I have always been a huge fan of Muthoni the Drummer Queen, or MDQ, as she’s popularly known, not only as an artist but also as a human being. In my opinion, she’s one of the best musicians, not only in Kenya but also in Africa. She is an artist whose music is uniquely true to self, her style and her personality, yet still manages to be transcendent, commercially successful and catchy all at the same time. She is also one hell of a businesswoman, with her, most notably, having the CEO title under her belt for the Blankets and Wine Franchise, one of the most popular events in the wider African region. So, because of all these factors and a few more others, when the announcement came that she was working on an LP, I could not help but be excited, anxiously waiting for the project to drop, and my, what a project it is!
‘She’ is MDQ’s third full-length album, and the second one working with Swiss producers GR! And Hook, and the chemistry between them (MDQ and the producers) is evident by the extremely high quality of music from the album and the ‘joy factor’ in the music, which seems to carry with it, a degree of happiness and excitement in the beat, even though some of the topics in the album are a bit introspective and ‘heavy’.
The 11-track LP literally plays out like a scene from a movie, with each song having a unique story to tell, and a different female protagonist, each with her own unique set of circumstances and unique way of telling her story. The transition between songs is seamless and transcendent, with MDQ’s lovable voice and set of up-tempo beats carrying the listener from one story to the next, without breaking the larger context and larger agenda of the album. The LP, which is largely set on a feminist agenda, as earlier stated, tells the story of different women, each with a unique set of circumstances, and how they each manage to navigate these set of unique circumstances. Muthoni says this was not intentional as she did not intend to do an album solely about women and the struggles they have to go through, but after recording the first few songs, it became evident that she was channelling a prismatic array of women stories.
‘Suzie Noma’ is one such song, which celebrates female empowerment and women friendship in a dancehall flavoured tune which will be sure to have you on your feet, dancing along to its catchy beat and high tempo. ‘Lover’ is also another song that carries with it a heavy female presence, with the song talking about a woman’s sexual liberation and expression, in a bubbly, seductive and highly provocative bubbly tune. ‘Dear Mathilde’, arguably the most out and out song with a feminist agenda on it, talks about the struggles that affect women, in a full-on advice-giving tone, neatly delivered in spoken word style, with hard-hitting lines such as, ‘there is no such thing as a good girl’ and ‘to be a woman is a full-time job for half the pay, and even then, not always’.
The LP, however, is not solely based around women empowerment, with MDQ channelling her political activism in the song, ‘Kenyan Message’ which talks about the selfish and dire state of Kenyan leadership and pointing out the daily struggles that the average Kenyan citizen faces. ‘No More’ is also another song that talks about breaking free from a toxic and emotional oppressive relationship, which a lot of women, as well as men, will relate to.
Another distinct feature of the LP, is its genre-less nature, with each song is a fusion and amalgamation of different music styles, something that MDQ has perfected over the years. She proves once again that non-conformism and staying true to self and to one’s unique self are just as important as the lyrics in the music you’re making. The album is overflowing with originality, a trait that will perhaps make you fall in love with the LP even more, as originality is fast becoming a dying trait, especially in today’s music industry.
Generally, a definite must listen for every music fan out there, where diehard MDQ’s fans (like myself) and new fans alike, will find a million reasons to fall in love with Muthoni the Drummer Queen’s music.
A true Afro-feminist record!