Interview with Afro-Jazz artist Nita Hungu

If you hadn't heard of Nita Hungu before she released her debut single "Rain" on radio and TV, you would probably think she was a new artist on the Kenyan rock scene.  Well, that's what KenyaChristian blog thought at first listen. But after conducting an interview with her it was clear she could not only rock hard, but also create music for those with more mature tastes. So why would an Afro-Jazz artist have a rock song as her debut single? Well that and more are some of the interesting questions we asked her in Part 1 of our interview. She also discusses her beginnings, what SOCKET is, the meaning of her album title and much more!

::KenyaChristian:: Hi Nita. So please tell me more about yourself, how did you get involved with music?

Nita Hungu:: Well, I’ve always loved music ever since I was young and as far as college I did my first degree at Daystar in Psychology and Community Development. That was not my first choice but what my parents wanted. I told my dad that music is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life and he ended up being very supportive. I then went to Jetha House of Music which is a nice music school.

::KC:: When did you discover your passion for music?

N.H:: When I was young, at around the age of 13. I would record my demo’s on tapes as there were no CD’s at that time, haha!

::KC:: Your debut single “Rain” has more of a rock sound.

NH: Yes it is very soft rock. I love acoustic music, especially the guitar and piano.

::KC:: On a website your music is described more as Afro-soul.

NH: Yes, I love jazz music and basically African and Western music, and when you merge them you get an Afro sound. I would definitely describe my music as Afro-Jazz, and basically mellow, cocktail kind of music.

::KC:: O.K since you describe yourself as Afro-Jazz, why was your first single “Rain” soft rock?

NH: That’s mainly because of the guitar. When I initially wrote “Rain” I didn’t think of it as a rock-sound, but it kind of developed into that as we went along. So I just let my music flow, because I’m a free-spirited kind of person and I let my music do it own thing.

::KC:: When did you shoot the video for “Rain?”

NH: We shot the video five months ago with Sakata Media, and we shot at a very run-down garage kind of place. It was a place behind their studio and we thought it was an ideal place for a rock-kind of video and we decided to go with that idea.

::KC:: So in your single “Rain” what kind of message are you trying to get across with the song?

NH: It’s basically a cry to God for His rain of revival, so that’s the main message of the song

::KC:: Speaking of rain or lack of it, what’s your opinion on the Mau Forest issue?

NH: Honestly, I won’t put blame on anyone. We just need to go back to the basics and what made Kenya a beautiful country, whether that means replanting of trees etc It doesn’t help anyone for people to just accuse others, we just need to go back to the basics. I want to be part of the solution, and everyone has a part to play in it.

::KC:: In what ways do you think we can take part in helping save our environment?

NH: Basically replanting of trees and taking care of our water catchment areas and the resources around us. We can’t just go around cutting trees for firewood cause it's cold.

::KC:: What is SOCKET?

NH: SOCKET was an initiative formed by me and other young people who are passionate about music.It basically means “plugging into God.” Since a socket has three holes, so it means plugging into God The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. So we formed it and mentored a group of young people in music and worship. The idea was to have a concert at the end of the year to showcase our talent. We had a successful concert in August last year which featured beautifully arranged music.

::KC:: Do you write all of your own music?

NH: Yes, I write most of my own music though I also write with other people sometimes to get a different feel, and also to avoid monotony.

::KC:: Your album is entitled “Love, Life & Limb”, so what’s the significance of that title?

NH: It means giving my all to God, and its talking about my experiences in life and love and what it means to my fellow man. It means I would give my love, life and limb, my everything and surrendering to God.

::KC:: What kind of sound are you aiming for with the album?

NH: The album will definitely be live which was my focus, there will be no sampled instruments used in it. It will have a central them of jazz and tonal music; something totally out of the box.

::KC:: Which band are you working with to pull off this sound?

NH: My band is called Hue, and they do all my music. I record with Ben "Gittx" Gitau though I recorded "Rain" with Rock of Ages.

::KC:: You talked about jazz previously, so who would you say are your musical infuences and which other musical styles do you like?

NH: On top of the list definitely would have to be Jonathan Butler, because I love how he plays the guitar so well, and Michael Buble who also does jazz. As for musical genres I like any music that has a broad spectrum of instruments and I also love classical music like Chopin; basically early romantic era of classical music.

::KC:: I've noticed Kenyan music music is moving more (or back) towards live instrumentation, would you agree?

NH: Yeah, gone are the days when you went to a gig and just listen to playback and people will accept it. I think people are yearning for live music again, like the benga's etc And I think it's a good thing because people will start to appreciate our own authentic music again. I also think Kenyan music is really growing and is going to another level and I'm really happy about that, with people like Aaron Rimbui, Kanjii and Mr.Hellon who are setting the bar really high, I think it’s a great thing that’s happening

Look out for Part 2 of the interview coming soon. Keep it here!

Watch the video for her single "Rain" here


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