Dela Maranga is one of the artists from Kenya that was chosen to participate in Season One of the Coke Studio Africa show. This is a unique music show that brings together artists from different genres, eras and regions to create a modern and authentic African sound through musical fusion. Read on to see what she thinks of the show, her time there sofar and her music in general.
Who is Dela?
I am a singer and song writer based in Nairobi, Kenya.
How would you describe your music?
I would describe my music as Afro Soul which is soul music with African elements such as guitar riffs, African rhythms and drums etc.
How did your music career begin?
When I was a kid I used to sing in the school and church choir. After high school I started singing back-up vocals for different bands. I sang for artists like Achieng Abura, Villagers Band, Wahu, Stan and so many others. Later, I decided to go solo because I had started to create my own music. So this one time, Stan was having a show and I asked him if I could perform some of my own music. Someone from a record label happened to be there and saw my performance. They liked my music and called me for my meeting so that’s how I got signed and recorded my first album. That was back in 2009/2010.
You attended Nairobi University. What did you study there?
I studied architecture in University. I don’t practice because I’m pursuing music but, I could be an architect one day. I have done some house drawings for relatives but I haven’t done anything professionally yet.
How did your parents feel about your change in direction? Do they support your music career?
Absolutely! They support my career the way any parent would support their child but, they were also very adamant that I finish school and get my degree. By the time I had started my degree, I had also started to pursue music and I didn’t want to leave school half way. So I finished school while at the same time doing my music. Now, I just concentrate on music.
What has your biggest achievement been to date?
I think getting an album released during the first year of my solo career was an achievement for me, especially in such a competitive industry in Kenya. A lot of artists here pursue music for several years but don’t manage to get a whole album out and end up having to release singles.
Besides this, I also got nominated for a Kisima Award in 2010 which was an achievement for me. There’s more music coming so I hope to gain more in terms of awards.
What is your message to upcoming musicians trying to make it in the industry today?
Stay true to yourself and don’t try to be like anyone else. It’s understandable to admire another artist and they can inspire you and influence your musical taste but, you should not try to duplicate what someone else is doing. They are who they are, and you can only be you. So, just stay true to yourself because that is what your fans will identify with – your uniqueness, and the honesty and sincerity of your music.
What inspires your music?
Everything inspires my music. Everyday life experiences, both mine and other peoples – like what I see going on around me. Love, life, social issues, the good and the bad, and Nairobi also inspire me. Those are basically the themes I write about in my music.
How come you’ve sang songs in Luo dialect but not any in your own mother tongue Kisii?
(Laughs) The thing is, I was working very closely with these guys called Aziza and I told them that I really like their music and asked them to write me a song. I didn’t think they were actually going to do it but they came back one day and said, “Dela we wrote you a Luo song, here it is.” I loved it and it came during the time I was working on my album so I recorded it. I was also working on a Kisii song at the time but I wasn’t able to complete it by my deadline. I will have a couple in my upcoming albums though.
Had you met Qwela before working with them on Coke Studio?
I actually hadn’t met Qwela in person prior to Coke Studio but I saw them once when they came to perform in Nairobi and I’ve also heard a couple of their songs online. So I had a feel of what they do. I like their music and completely understand why they are the top band in Uganda at the moment. When I was asked to come and work with them on Coke Studio, I was really excited. They are really good at what they do.
Which song are you working on with them?
The song we are working on together is called Njabala which is basically the name of a girl. It’s a wedding song and was traditionally sung by the Luganda people during wedding ceremonies. What we wanted to do was contemporize it, make it more modern and add a little soul to it. We wanted to create a fusion that is completely unexpected. I got to write a verse in Swahili for the track which was cool.
How was it working with Qwela?
Qwela are awesome and are so much fun. They are very easy to work with and open to ideas so there was a really good atmosphere or energy. I’ve learnt a lot about the culture of the Luganda people and how they do things so it’s been a great experience working with them. I can’t wait to see the final product. I think it will be really fantastic.
What do you think of Coke Studio?
I’ve really enjoyed working on Coke Studio. I got the chance to meet people that I probably never would have met or even thought of collaborating with. I met artists from Uganda, Nigeria and others from Kenya, and I really hope that more of this happens. Coke Studio sort of brings Africa together through music and I think it’s a really cool idea. It’s a great platform to explore the different sounds of the continent and put it out there for the world. The world needs to come to Africa now.
What are your plans for the future?
In the near future, I will be releasing another album in February 2014 which I’m almost done working on. So my fans can look out for singles and videos coming out soon. I really want to make it big in Africa as well as the rest of the world.
Coke Studio, airs in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania & Nigeria and includes eight 45min shows plus a planned 2 hour New Year’s Eve special. Each episode will showcases an unexpected fusion by various groups of artists to create a unique sound. The show also provides viewers with a behind the scenes look into the artist’s interactions and experiences on set.
In addition to the TV show, fans will be able to watch and download various content such as video, MP3 and wallpapers on the new Coke Studio Africa website. Entire episodes of the show will also be available on the official YouTube channel. Viewers across the continent have the opportunity to win various prizes including autographed posters, Coke Studio kits and branded merchandise through the show.