Music Seen! Stan - "Kenya Debut" review
With his acoustic guitar ever somewhere close by and a silky voice that is sure to put smiles on the faces of the opposite sex, Stan Ng’ang’a was clearly a perfect fit for the Penya Record label. With a sure talent on their hands Penya wasted no time in releasing Stan’s debut album, slyly titled Kenya Debut. The album cover features him standing (with guitar in hand) in front of a barber shop that seems to been put together with parts from different houses. Though the shop has since been torn down, it is interesting with its white door, brown window frames and stained glass windows. The shop and windows seem to provide a good reflection of the music we are about to indulge in; simple and yet free-spirited.
The first song on the album, "She Is" is a soothing tune and guitar played with a purity which I guess aptly reflects the nature of Stan’s love for a special someone in his life. And with frank lyrics like "kama ngoma kuna wakati yeye huniudhi/sitaki kumwona anikhera/muda mfupi namsamehea" it is clear this is a man in love. And on that beautiful opening note it is only right the next song "Shujaa" speaks of another love, only this time is in the motherly sense. The song is a lovely tribute to Stan’s late mother whom he honours, thanks, and calls his hero. It is hard to imagine what it’s like to lose a mother, but this song gives those of us who haven’t lost one hope and strength to continue on(if God forbid that should happen.)
The track that follows is "Gachungwa" which was Stan’s debut single, with its accompanying video (that features who I’m guessing is his real gachungwa.) It’s was an interesting pick for a first single as it features a sparse track with some beatboxing adlibs. It was a daring track on Penya’s part to use it to introduce us to Stan but surprisingly it works; the song has Wawesh’s sound written all over it. The album then floats back to a soothing, acoustic sound on "Mi Nawe." Wawesh made some good decisions on this album in ensuring Stan’s beautiful, tenor voice is fully displayed through the use of solo acoustic tracks and adding no frills to the production. This is again displayed on "Kenya" another beautiful song that speaks about the motherland, its beauty and Stan's pride in his country. The song speaks of unity among the diverse tribes which is a very relevant message today(the song was written before the 2007/08 post-election violence.)
"Rise" is one of the better songs on Kenya Debut and combines some acoustic and electric guitar with lively background harmonizing all done by Stan. It is an uplifting song that encourages those who may be going through hardship that there’s hope and to rise up again! The albums pace picks albeit only slightly on the song "Natafuta" which is a well-written song. In it he talks about the search for that perfect love, a search he knows he‘s not alone in or crazy for "ukifikiri mimi ni chizi/angalia we kioni."
Probably my favourite song on the album would have to be "Roller Coaster" which features Stan singing together with Nynke Nauta. The song referring to the emotional ups and downs in a relationship is one that some of us can relate to, not to mention the song just has a lovely chorus and cool backing track.
On "Surrender" which is a really moving song, the instruments are kept to a minimum and Stan sings to God above for mercy and urges all of us to surrender our lives to Him. Things take an interesting turn on the song when Stan starts playing a trumpet, but only he is mimicking the sound of one with his mouth and it sounds great.(I’ve seen him doing it live and he pulls it off well.) The final song of the album is short at only 1:14min, but is a good closing track which Stan sings in a reggae-acoustic style.
Kenya Debut is a good album, and introduces us to the lovely vocals and understated acoustic sound of Stan. Unfortunately there isn’t a really great song on the album, but some good ones. And although Stan style is suited to a laidback, acoustic sound sometimes it feels the album gets too slow. You can find yourself skipping some songs especially if you’re not in that particular mood for something slow. There is no doubt though as to Stan’s vocal talent and the album is a good for those quiet Saturday evenings, when you just want to kick back and listen to something soothing.
KC blog rating: 4/5 stars
"No really great songs on it, but Stan has great vocals. A solid debut."