Even as he enters the room and sits beside me, I could already tell that he has this weird unspoken greatness in him. It’s weird saying out loud, especially when I said it to him. I called him a legend and told him how blessed he was to have been fortunate enough to touch the hem of the theoretical hem of the Jesus’s of the industry.
After reading to the end, you’ll understand why.
Bensoul has been baptised Papa Soul. And you can tell from the charisma that oozes from his songs, not just the ones you’ve heard, but from the ones he’s written for others and for all the ones you haven’t heard yet, that he really is Papa Soul.
He says they’re [the songs] in the hundreds, these songs that we haven’t heard. He goes on to say how there were almost 50 songs in the previous Sauti Sol Album and several verses in the now infamous Extravaganza that the public hasn’t heard yet. This is yet another reminder to attend their events because they’re notorious for playing the unreleased songs. Is it just to butter us up or to actually know how the crowd would have reacted to these songs if they were released? Who knows?
Back to the legend.
Bensoul says that he grew up in a musical family. Both his parents supported him in his journey up until when he decided to quit pursuing his degree in the third year of Civil Engineering. I mean how cool is that?
By the age of 12, he could play the guitar. Now he is a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist.
The rest is the present and the future. Here is his side of the story:
“I can describe myself as a lover of music, since a lover goes out of his/her way to show how much they feel about a particular thing/person. I remember I made this track for Sauti Sol and they said it was just ‘aight’ but here I am, part of the Sol Generation. Convincing them that my song was good wasn’t hard, but it took some time. And that’s what love is some times. It’s in the waiting.
It obviously hasn’t been an easy journey. When I came to Nairobi, I met with H-Art the band who were playing music in the streets, and I somehow ended up doing music full time after seeing what music could do. Again, I was blessed to be in a position where music could take care of the bills so my parents, especially my mum wasn’t as worried.
Over the years, I’ve played and written songs with guys like Ken Mwara of the Limericks Band, Chris Bittok, H-Art the band, Seyi Shay, Nyashinski, Sauti Sol and so many others. I’ve also written for guys like Kidum, Mercy Masika and the African Giant Burna Boy.
Speaking of guys like Kidum, the art of song writing also really opens you up as an artist. A good example is Telenovela by Kidum and produced by Cedo. I actually wrote that song for myself but I immersed myself so deep that it didn’t sound like me, so I positioned it for Kidum. Another example is the song I’ve written for Mercy Masika.
This clearly paints a picture of how I’ve just had to grow as an artist. Which I think all artists should do, but not necessarily in the way I’ve done it. You can have this interesting and boundary-stretching journey that makes sense to you but also works for your audience.
My journey has been so weird because even with what the future and present has in store, as a creative, sometimes you just feel like quitting because nothing is working. I’ve definitely had those moments but my passion and ambition to become better than I am has always driven me to not give up.
Another thing that keeps me going us the talent we have. I mean look at AfroLect.
There are so many great musicians like Nairobi Horns Project, Dan Aceda, Gravitti the band who will come together to vibe with Nairobi and showcase what they have and this honestly lights my fire even more. I mean, how many stages in Kenya can bring together soul, reggae, benga, jazz and pop together?
Which also brings me to the discussion of talent. I was honoured enough to be a judge at Safaricom Twaweza and the amount of talent we have in this country is incredible; these guys just need an outlet to be great, which is why I’m proud of platforms like Safaricom Twaweza that promoted local talent, AfroLect which brings young artists of different genres together, Sol Generation which is the next biggest talent outlet in East Africa among others.