Every other Thursday we have our Mics and Beats Segment where I feature a musician. Unfortunately I had a technical hitch on Thursday so Mics And Beats comes to you on Monday. Today’s Mics And Beats Artist is Adeline Maranga aka Dela. Her cover of Adele’s Hallo is one of the most beautiful songs to come out of Kenya in the year 2015. I met Dela years ago just as Sauti Sol released their first songs. Dela had sang a song with Sauti Sol called “Mama Papa” which is still my favourite song from Sauti Sol’s Mwanzo Album. The first time I went to watch a Sauti Sol concert was when they were performing at the August 7 Memorial Park. My friend Wamathai and I went to the show courtesy of Dela and there my love affair with Dela and Sauti Sol’s music began. So it is a privilege to interview her for my blog. Let’s find out more about Dela.
Dela begun singing at the age of 7 in choirs and as she grew older she she became a back up singer. In 2008 she begun singing professionally. At only 19, her debut on the big stage was her collaboration with Kenya’s most famous boy band Sauti Sol, that saw their song MAMA PAPA make a record number one hit for 18 weeks on Kenya’s most popular reggae radio station Metro FM. The success of her single led her to be signed by record label PENYA and in under a year, Label Producer Wawero ‘Wawesh’ Kiboy had produced another hit Record titled PAUKWA. She has done back up vocals for Achieng Abura, the Villagers Band, Eric Wainaina and Wahu among others. Dela’s music is Afro-soul, which she fuses with funk, techno and reggae.
In 2010 Dela was nominated for the famous Kisima Awards. She has performed at various events like Blankets and Wine, Tusker Project Fame, Idols, Sawa Sawa Festival, WAPI, Spoken Word and Love as a solo artist and as a background vocalist. In 2013 Dela was one of the artists from Kenya that was chosen to participate in Season One of the Coke Studio Africa Show.
Dela is currently signed by the Africa’s Music Power house, Taurus Musik and has rebranded to an Afro- Pop artist. She is currently working on various music projects with some of the renowned producers which she will be releasing later in the year followed by collaborations with major artists across Africa.
When did you start singing?
Ever since I could remember. But my clearest memory of singing is when I was seven.
Do you play any instruments?
Very little guitar and even less piano. My main instrument is my voice.
Do you have a formal musical education?
No I don’t.
Thinking back to early childhood what was your first experience with music for the first time like? What song do you remember most as a child?
My mum’s family had a church band. I remember seeing my uncles playing the guitars and drums and my mum loved singing – still does. I remember her making my sister and I sing for guests at home. I don’t remember what song exactly we sung but I can bet it was probably a church song.
How has your family supported your talent and your career as a musician?
They are my biggest supporters. My little marketing team. But most importantly, they help me stay grounded and lift me up when I am feeling low.
What musical influences did you have a child?
Our household was an African Music household. Music ranged from the gospel stylings of Muungano Choir, The Kassangas and Mary Atieno to the upbeat sass of Yvonne Chakachaka and Mbilia Bel. I discovered hip-hop and RnB much later from the older cool kids in the estate. I loved it all.
How is the music different from what you listen to now?
It’s not much different. Only that my musical taste has expanded over the years. I still listen to all sorts of genres. Maybe with a more analytic perspective than I did when I was younger.
What made you first realize that you wanted to pursue a career in music?
When I started singing background vocals for various bands, meeting all these creative incredibly talented musicians, feeling right at home then I knew that this was it.
Who are your favourite musicians now? Groups? CD’s?
I have such a long list. Especially here at home. There are people out here making big moves and they such a huge inspiration. Sauti Sol are my brothers and my biggest inspiration. H_art the band always bring it. And my fellow females kicking ass left right and centre: Atemi, Sage, Muthoni, Fena. I can’t get enough.
How do you handle mistakes during a performance?
Most of the time the audience hasn’t noticed so I just continue like nothing’s happened. Luckily I haven’t fallen on my face during a performance but if I did, I’d probably act like i meant to do it. (laughs)
What advice would you give to beginners who are nervous?
Take a deep breath and relax. Close your eyes if you have to and sing like no-one’s watching. I mean, really go to a safe place and just BE in the music. And don’t forget to smile.
How often and for how long do you practice?
It depends on my schedule. A couple of hours, a couple of days a week. Even more, when there’s a show coming up.
How would you describe your music to somebody who has never heard you perform before?
Two words: African and Pop. Afro-pop.
What can people expect to see at your live performance?
High energy, intense vocals, interaction, engagement : an all-round good time.
What do you think your biggest break or greatest opportunity has been so far in your musical career?
Getting signed to Taurus Musik has been incredible. I had been MIA for quite sometime and with their support and guidance, they breathed new life into my career with my first single under the, “Mafeelings”. Doing that Hello cover in Swahili took that to the next level and got me noticed beyond Africa.
How much creative control do you have over what you perform?
100%. If I am not feeling something it will definitely show. As an artist, if you’re not a fan of yourself, why should anyone pay attention to you?
Do you write your own music?
Yes, I do. But sometimes I’ve invited some of my favourite songwriters to collaborate on a couple of projects. Like ‘Mafeelings’ was co-written by Bienaime Baraza and ‘Weche Tek’ by Enos Olik and Meshack Otieno.
If you had a chance to change something in the music industry what would it be?
Airplay of Kenyan music. Why wouldn’t our music climate change if the media, as a rule, played 70% Kenyan content? Let’s not even go far ati Nigeria or SA. Look at our neighbours UG and TZ. Look how vibrant their music industry is. They play their own music first then the rest if they have time.
Were you in another band before you started performing for yourself? How was it?
As I mentioned before, I sang BGVs for various bands including The Villagers, Stan, Achieng Abura, Dan Aceda, Wahu, Eric Wainaina to name just a few. It was a great learning experience professionally and musically.
How is it being the main singer in the band?
Navigating the egos of different personalities in a band can been quite interesting. Haha. But from my previous experience in other bands, I knew to delegate the job of band leader and thanks to him, it’s been smooth sailing.
What are your other interests outside of music? What do you do to relax outside of music?
I love art in all it’s forms. I studied Architecture at the University. I love interior design. I’m a huge film buff, poetry geek and something of a foodie. But my favorite way to relax has been yoga. I took it up in January of this year (2015) and it’s been so good to me.
What keeps you going as a musician?
I love music so much. I love who I am when I am doing it and I love how it touches others in the most unexpected ways. I have big dreams about where I want I want to go. I have the best fans. The love and support they’ve shown me over the years has been tremendous. I’ll be honest there are times I’ve felt like giving up but they’ve kept me going.
Where would you like to see yourself within the next five years as an artist?
3 award-winning albums.
What are your long term career goals?
So many. But one of them is to get a Grammy. Why not?
If you were to perform with anybody/group in the world, either dead, alive who would it be?
Anybody? Freddie Mercury is just the ultimate. he’s always fascinated me. From his time in Queen to his solo projects.
There’s Beyonce! I know it would take everything in me to keep up but I’m sure I could. I admire her performances. She’s just on another level.
What are your up to date performance plans? New releases? Tours?
I have a couple of shows in January and a national tour thereafter. New releases are definitely on the way, including my second album. Guys can follow me on social media for updates.