Wanavokali – Kenyan acapella represents nation at continental competition

By Christopher Owuor
Tuesday, March 24th, 2020

WANAVOKALI is a popular Kenyan acapella group that is representing the nation in the continental music competition dubbed Old Mutual Amazing Voices in South Africa. They speak with FAITH KYOUMUKAMA on their experiences

Three Kenyan groups were selected among 12 groups to compete in the ongoing Pan-African music competition, the Old Mutual Amazing Voices. One of the groups was the Wanavokali.

The group, which comprises of six musicians; Chep, Lena, Mella, Riki, Sam and Ythera came together through the Safaricom Twaweza Live in 2018.

“We were all performing as background vocalists, and after the tour, we did a number of projects together, and that’s when we realised there was great chemistry between us, says Ythera, adding that the fact that they complemented each other vocally made them to realise that they could get greater opportunities if they became a team.

The band attracted a lot of attention after doing a unique version of the song Salary by Nameless, whom—alongside other showbiz celebs such as comedian Njugush—shared their cover on their social media pages, an aspect that gave the ensemble a lot of traction.

This gave the members the fire to keep pushing and sharing more music.

Knowing too well the industry has over the years taken a huge turn in terms of song techniques, Wanavokali had it’s reasons in choosing to go the acapella way.

“Having worked as lead and background vocalists, we wanted to create a niche for ourselves.

We realised this area was untapped and that we would create value for our craft and show that Kenyan vocalists also have something to offer,” comments Riki.

“Our voices are instruments and often at times in this industry, vocalists tend to be overlooked. Also there isn’t much value seen in them,” adds Chep.

The head start 

For Wanavokali, the Old Mutual Amazing Voices competition, just like any other band or music group, was a great opportunity to get the coveted continental reach.

Apart from interacting and sharing experiences with groups from different countries from across the African continent, for them, the competition means a head start in their career if they can scoop the Sh10 million ultimate cash prize.

“Being among the top three groups to be chosen signified that we were heading in the right direction, owing to the fact that it happened just four or so months after we had formed the group.

It has been quite a journey of growth and a learning curve for us in the show, but we are enjoying every step of the way,” says Lena.

Wanavokali also recently did a collabo with Kenyan gospel artiste Collins Majale aka Collo G (formerly of the Kleptomaniax rap trio that consisted other members including Nyashinski and Roba), who happens to be their resident videographer.

“What’s amazing is that we also met him (Collo) while doing Twaweza Live back in 2018. He came up with the idea of the song; we listened to his verses and fell in love with it.

We felt it would be impactful and touch souls. And that’s how Unioshe was born,” explains Sam.

Work aspirations

The group hopes to do more collaborations in the future, with the multiple award-winning boy band Sauti Sol being on top of their list.

“We look up to them as they’ve been making great strides in the industry for the past 10 years. We would also love to work with Nyashinski, Khaligraph Jones and Muthoni Drummer Queen,” says Riki.

And how are they braving themselves to deal with the familiar ‘curse’ of groups not surviving the test of time?

Wanavokali agrees that group dynamics are tough, but believe that mutual respect and love will keep them grounded.

Riki says, “All relationships have conflicts, and it’s healthy. The issue is how you deal with them in a respectful way when they arise.”

So, win or no-win, what next for Wanovokali? “We plan to be a household name in Africa and beyond.

We are eternally grateful for the support Kenyans have shown us this far, and want to lift our flag high and represent our country to the best of our abilities.

Look out for the original music that we are working on and other projects coming out soon,” concludes Mella.