Shari Afrika is an award-winning singer, songwriter, creative director, teacher, chef and a human energy drink for people. We talked with the folk-pop powerhouse about her upbringing, personality, Nairobae and her top 3 albums.
How would you describe Shari Afrika over the years?
Enigmatic, bubbly, a human energy drink for people, smart, kind, warm, powerhouse, the most awesome human alive.
Most of us know you through music, tell us about other aspects of your life.
I’m a private-public person(Chuckles)
I’m an artist in various ways. I can do anything with my hands creatively, cook pretty well, teach about life, love to inspire, roll my tongue, love God so much, enjoy evening walks alone, and love humanity, especially children.
What does music mean to you?
Music is something that lives inside me. It saves my soul and helps me to assist others in whichever way they can relate to it. Music is me.
Describe your earliest musical memories
That would be a lot of music festivals ever since I was old enough to speak. Coupled with influences from what my grandfather would listen to often which was benga, rhumba and ohangla music
If I showed you back then when you started what your career would be today, what would be your expression?
Grateful that I did something about the dream. Blessed that the dream is actually unfolding.
What makes you keep on writing and recording music?
When the music wants to be made it’s like an involuntary itch that you end up liking. When a song is ready to be heard, it just makes me do it. But the reason why I go ahead and do it is because I am curious to see what the destination is for me.
Of all your songs which one do you love most and what makes it special?
The last song I wrote before this question is always the answer. I wrote this really dope Benga song yesternight and I’m obsessed. I feel like I’m watching the ocean when I listen to it and I feel like I’m at my wedding when I sing it.
When you write stuff for your music is it random stuff or?
It varies per song.
Sometimes I write out of necessity so I create concepts and build around them, while sometimes the music chooses its subjects and I just flow.
I’m always intrigued about the identity process artists go through initially. That process of understanding who they are or what their contribution is. Do you have a complete understanding of where you stand?
It has taken me quite a number of years to have an understanding of who I am right now. It’s a never-ending cycle.
I get confused every now and then but I always fall back at the same point. That’s how I know that I am a mouthpiece for those who came way before me, a teacher of culture and tradition through music, a healer through sound and vibration, a sister through humanity, a child of God.
What are your top 3 all-time favourite albums?
Nairo Bae is exquisite when you understand what it’s about in the manner that I do. It tells a story efficiently and gives you that Naifobi feel.
What will the next five years look like? Are you projecting or just going with the flow?
Projections are inaccurate. Nobody can see their future precisely. So these days I create visions, make plans, execute, and hope for the best. It’s only up from here.
Let’s talk Nairobae. What does it mean to Shari Afrika?
The life of a bae who lives in Nairobi in the dating scene.
It’s a provocative project that aims to talk about the soul of Nairobi as seen through my eyes. In some ways, I view it as my true genesis as an artist who now knows themselves.
What inspired the project?
I have lived here for 4 years now and I’m still in awe of it each day! It has so much soul! So much good! So much worse! But we make it beautiful anyway
Take us behind the songs and their meaning.
Tuma fare touches on story ya kutuma fare alafu inakuliwa. But I’m telling the guy not to worry, there’s still someone who will come when you send the fare.
celebrates all the Jaba lovers and takes away the spotlight from the story za Jaba and focuses on showing them, love.
talks about the hookup culture in the entertainment scene. How “love” happens quite fast at concerts.
touches on the sponsor culture in Nairobi and how the Kilimani girls can give you pressure to long for that kind of life too. Finally, Dreams remind us to stay grounded. To keep grinding knowing one day itajipa.
This interview with Shari Afrika is from our debut magazine you can read it here