It is Sunday evening, I’m in a studio in the heart of Zimmerman estate. The studio is situated in one of the old school bungalows. It is getting late, darkness is kicking in and young people are trickling in. In one of the rooms, loud music is blaring; a characteristic of every place with young people.
I’ve to wait longer to get into the studio since it’s in a small room and the number of artists who are about to go for a recording session is soaring. This gives me an opportunity to interact with a majority of them. Majority of them are gengetone and from the blasting hard-hitting music, it is evident that this is a gengetone lab. They are still revisiting some of their lyrics, adding some flesh.
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It’s now almost 8 o’clock in the evening and I’ve not had a chance to go in and probably experience a recording session or a music listening session. I contact ZJ Gash, one of the producers in this studio. He is on the way to the studio and this is a great sigh of relief. He shows up twenty minutes later and we go directly to the studio. This gives me a chance to listen to some of the tracks that he has recorded before but has not released.
His is one of the most authentic and distinct sounds that I have listened to in my entire life. It is a fusion of Dancehall, Hip hop, and Gengetone, a genre that has evolved from gengerap. The levels of creativity here are incredible, to say the least, and it is evident.
ZJ Gash, a producer who is also a rapper and a Disk jockey, cracks our ribs as we continue with the listening session that “we are ahead of our game.” The music is characterized by lyrics that reflect on young people’s lifestyles in the hood. Topics here vary from ghetto life, casual sex, funny soundbites, and catchphrases used in the streets. According to ZJ Gash, the genre is still evolving and we should expect more genge content in the future.
He, however, differs from Producer KRG the Don who earlier this year stated that gengetone was on its deathbed. According to Gash producers, young artists have to work hard and ensure that they produce high-quality music. He also criticizes netizens and music pundits who complain of lyrics terming them as explicit. He adds that they are the same individuals who listen to Western rap, afro beats, and bongo flavor genres that reflect on the same themes.
Some of the notable talents in this studio are Genge prince who has released tracks such as “vuruga” and “mbovu”, Yung Lawd who is working on his debut studio album featuring ZJ Gash, and Producer Remy vert who has worked with Genge Prince a couple of times.
The flagbearers of the genre that was birthed in Kenyan streets are looking forward to reinvigorating the Kenyan music scene and a takeover on the Kenyan mainstream media that has been heavily criticized for not prioritizing local content.