Dela Maranga continues her reign as the Kenyan queen of Afropop and soul and XACCESS is so there for all the cool-girl, down-to-earth but still larger than life realness that she brings. The singer had a quick catch-up with us and it was clear that she had a renewed energy and zest for life that is a rare thing in the industry.
You’ve been featured in so many events since last year. Was it your plan to switch things into high gear?
I’m putting in work. I’m out to get this money!
Which event stands out for you?
Koroga was a good one. The one I performed at, I really liked that one. Sometimes I don’t use a live band when I’m performing but when I get the chance to do it, I love it. I prefer doing it in the moment, it’s more flexible, there’s a certain richness to it and people get discovered that way. It’s a great experience and I think you interact with the audience better with a live band.
Your creative process, how do you come up with ideas for songs?
Sometimes I think up a line and in my head I’m like ‘this is genius,’ so I build a song around that one line. But sometimes I get a melody in my head and if I like it and think it’s catchy, I go to the studio, I record it then I write the lyrics and the song is developed. Inspiration comes in many ways though; from something you hear, something you see, something you feel.
Which artistes do you take inspiration from in your work?
Other than the African divas of my childhood like Yvonne Chaka Chaka, M’bilia Bel, Khadja Nin, Tshala Muana, you name it; these women were beautiful, they were feminine and they had attitude so I draw a lot of inspiration from that. I love Brenda Fassie also Tiwa Savage, how she does her thing is great, her music is pop but soulful at the same time. These strong women, that’s what I’m about.
How do select which artistes to collaborate with?
I like working with artistes who are going to challenge me musically. Ones who’ll take my music to the next level because it’s easy to stick to your comfort zone. I want to be a fan of an artiste first before I decide to work with them because how will many fans react to that person’s music if I myself don’t like the music they are making? We’d end up clashing in the studio. I can’t work with just anybody because the product has to sound good in the end and lift you up as an artiste.
So which would you love to collaborate with, whom you haven’t work with before?
I would love to work with Tiwa Savage, I think we would mesh really well. I would also love to work with WizKid, he’s doing amazing things.
What was the Coke Studio experience like?
That was a definite high-point in 2016. It was so much fun, I learnt so much from working with other musicians, my understanding of what music is grew. These were some big people in the industry I had the pleasure of working with so just seeing their outlook and process was thoroughly enjoyable. Plus the song came out amazing!
Describe your style
My style is just laid back. Sina maneno mob, I’m the laid back queen. Just once in a while when I want to surprise people, I surprise them. But I’m so laid back. I usually work with a stylist for costumes on stage but for the most part I just wear clothes I feel comfortable in.
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