King’oi Mkenya

International FFM Ambassador for Kenya

Hi, I am King’oi Mkenya, your FFM ambassador for beautiful Kenya.

I was born in a Kiambu, a town near the Kenyan capital city, Nairobi. It was a rural, farming community with one foot in the traditional village and the other already in the growing urban settlement just half an hour away. In my 10th year, we moved into the city, two year after starting school there.

As long as I can remember, I have been surrounded by music. I can remember my grandmother and her age-mates singing, dancing and ‘ulululating’ in joy when Kenya won her independence in 1963. In the 70’s, I heard Indian traditional music and Kenyan folklore in a melting-pot primary school, then Western gospel, rock, jazz and all other genres in the high-school years.

I taught myself the guitar, wrote songs since my high-school years, and later also became familiar with MIDI and contemporary tools for making music. In the USA for college, I got exposed to Southern Blues and Soul, Appalachian Bluegrass, Country and Folk, and finally Western European music and lots of Pan-African music because of the many African cultures represented in Amsterdam. 

My influences are too many to list, but they range from Mbaraka Mwinshehe, Franco, Hugh Masekela, Youssou N’Dour to Cheb Khaled, Nihtin Sawhney; Peter Gabriel, Sting, David Gray, David Wilcox. Lizz Wright, Sarah Vaughn, Jeff Beck, Wayne Shorter, Marvin Gaye; Celia Cruz, Juan Luis Guerra, Gilberto Gil to Andre Segovia. All continents have a unique story to tell musically, and I have been fortunate to have a good pair of ears.

As ambassador for Kenya, I would try to ‘sell’ the musical diversity of my country, we have countless rhythms, but there are also melodies that are uniquely Kenyan and can hold their own alongside other compositions. For example, is there more haunting a national anthem than the Kenyan pentatonic minor “Ee Mungu Nguvu Yetu”? Our vibrant modern recording scene has attracted artists from the region and farther for decades, and I am avid listener to live performers I would like to introduce to you.

I still explore music theory and technology, and will try to serve up some chords, snippets of rhythm, guitar tabs, etc., to illustrate musical ideas. Feel free to discuss and ask question and I’ll do my bet to answer or point the way toward those with better insights.

I thank Roger for giving me this challenging opportunity. Enjoy! 

How to Play Sina Makosa by King’oi Mkenya