On International Women's Day, the team at Not Just Ok - East Africa give the spotlight to nine leading ladies in East Africa's music entertainment. From music, shows, fashion, labels to mega hits - all these women have made a huge contribution to East Africa's diverse music scene. As they continue to make major moves, we feature each one and highlight their star power in honour of Women's Day.
You can't discuss the past three years of the Ugandan music industry and not mention Team No Sleep's front lady. Ever since she reinvented her career and bounced back on to the music scene with her single "Ice Cream", she hasn't looked back. She's pushed everything she's involved herself in an extra mile in regards to music.
From having a successful maiden concert to winning at award shows and representing Uganda on a continental level, Queen Sheebah has navigated her way through the industry to become one of the most consistent female acts in the region. In the process she has cultivated a fan base known as the "Sheebaholics". They look up to her because she has gone against the odds to be one of the best that UG has got to offer.
Crowned at the AFRIMMA awards as the East African Female of the year, Cindy continues to run this music scene as the best to ever do it in the region. Last year we saw her make some big moves like get signed to Kenya's Grandpa Records and taking on an East African tour that followed collaborations with other East African acts such as Wahu.
Her energy stands out through her works from the studio production and onto the stage performing. This puts her in her own lane as she continues to grow her "Team Cindycate" fanbase and reign at the top. Earlier this year we saw her premier her single "Run This City" on BBC Africa which she has shot a video for, we can't wait to share it with you here.
It's not a complete list without the rap queen on it. We featured her on our list of top albums and EP produced in East Africa last year:
Keko continues to make her presence felt and known in a masculine dominated rap game and clear proof of that is her verse on one of last year's hugest projects from Uganda, the Vuqa Cypher. She held her ground with the gents and fully represented as the only femcee on the cypher.
However keko hasn't made it to the top without some tribulations and challenges like drug abuse which she's been open about and in return used her platform to address the challenges. In her chat with CNN she talked about her organization "Sober Up So High" which is to address such issues among the youths. Keko continues to carry the flag, inspiring Kekonians and last year she scooped to major awards at the UG Hip-Hop Awards (Female rapper of the year & mixtape of the year) in addition to releasing an award winning mixtape plus her debut album.
Crowned the Female Artist of the Year at the Pulse Music Video Awards (2016), Dela is undoubtedly Kenya’s most powerful vocalist. From “Nakuahidi”, “Adabu” to “Paza Sauti” and the best "Hello" Swahili cover, she has proven her prowess in hacking every genre of music. Her soulful rendition of the Kenyan Anthem in 2016 is probably the best cover you will ever hear.
Dela’s afro pop sound has endeared her to a wider audience earning her songs “Mafeelings” and “Third Party Lover” critical acclaim and airplay across the region. Signed and managed by the Taurus Musik group, there's no stopping Dela's upward trajectory.
Fena Gitu is one of Kenya’s most dynamic performers of our time. Describing her sound as Urban Soul, Fena tells stories of young, urban Africa from love, ambition to fun times. Her first album “Fenamenon” was released in 2013 and featured the hit singles: Fenamenal Woman, African Massive and Jabulani.
Fena’s unique sound continues to evolve, daring to do something different each time, while maintaining her cool, calm signature - the Fenamenal sound. Making a name for herself as one of Kenya’s top live performers, Fena already hosted a sequel to the Fena Unplugged event (February 2017) which was successful. The first acoustic session she held in 2016. It's safe to say that Fena is claiming 2017 already, already ruling music charts with new releases like “Sema Ngw’e. She is one inspiring young woman to watch.
Kenyan songstress Mayonde is carving out a place for herself in the music scene. Currently riding high with hit singles “Nairobi” featuring Stonee Jiwe, “I’m Feeling It” with Blinky Bill and Muthoni DQ and the mega release: “Kama Kawaida” a collaboration with Fena, Muthoni DQ and Kagwe Mungai, she is not letting anything dent her wave.
At a recent Industry Nite event in Nairobi, Mayonde performed a couple of unreleased songs from her upcoming album “Project Purple”. She was so impressive that Kenya's dancehall/raggae king Redsan has already accepted to record a song with her. See their Instagram convo below:
Mayonde dropped her debut album “Magic in the Air” in 2016. Her sultry voice and aura has seen her rise from performing background vocals at Coke Studio Africa artistes to coming into her own. Too much sauce!
You can also call Tanzanian pop princess Miss Vee Money Cash Madame. The young woman is certainly the top from Tanzania and most prolific to say the least. Starting out as a media personality, we loved Vee for her radio features and time at MTV as a VJ. She has since gone out to be a full time entertainer and has done quite well in her career. She is a key performer at several events and festivals across Africa and will be among the headlining acts at upcoming Gidi Culture festival in Lagos (April 15th)
Vee is a certified hit maker and power woman. Her successful releases in the past few months include "Juu" with Juma Jux, "No Mind Dem" with Ice Prince, "Niroge" and "Never Ever". This year, her imprint label Mdee Music introduced the music career of her younger sister Mimi Mars. We featured her here:
Behind every successful man there is a woman. At Navy Kenzo it's Aika. She's the other half of the duo and the major driving force behind the powerful duo that includes one of the best producers from Africa - Nahreel of The Industry. We celebrate the rapper and singer who is also a full out business woman - she manages her own fashion boutique, on top of the affairs at The Industry alongside Nahreel.
On top of producing and releasing their joint solo album AIM, the two are responsible for the careers of fast rising bongo stars. They include Rosa Ree and Wildad. Aika we see you!
Her's is a story of reinventing the self and redemption. Lady Jaydee is one of the most respected Tanzanian singers and known for mega hits like "Yahaya" and "Nitafanya" with Kidum. She took some time off music and many thought that she would never make a comeback. To their surprise she made one and with a powerful story of how she overcame depression and an abusive relationship. She even got herself a new man. Reminded us of the film: How Stella Got Her Groove On. She is set to perform at Kenya's upcoming Koroga Festival diva's edition alongside Lira (March 19th).