Artist: Ma3 Band
Album: Beba Beba
Label: Ennovator Music, 2011
By Mufu Luvai
Kenyans are full of life; ordinary folk facing everyday challenges trying to make ends meet. It’s all about love, life and the art of the hustle. This forms the canvas on which Beba Beba is painted.
Ma3 is a 6-piece band that came into existence in 2009. They get their name from Matatu, Kenya’s chaotic public transport mini-buses. They have featured in a number of concerts in Nairobi and Performed with songstress Atemi at Sauti za Busara festival in Zanzibar, Tanzania. In the two years it took to produce Beba Beba, Ma3 have had access to the writing craftsmanship of Eric Wainaina and Tim Rimbui’s magic wand as producer.
The album starts with the pumped-up title track Beba Beba, then follows Siku Moja - one cannot help noticing the freshness of it (it would have been a lovely collabo). Nanjira Sambuli leads the vocals, the acoustic guitar is manned by the classically-trained Wandiri Karimi (Kachumbari Seven), Moses Karanja is on bass, and on electric is the talented Kato Change. Tim Rimbui is on keyboards and Mathew Raballa on drums.
While keyboard and percussion form the rhythmic backbone of the band, Ma3’s sound shines through in the guitar section. The fusion of the lead and rhythm riffs and the bass forms an interesting blend, providing both melodic intros and harmonic accompaniment for the voices riding above. They use sheng and Kiswahili idioms to create what is simply described as Afro pop. Highway, Boda and Usiless offer fine examples. Lyricist Juliani features in Haki Yetu.
Highly inspiring is Change the World, with references to US President Obama and the late Kenyan conservationist Wangari Maathai. By far the most nostalgic is the ballad Nyumbani, which features impeccable harmonic progressions and a timely modulation to the supertonic. The colour comes through with the interweaving guitar riffs, the caressed piano ivories and the immaculate voices singing I have found my home…
BebaBeba is an expression of the little things that keep us motivated and intrigued. Musically, it is a display of innovation and instrumental craftsmanship.