist Winyo’s rich and soulful music with British songstress Joss Stone’s nimble, lustrous vocals? You get ‘Gikalo’, a new collaboration that harnesses the best of both musicians.
Stone, a multi-platinum and Grammy award-nominated singer was in Nairobi for a concert held on 26 November as part of her Total World Tour. Part of her mission is to collaborate with local musicians from the host countries. Enter Shiphton Onyango, aka Winyo, a singer and guitarist whose contemporary renditions of old-school benga and his powerful yet warm voice give melody to the beautiful poetry of his lyrics. Gikalo is Dholuo for ‘This too shall pass’. Winyo sings in his mother tongue, with a smattering of English and Kiswahili.
Stone posted videos of their session on Facebook with the captions “This clip is a little piece of a song called 'This too shall pass', words I say to myself and others often. Much needed and very true. Sang by a very bright smiley man. Just what the doctor ordered” and later, “Here is the full video from our Kenyan collaboration with the lovely smiley man Winyo. He has such a deep and rich soulful voice. It made our day”.
From Kenya, Stone proceeded to Zanzibar, where she did a collaboration with a Tanzanian artist, Ashimba, before touring Malawi, Mozambique and Sudan.
Winyo seems to be having a good run on collaborations with international artists. Just last month, he released another collaboration with Heather Maxwell, an American singer-songwriter and radio host of the award-winning show, Music Time in Africa (MTIA) on Voice of America (VOA).
The wistful ‘Abiro’, Dholuo for ‘I am coming’ is a heartfelt appeal to a traveling lover to return home. Winyo says that both being avid travelers, he and Maxwell could relate to the themes of loneliness and longing.
“I have been fortunate to be asked by Ketebul Music to collaborate with these accomplished artists. It is the chemistry that results when two musicians meet that determines the success of a collaboration, and in these two instances, we made good music,” says Winyo.
Maxwell, who has long studied and interacted with African music, was in Nairobi to conduct research on Kenyan music for VOA, and she reached out to Ketebul Music for its longstanding efforts in preserving local sounds and promoting local artists.
Winyo says international artists look for a contemporary musician with an authentic local sound, and that is why we must sing our own music.
“Ketebul artists try to push local music and the world sees it. We don’t have to imitate the Western musicians or even Nigerians. We Kenyans need to sound like ourselves. Our music is good enough” he says.
Winyo, whose career began in 2009 has performed on major stages at home and abroad – Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington DC, Library of Congress, Doadoa Festival in Uganda, The Rift Valley Festival 2012 and Africa Festival in Wurzburg, Germany among others. He released his debut album as a solo artist, Benga Blues in September 2012 and is currently working on his second.
So, any other collaborations in the cards for Winyo? Yes. He says he has recorded a song with Dan Chizi Aceda, another benga artist, and they are now shooting the video.
“We will release it in January next year,” he reveals.
Watch the videos of the collaborations below: