The Year 2015 in songs
By BONIFACE NYAGA
With so much choice and access to limitless music there is almost no consensus on any hit list, we can come up with. The music market is highly segmented; with audiences downloading their choice of music and hitting the replay when the urge kicks in.
Airplay and YouTube views used to be a solid benchmark yet there are songs on heavy rotation, with over a billion views which you have probably never heard of. There are also songs you have probably seen on memes and social media but have never listened to the actual song.
Certain songs are also big in certain circles and absolutely irrelevant in others. Traditional demacations of music along social, cultural, and geographical lines have all but disappeared; the internet age has given rise to the uptown reggae fan and the downtown rock head.
Nonetheless you know a song is big when you hear it in every saloon, church, shop, barbecue and bar. This list consists of songs that are unavoidable, the kind people can’t resist to remix and make fun of. It’s not really about songs that we collectively love, but those that shape our conversations and embed themselves in our memories.
It’s about that song you danced to at so-and-s0’s wedding, or that song that lifts you when you are down and that club banger you twerk to every Friday night. All the same a concerted effort was made to consult widely on the songs that made 2015 bearable.
January was a month of left overs, though many songs were released none really stuck. It was a time for all the songs that had been swallowed up by Christmas carols to come out. Sauti Sol’s Sura yako was still doing it’s rounds reminding us of all the fun we had in 2014. Alikiba’s Mwana, though still new at the time was gaining traction but it wasn’t till mid year that it really drove the ladies crazy. On the club circles P-Unit’s Weka weka hit the ground running and it’s been banging all year. On the Pop chats Tove Lo’s Talking Body is one of those January gems that lingered all year.
The month of love was ushered in by the comical trio of H_art The band, with their hit single Nikikutazama. Though released in late December, the jam came to it’s own over the Valentine’s period and it was also boosted by the release of the video. In classical H_art The Band style the video was laced with comical undertones that got them extensive airplay and social media buzz.
Nerea was the uncontested song of the month, literally breaking the internet upon release. Generating memes, tweets, hashtags and all manner of club remixes, it had an inescapable buzz that fans and haters alike indulged in. The message and melody resonated with audiences all over and probably expanded the Sauti Sol fan base. On the global scene however it was Fast and furious sound track See you again, that was winning hearts and minds. With the passing of the main character of the film Paul Walker, the hard hitting Wiz Khalifa rhymes and flawless Charlie Puth vocals would not have come at a better time. It’s one of those goose bump songs you’d recognize anywhere, no wonder it has more than 1.2 billion views on you tube.
Bahati unleashed his hit single Lover, it soon became one of those wild fire songs that come in hard and fast. Fans received the single with great anticipation going absolutely wild every time he performed it live. In the clubs Kristoff’s Dandia was doing damage across the board. The club banger featuring Frasha and King Kaka has seen two official remakes and a dozen twerk videos to it’s credit. DJ Snake’s Lean on had a similar effect making it to the DJ must have list.
This it seems was the month for late bloomers to shine. It was the month that Mercy Masika’s Mwema really picked up and has gone on to be the Song of the Year. After marinating for about six months this song just blossomed and it’s been growing strong ever since. The comical duo of Kelele Takatifu also dropped their single Ngori around this time. Initially it didn’t do much damage but with time the ragga tone sampled track and simplistic message permeated the defense to elevate the duo to a whole new level.
Nigerian star Patoranking released My woman my everything and Zambia’s Roberto had Kenyan’s screaming Amarula. The two twerk anthems are still mega hits. With simplistic lyrics and rhythmic beats these two club bangers infuriated many Kenyan artistes who accused Kenyans of neglecting their music for West and Southern African tunes. In the same month teen sensation Justine Bieber released his mega hit Where are U now alongside Skrillex and Diplo.
Love, it seems, was the ultimate cure for the July chills as lovers warmed up to Unajua by Gilad featuring Wendy Kimani. I am not sure if it’s the lyrics, the vocals or the novelty of a Swahili singing mzungu, but something about that song just made it catch on like wildfire. The former Israeli diplomat has since followed up his hit with two singles slowly establishing himself as the go to ballad guy in Kenya.
Before all the hip hop beef kicked off, Nairobi’s finest dropped arguably the collabo of the year. Featuring Bunganya, Petra, Ulopa Yvonne Darcq and Abbass, Eish was an instant club banger. August also saw Pitson make a mainstream comeback with Niache Niimbe. The Lingala ya Yesu maestro took it a notch higher recording the entire song live rewarding the keen listeners and setting a new trend in Kenyan pop music.
With a persistent social media campaign and a solid mainstream media strategy, Daddy Owen took September by force. Marketing efforts don’t always bare fruit in this volatile industry but I guess the brother knows his industry. His single Vanity took off almost immediately and unlike some of his previous hits, struck a real cord with fans. Beyond the marketing machinery, the message of the song resonated with fans who are increasingly demanding authentic gospel music. Sauti Sol also broke a new frontier with Isabella, making it Kenya’s first acoustic hit song. It completely shuttered the myth that Kenyans only listen to thumbing beats. The Las Vegas scenes on the video also gave it an exotic feel.
Drake his runaway hit single Hotline Bling. Across the world people took to the intewebs making fun of his dancing. Rather than kill his vibe, the dancing actually made him an internet sensation and propelled the song further. Singer Size 8 came back with Afadhali Yesu, which although fast paced, the track has a certain realness about it that may have propelled it to it’s height. Mercy Masika also dropped a new one, and unlike her previous singles, Nikupendeze was snatched up pretty fast reaching more than 200,000 views in two months.
Adelle was the undisputed queen of November, her single Hello broke all records catapulting her to an all new global status. I don’t think we have seen that many covers of a song before, but pretty sure artistes across the globe have taken note of the marketing strategy. She forced major artistes like Ed Sheeran to push back their album release dates to avoid going head-to-head with her. Her album has now sold more than 5 million copies in the US.
The month is still young and there are several contenders still vying for the spot but Dela seems to be the fore runner. Her single Mafeelings released three weeks ago is definitely a keeper, but it’s her Swahili cover of Adele’s mega hit Hello that has brought her global recognition. The way she brought out the true and deep emotions of that song delivering the low as well as the high notes is truly remarkable. She has closed the year on a high so we expect a lot in 2016.