Nov 26, 2018 · 3 min read

Blinky Bill | Producer, Songwriter | Nairobi, Kenya

This essay is taken from ONEBEAT ZINE Vol. 1: The Golden Record

Photo: Mutua Matheka

Growing up, my diet was a disparate musical cocktail concocted from the Congolese Lingala music listened to by my father and my mother’s predilection for gospel music of any kind. My siblings and I ingested this, yet we yearned for more. We’d take to stealing my father’s radio from behind his locked bedroom door in order to capture bits of pop music over the airwaves: a mix of Michael Jackson and American Top 40 alongside funky African musicians like Chicco and San Fan Thomas.

I was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya, but for some reason I’ve always had the desire to reach an audience beyond my country’s borders. However, the world operates off an undeniable hierarchy of ideas, giving priority to musical ideas from the U.S., U.K. and Europe, rarely with an emphasis on Africa. By contrast, on the continent we are often very open to international music; visiting any country here, you might truly be bemused by the amount of American music you’ll hear.

OneBeat at The Music Box Village | Photo: Alexia Webster, 2016

One of my least favorite terms is the box of ‘World Music,’ where for years the music from ‘Other’ places has been lumped together. It’s likely that those who coined the phrase meant well and probably had a positive and genuine desire to concentrate exotic sounds for the curious; but it’s simply impossible to contain all the world’s disparate cultures, sounds, ideologies and genres into one phrase.

Great ideas can come from anywhere. With the world being more connected than it’s ever been, the power of genuine global collaborations can generate a huge impact when you let different perspectives have a voice. Bjork, someone I consider a visionary in the music industry, understood this a while back and on her 2007 album Volta she collaborated openly with Congolese band Konono No1, Timbaland, and Malian Kora player Toumani Diabate.

Katherine Suavita Niño, Colombia | Photo: Hannah Devereux, 205

I graduated from the OneBeat Class of 2013 and it’s been one of the highlights of my musical journey so far. The self-discovery that I experienced during OneBeat filled me with the self-confidence to go forth and make my best music yet, collaborating with many gifted artists from around the globe. In my work I bring together my varied ideas and influences to connect to audiences from whichever part of the world that they’ll come from. That’s the beautiful thing about music: it needs no visa.

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