Singer, songwriter and performing artist Cathy Matete is emerging as one of Kenya’s breakthrough Reggae artist, her fun, purposeful approach to music along with her uniquely soulful voice is something that is finding its place in Kenya’s Reggae scene, the 254 Reggae scene. She recently won an award for ‘Best Original Score’ at the prestigious Kalasha Awards, the annual Kenyan TV and Movie Awards. The song featured is called Woman of Steel and it was for the nominated film ‘What’s On Your Mind’. This is a major milestone and also highlights her writing skills. She sealed off the year 2019 on a high note with a powerful performance at the Alliance Françoise and at the Collective Restaurant both in Nairobi. Her music catalogue is steadily growing with timeless hits which she started recording back in 2013 with the single ‘All For You’ produced by Kenya’s number one DJ/Producer ZJ Heno on the Passionate Riddim. Years later she got featured again on a ZJ Heno production, The Promises Riddim with a single Take My Hand. Another Top Producer, Shamir Tadeiya featured her on his Love Pulse Riddim, and she eloquently delivered a song titled Eternity. At this point, Cathy was starting to get recognition outside Kenya, and got featured on the Servant Riddim produced by South Africa based production Duo, Lavoro Duro with the song Woman. Now she about to drop the single Wine for You, a collabo chune with International Reggae Star Anthony B.
Her music career is taking off nice and steady, there seem to be no rush with this talented singer, as she prefers quality over quantiy. MzansiReggae reached out to Cathy Matete to get to know her a little better and in her own words, we let her introduce herself..
Who is Cathy Matete?
Cathy Matete is a Duchess, a Pan Africanist and a super supporter of the African Dream. I am an ardent lyricist whose music cuts across many genres, soulful and full of sensation. I am a singer, songwriter, recording and performing artist of Lovers rock, Roots Reggae and Dancehall Music.
How and when did your journey as a musician begin?
All my life I’ve been surrounded by music! Majorly Reggae music and my love for expression is as a result of a lifetime of musical influence. Growing up in a talented musical family meant I was always surrounded by different forms of music. My parents and siblings exposed me to a rich taste of music as a child, all of which influenced my love for Reggae and soulful melodies. I’ve always had an ear for music from a young age and was always drawn to melodies, listening to RnB, Soul and a bit of Lovers rock from the likes of Beres Hammond, Dennis Brown,Tanya Stephens, Alaine, and Etana. I later onjoined a Reggae band right after campus in 2013 and slowly started building my career in Reggae and late 2018 is when I went solo!
The journey had barely begun yet you are already working with Kenya’s top producers. How did that come about?
I’d say the universe’s energies just aligning themselves towards the bigger good which is the music . Networking has to be the trick also, being at the right place at the right time. Talking to the right people, leading to the right connections and making good music afterwards.
You have also voiced on a South African produced Riddim…
When my song, ‘Take My Hand’, off the ‘Promises Riddim’ was released late2017, it attracted a lot of attention both locally and abroad. I got a lot of calls and DMs from producers who wanted to feature me in their projects and Lavoro Duro – The Producer from South Africa was a link I got directly from Majestic Trends, a well-respected gate keeper of the Reggae Industry in Kenya and a friend to a whole chain of respected producers both in Africa and abroad.
Not only top producers, but you have been featured in Mixtapes by respected DJs outside of Kenya, who or what would you attribute that to?
My support system, my team, Majestic Trends and friends who share the music. All these have played a major role towards getting my songs featured in mixtapes by respected DJs around the world. Good content has also been an added advantage for me; I write all my music from a place of meaning and work with producers who understand my sound like Shamir Tadeiya, Kenya’s top Reggae Pioneer who doubles up as an artist and producer to get the best expressions that resonate well with a wide audience.
Your music is a perfect blend of Afro-Soul, Rock Steady and Modern Roots, was it by default or by design? Did you specifically choose this or it just happened organically?
I’d say a bit of both. The way I write and my unique style is as a result of a lifetime of music influenced largely by Lover’s rock, Roots Rock Reggae and Soul music. Growing up, I was always drawn to Beres Hammond, Dennis Brown, Erykah Badu and Lira’s music. Listening to these talented singers changed my perspective and how to work on my craft, so it was both organic and by design.
You are also adding to a growing list of female artists in the continent who are intent of keeping it clean, royal and rootical, is Cathy Matete not tempted to go the bad gyal route to get more mileage and perhaps fame?
Hahaha….I’m tempted to say whatever it takes but I’m coming from a background of morals and values and going the scanty route is not something I’m conversant with, let alone support. I want my listeners to think about good music full of positive vibes every time they hear my name, Cathy Matete. I also want them to see a respectable human being who is here to change the way the world views women and what they stand for.
Your Video for No Retreat was super cool; the styling, the storyline and capturing the simplicity of daily livity, how much were you involved in the production of the video?
Oh my, haha thank you Mzansi! I’m humbled by your support for my music. I like being involved 99% of the time. ‘No Retreat’ is a song that I hold so dear to my heart and I wanted something memorable and for the books. I came up with the story line, set the whole African, Rasta man and woman theme, scouted the location, did the casting and co-directed the film with Hitbox Studios. Turned out well and I’m grateful for the support it has been getting since it premiered on YouTube.
Can you give us a glimpse of what the Reggae scene is like in Kenya, the one you are operating in.
Vibrant, Female dominated as we speak, Reggae nights every single day in all corners of the country, concerts celebrating the culture every now and then and just basically good music and good vibes! Reggae is a genre that a lot of Kenyans relate to, celebrate and consume. You can never miss a Reggae chune in a Matatu (Local transport system) or a restaurant somewhere! It is safe to say the Reggae scene keeps getting bigger each year.
Kenya has been declared the Reggae Capital in Africa, rightfully so, but I believe that is based on the Jamaican artists who perform there, rather than the Kenyan output of reggae, and in a way that overshadows the local artists. Am I wrong in my assessment? What’s your view? How will you use this newly found status to your advantage?
Well, it is true Kenyans consume a lot of Reggae music from Jamaica but haven’t really embraced its own homegrown artists. I plan on putting more effort towards perfecting my craft on a daily basis and I am also looking forward to putting out content that is more relatable with the Kenyan audience. I’m also working on a number of notable collaborations that will help push my music more locally and basically have a good marketing team in place that will help distribute my music in all the four corners of our beloved country, Kenya.
What activities are you involved in outside of your work as a musician?
I am a part time PR Practitioner, solely because writing is therapy, I mostly do PR writing for creative agencies and corporates. I also volunteer at a special needs school called ‘Overcomers by Grace’; I bond with kids from time to time. I enjoy travelling too! I’ll hopefully do a media tour in South Africa one of these days
What are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on two videos, a few Singles, and a couple of Riddim features to start off the year! It will be a busy year for me, there’s so much work I can’t wait to share out with you and the world.
Which musicians do you draw your inspiration from?
I’m a huge follower of Etana, Beyoncé, Alaine, Erykah Badu and Rihanna. We somewhat share in the same sound and ideologies as women shaping the music Industry. Their strength and power motivates and inspires me a lot.
Which artist would you like to work/collaborate with?
Local or international. Locally I’d love to work with Shamir, Treesha, Lavosti, Lucy Lugano and Cara Feral. Solely because we already have chemistry and each artist has their own uniqueness when it comes to their music and audience. Internationally, Etana, Chris Martin, Alaine, Natel, Chevaughn and D Major.
What have you got in store for us in 2020/21 Season?
Major collaborations featuring big international Reggae artists, bettershot and directed videos, and an EP, I am not stopping for anything! I made a solid impact in 2019 and so many people are looking forward to more of my releases this year. 2020/2021 season guarantees to be an exciting one looking at what I’ve got lined up for release in the first quarter of 2020.
Listen to Cathy Matete latest single off the Connection Riddim produced by kazi Ya Shamir.