In a groundbreaking moment, South African artist Tyla recently made history as the inaugural winner of the Grammy Awards' Best African Music Performance category. The call for increased support for female artists has never been more pronounced, and Spotify continues to do this through its monthly program EQUAL Africa. This initiative is dedicated to showcasing African female artists through a rotating monthly ambassadorship, with the goal of fostering diversity, equality, and inclusion within the music industry.
For the month of February, TurnTable had a chat with Spotify’s Equal ambassador for the month – Kenyan artiste, Fena Gitu about her journey as an artiste.
Spotify's EQUAL Africa Announces February Ambassador
Spotlight falls on Kenya’s Fena Gitu as this month’s artist
The Kenyan music scene is vibrant in part led by its soulful contemporary pop and afro-fusion artists who infuse different types of sounds and genres, producing a compelling blend of music that travels from the country’s bustling streets to the global stages. The streaming giant Spotify’s entrance into Kenya in 2021 amplified this vibrancy with more and more artists finding new fans across the globe and in addition, spotlighted artists through its various programs aimed at uplifting and supporting their careers. One such program EQUAL Africa - is focused on African female artists rotated via a monthly ambassadorship, aimed at fostering diversity, equality, and inclusion within the music industry.
The program offers on- and off-platform support to artists, an element that is of paramount importance as emphasised by Spotify‘s Artist & Label Partnerships Manager in East Africa, Monica Kemoli-Savanne below;
- Why is it important to amplify the female voices in the music industry on the continent?
Amplifying female voices in the music industry on the continent is essential for fostering gender equality, empowerment, and inclusive musical landscape. By providing equal opportunities for female artists, the industry becomes more inclusive, ensuring a broader range of perspectives and narratives. This not only challenges stereotypes but also contributes to the preservation of diverse cultural heritage. Additionally, visible representation of successful female musicians serves as inspiration for aspiring talents, breaking down barriers and encouraging the next generation.
- There are several artists who were part of the EQUAL program and are now enjoying global success, such as Tyla and Ayra Starr. How does it feel witnessing their trajectory knowing that Spotify and the EQUAL program played a part in the journey to success?
It’s been fantastic to witness the growth trajectory of EQUAL alumni artists such as Tyla and Ayra Starr. They serve as a testament to the immense talent of African female creators, serving as important examples and sources of inspiration for up-coming artists and proving the importance of investing in African female creators.
For February, Spotify’s EQUAL Africa ambassador is Fena Gitu, a highly acclaimed Kenyan recording and performing artist who has been in the music industry for over 13 years, boasting an extensive music catalog consisting of 60+ released songs.
On learning about the ambassadorship, Fena Gitu said, “It's an immense honor to be recognised on Spotify EQUAL as a leading female voice to listen out for on the continent. I do hope that my music continues to inspire hope and love to heal generations, spreading - round good vibes for the mind, body, and soul - all over the world.”
We sat down with Fena Gitu to learn more about her music;
Q: What is that one surprising thing your fans might not know about you?
_In multiple lifetimes, I would love to be a gospel choir director, an EDM DJ / Producer, a race car driver, an international diplomat, a fashion director, a comedy/drama writer, a film producer, and many other hidden curiosities. And still, I'm an introvert. _
Q: When did you realise that making music was your destiny and what is your WHY for pursuing this craft?
_When I was born, doc said I sang instead of crying. My mother and sister are impeccable musicians, greatly influencing and supporting my love for music from the jump. I started writing, producing, recording, and performing music in primary school and got serious about it in high school where I would write winning pieces for competitions and such. The palpable energy of hosting disruptive "concerts" in the dorm after lights-out in boarding school reaffirmed my passion and desire to be a global star. I carried on through university and eventually broke into the Kenyan music scene. 13 years on and still hungry, I am a true testament to resilience and seeing my dreams through against all odds. My sights are set on the global stage to represent home. Itajipa. _
Q: Which African songs or artists did you grow up listening to?
I grew up listening to a lot of Kenyan pop and gospel music. Artists such as the late E-Sir, Kleptomaniax, Nazizi, Ogopa Deejays, Gospel Fathers, and many more, were my first impression of what being a Kenyan superstar looked and sounded like. I was also listening to international artists such as Missy Elliot, India Arie, Destiny's Child, a lot of Jamaican dancehall (Beenie Man, T.O.K., South African Kwaito (Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Brenda Fassie,...) and many more. All these cool urban sounds influenced my writing skills and perspective from a young age. I listen to a lot of Kenyan and African pop/fusion, keeping up with the best of the best on the continent.
Q: To someone who has never heard your music, how would you describe the sound, tone, and style?
_I describe my style in music and fashion as Fenamenal; soulful Afro-urban fusion. The tone is aspirational, seasoned, nostalgic, refreshing, witty, and calm. Keen on lyrical wordplay and melodies, wrapped in an irresistible Eastlando bounce. _
Q: Any advice for someone dreading following their dreams?
_Do it afraid. Just, keep doing it. _