Binti Afrika – Daughter of Afrika: Queen of Swahili Dub
“As for responsibilities, they are spread across the continent for my fellow African sisters to uphold too and thus I do not Trod alone.” – Binti Afrika
Tall and gracefully slender, statuesque songstress with a smoky soulful voice that gently fuses sultry Swahili vibes and the Kiswahili language with heavy Reggae bass lines – a vibe she call Swahili Dub – Binti Afrika is emerging as one of the Kenyan Reggae artists on the front lines in spreading conscious Reggae Vibes.
It has been a long and arduous trod to get to where she is now, time and space where she is able to creatively express herself working alongside her fellow Empresses and Lionesses to make an impact on scene building on the foundation laid by those who came before her and laying one for those who will come after her. Her first foray into recording music was with the group Kreative Minds back in 1999, with their single “Mo Faya” becoming an instant hit. This opened many a door for her and she would go on and work with top musicians in the Eastern Africa Region. A little more than a decade later, when the group had disbanded, with members trodding their separate ways after high school, Binti stayed on the musical path and in 2016, released her debut Album ‘Sauti Inawika’ – an Afropop Album reflecting her roots, style and influences .
In that same year, when the Scottish Sound System Mungo’s Hi Fi, on their maiden African Tour touching down in Kenya, recorded some collaboration work with some Artists in Kenya, which resulted in a mixtape – Mungo’s Hi Fi Ft. Bad Mambo – East Africa Mixtape – put together by local DJ Skaface to showcase some of the music that came out of it; Binti was featured in three songs. This is when she developed and crafted her style, Swahili Dub which you can hear best on her 2019 single Barua Kwa Serikali.
She is also in the front lines of the Lioness Order Movement, where she uses her lyrical prowess and soulful voice to uplift female youth from all walks of life, a Movement which she describes as: “A representation of women’s innate and ethereal strength, of the courage with which we fight against the odds and get up after we get knocked down”
The Nairobi based Songstress, Social Activist, Fashion Forward, Swahili Dub Queen – Binti Afrika , a Kiswahili term meaning “Daughter of Africa” bestowed to her by her high school friends and school mates – continues to grow musically and is currently working on her sophomore album set for release in December, 2020. The Lioness is on the rise. She will be performing at Kikwetu Festival this Sunday 4th October,the first big engagement of the year since the lock down. She managed to engage with us via email to give us a sneak peak in world of Binti Afrika, Daughter of Afrika, Queen of Swahili Dub in the Lioness Order Movement.
Who is Binti Afrika?
Binti Afrika is a daughter of the motherland, Africa. The name is a Kiswahili term meaning “Daughter of Africa”. I’m a mother, a sister,a Reggae musician, social activist and creative.
How do you describe or rather how do you place yourself in the volatile Kenyan Reggae Music scene?
I wouldn’t describe the Kenyan Reggae scene as being volatile though it definitely has it’s challenges. I place myself in the frontline of Kenyan Reggae working alongside my fellow Empresses and Lionesses in spreading the conscious message.
Your chosen name, Daughter of Africa, carries so much weight, are you able to carry the weight and responsibilities that comes with it. You do not feel it might be too heavy a load to carry?
The Most High does not give one more than one can carry. This I believe and I pray for His guidance every day in every way. With regard to the weight of the name, I think it matches the weight of my spirit. The weight of I n I. As for responsibilities, they are spread across the continent for my fellow African sisters to uphold too and thus I do not Trod alone.
How did you end up with that name?
I got the name Binti Afrika while in high school, because I always used to dress in some African attire and was always involved in cultural music and drama. Friends and schoolmates started calling me Binti Afrika and I took it as a crown.
Where did your journey with music and reggae music begin?
I recorded my first song with a group called K-Mynds, Kreative Mynds in 1999 and it was an instant hit. I went on to work with top artists in East Africa, finally releasing my first album, “Sauti Inawika” in January 2016, an Afro pop album which was an ode to my roots.
Later that year I worked with Mungo’s Hi-Fi a Scottish sound system that came to Kenya to collaborate with artists and Swahili Dub was born. Swahili Dub is my style of Reggae music that fuses sultry Swahili vibes and the Kiswahili language with heavy bass lines in Reggae. At that point my journey with Reggae music actively begun.
Why not Reggae?
I have loved Reggae all my life and as my spirituality grew within I and I, Reggae resonated more with me. Truth is also that Reggae found me.
Tell us about Kreative mynds?
Kreative mynds was a group from the late 90s made up of Iself and my high school classmates and with them I had my first hit song in 1999, called ‘Mo Fire’ produced by Clemo of Calif Records.
Why did you cut your journey with Kreative mynds short?
Kreative Mynds was formed in highschool and each one of us went on to further education in different countries and that’s how we disbanded. It wasn’t so much me cutting our journey together short. Plus music was a hobby for some, for me it was my passion and I carried on with it.
So, how was the road to building a name for yourself as an individual and not a member of a group like?
Building a name as an individual of course is and was not easy. There’s more strength where there’s more than one, different characters bringing a different fire and fan base but I give thanks for Jah strength it kept and keeps me persistent. I faced sexual harassment I’m sure just as other female musicians, naysayers, people not taking me seriously but as I said before music is my passion and it’s my gift. So east or west, I would still find myself in the music. One just has to be consistent and self believe also plays a big role in keeping one going.
What has reggae taught you about life?
Humility, peaceful co existence with others, greater self respect, respect for roots and culture, mental emancipation, strength of spirit, faith, black is royal. We are Kings and Queens.
And it’s taught me great harmonies too 🥰
And the Lioness Order Movement? It’s mission and vision? Are you finding that you are fulfilling them?
Step by step, it’s a journey and a livity.
Kenya is ranked amongst the top most consumers of reggae,how do you keep yourself relevant?
I keep myself relevant by being consistent in releasing good music and also collaborating with other local artists.
What do you wish people knew about you?
🤔 That I’m not always strong and so sometimes I don’t have the strength to give, I actually need strength from others.
What do you see or envision when you think about “Binti Afrika” ?
I see a long and prosperous future in music, with the message continuing to grow worldwide.
I see more and bigger recognition in music, both at home and abroad. I also see a record label that will boost and safeguard young Empresses and Lionesses.
Who is your favourite local artist?
I don’t have only one, there are a few.
Nazizi for her inner strength and spirituality. I resonate a lot with her lyrics. Cathy Matete, for her vocal prowess and music style
Lavosti, for his vocal power and lyrics, stage performance too.
Jah Ises for his powerful vocals and message in his music
Mariah Ngoma, she’s new in the Kenyan Reggae scene but maad powerful vocals and lyrics and her spirit.
Which producer do you like to work most with?
I have two that I work with most, both in equal measure and I didn’t plan it, the universe always makes it happen that way and that’s Blaze of Ever Blazzing Productions and Mixmaster Chao of Half Live Productions.
Which artist would you like to work with local or international?
🤔 Creatively speaking, locally I would love to do a Reggae meets Hip-hop collabo with Fena Gitu actually.
Internationally, I would love to work with Reemah.
You are one of the very few artists who boldly spoke out about the lockdown and how stifling it was and that there was more to it than just meets the eye , would you like to expand further on your views.
You know a lot of what I said has been echoed since by many other artists and also seen or heard on news so I don’t want to dwell further on talk. Positive action is what we need to get the respect due us as Creatives in this country.
Do you find that speaking your truth impacts on your career, that is why most artists remain silent on socio economic issues that affect us?
Perhaps, I don’t really think about the negative impact of truth, I focus more on the truth itself.
Biggest Challenge of being a roots reggae artist in Kenya?
Biggest challenge of being a Roots Reggae artist is that many expect a female to be romping in bootie shorts not Singing conscious music, my style of music and person continues to surprise many.
It also seems that you have been the busiest during the lockdown period. Please tell us about all your works that you have released/been involved in, in the last 4-5 months.
Give thanks. I have released quite a bit of music. Big respect to Mixmaster Chao and his passion for Reggae music and to see Kenyan Reggae placed high on the world map also for the Riddim culture.
All songs are available across Digital platforms and Stores for download or streaming.
Some videos on my YouTube channel with more coming starting next month.
How would you describe the Reggae Scene in Kenya do they consume locally produced Reggae as they do the international market?
Kenya is the biggest consumer of Reggae in Africa, it’s why a lot of the big international Reggae artists all want to play in Kenya but there has been an imbalance whereby audiences are fed more international than local content yet we have such amazing artists and richness of music. Nevertheless, this trend is slowly changing and soon the bigger percentage of airplay will be local reggae music because the producers are doing a top notch job too. The quality of music is much higher in the majority than as it was before, in the minority of output.
How are the preparations for the new album coming along?
They’re coming great in fact I finally have a date. The official launch for the album titled “The Lioness Re-born” will be on December 12th
Your sense of style is very unique, What/who inspires it?
Haha, Give thanks. Again it’s just my vibe and spirit but I also have my sisters, my baby sister, not a baby anymore 🥰 and my best friend who style me from time to time.
My style is inspired by Africa, by Reggae and Rasta culture and by the elegance and strength of the Lioness herself.
What are you communicating through your style?
That I’m a strong, beautiful, dark skinned African Queen with an innate strength that makes me a Lioness to reckon with.
Where to from here?
Kikwetu Festival this Sunday 4th October. I’m very excited to be performing live it’s the first big engagement of the year since the lockdown.
After that, some video releases and hopefully more shows. I hope to tour Europe next year with the new album.
Belief in self and respect for others is crucial for survival and progress in anything one does.