Kenya: Top 22 songs that made 2022 all that much sweeter

By Omondi Were Jnr
Posted on Monday, 26 December 2022 15:53

Nyashinski on 31 October 2022 (twitter: @RealShinski)

This year has been one of the roughest years for Kenyan artists; their craft was questioned, criticised, and analysed in 2022 than ever before. This is despite the fact that during the first two years of the Covid-19 pandemic, Kenyan artists were unable to perform due to restrictions placed on events and entertainment joints. But there were still some musical gems that came out this year....

This year will go down as when Kenyan artists worked their hardest.

Numerous albums were released, hit singles came out from the unlikeliest of quarters, and Nyashinski even showed Kenyan artists they can sell out solo shows.

It’s been a pretty decent year for the Kenyan music industry.

Before we ring in 2023, we take a look back at a few notable songs from 2022 that kept us moving through politics and the terrible economy.

1. Vic West ft. Brandy Maina, Fathermoh, Savara, Thee Exit Band: ‘Kuna Kuna’ 

This song was released in October and climbed the charts so fast.

Vic West put his best foot forward in making this beat; it bangs so hard that somebody in the YouTube comments section joked about playing it six times before the neighbour called the police.

I’ll be honest though, the tune and the choreography (which went on to create a challenge on TikTok) were great, but Brandy Maina’s verse made this song the banger it is.

 2. Prince Indah: ‘Herawa Ni’ 

Prince Indah has consistently flown the Luo Benga music genre flag over the years, ever since he so politely took it from his uncle and mentor Emma Jalamo.

He has managed to create a fanbase so big it transcends his native Luo tribe alone; I have been to drinking joints in the thick of Central Kenya where he is played.

His November release, ‘Herawa Ni’ (Translation: ‘This love of ours’) trended at number 1 on YouTube music in the country for close to three weeks, which is a feat no other Luo Benga/Ohangla musician has ever achieved.

 3. Bien: ‘Inauma’

Sauti Sol lead singer Bien Aime-Baraza is one of the greatest Kenyan musicians to ever do it.

When he released his solo track, ‘Inauma,’ it amassed a cultic following, expectedly though.

There is no more that I need to say about this song other than it was also one of only two local songs on Apple Music’s September list of Top 100 songs most Kenyans were listening to.

 4. Harry Richie: ‘Vaida’ 

It’s safe to say that Harry Richie’s ‘Vaida’ has joined a very limited list of native Luhya songs that have shot to national prominence, alongside the likes of Joseph Shisia’s all-time greatest hit ‘Omundu Omulosi’.

Interestingly, Richie recorded the song by accident, he tells The Africa Report in an interview.

Richie confessed he was done recording his nine-track album when the producer dared him to get out of his comfort zone and take up a different beat; that was ‘Vaida’.

5. Vijana Barubaru ft. Ashley Music: ‘Sasa Hivi’ 

This song first gained public attention when Ashley Music performed its acoustic version on TikTok and Kenyans fell in love with both her voice and words.

What followed was a barrage of requests from Kenyan music lovers asking for the full song, then an official video (which some were even willing to bankroll), and they obliged.

6. Wakadinali: ‘McMca’

On the surface, nobody ever really understands what Wakadinali is talking about in their music.

But, if you listen real closely, you’ll find lessons about such social issues like crime, drug abuse and police brutality, which almost everyone missed in ‘Geri inengi’ – this song should’ve been on this list but it was released last year so, well, bummer.

They’ve released many songs this year as well, and each hits harder than the last, but the one I find most appealing is ‘McMca’.

They talk about USA and USB and Charger Type C and ADHD and a lot of other random acronyms that somehow make sense when pieced together.

7. Fathermoh ft. Shekinah Karen: ‘Dai Dai’ 

Fathermoh is one of the very few Gengetone musicians that have managed to remain afloat amidst the wave that swept through the genre.

He has easily taken over from Rekless and Miracle Baby as the new king of Gengetone hooks and I’m yet to see him disappoint.

He was in his absolute element with ‘Dai Dai’ which was one of the biggest songs on TikTok this year.

8. Otile Brown: ‘Woman’ 

For some strange reason, Kenyans are yet to give Otile Brown his flowers, but man is the biggest artist in the country at the moment.

He was also the very first Kenyan artist to surpass the very elusive one million subscriber mark on YouTube; no scandals (of late), just pure hits and minding his own business.

9. Khaligraph Jones: ‘Mbona’ 

Can there really be a list without the ‘OG’? Khaligraph Jones was in 2018 crowned the ‘Best Rapper in Africa’ at the AFRIMMA Awards, and this year he has stayed true to that course.

But, if we were to pick just one project for this list, then it would have to be ‘Mbona’ in which he played around so much and made it danceable but still managed to remain his authentic hard-hitting self.

10. Willy Paul: ‘Toto’ 

If he ever stops being a brash human being and just, generally, an attention seeker, Willy Paul has the potential to enter the Kenyan music Hall of Fame (Yes, I just made that up).

This was proven when he opened the year with the most beautiful song he has ever recorded since the days of ‘Sitolia’ and ‘Lala Salama.’ The Willy Paul that wrote and sang ‘Toto’ is the Willy Paul Kenyan music deserves.

11. Mejja: ‘Kanairo dating’

Mtoto wa Khadijah’s ability to tell a whole story in a song, and make it funny as hell while at it, is absolutely unrivalled.

He narrated the Nairobi dating scene perfectly in this song that he had us cringing in shame because we all knew what he was talking about and we were all guilty.

12. UncoJingJong ft. Maandy, Brandy, Breeder LW, Lil Maina: ‘Wanjapi’

Many, myself included, have no idea what this song means to date, but it was such a big banger this year that it’s almost too hard to ignore.

13. Breeder LW ft. Mejja: ‘Gin ama Whiskey’ 

Breeder LW almost lost the momentum he came in with in 2020/21, but he salvaged a bit of it with the most important question men ask women when they take them to bars; ‘Utakunywa Gin ama Whiskey?’ (‘Will you drink Gin or Whiskey?’)

14. Nikita Kering: ‘On Yah’

It’s been tried, tested and proven; anything Nikita Kering touches turns to solid gold.

The 20-year-old looks and writes maturely for her age; she fires and never misses – she was on a Spotify Billboard in New York Times Square for crying out loud.

15. Matata ft. Sauti Sol: ‘Oversized T-shirt’

Sauti Sol has had a relatively quiet year because they kind of took a small hiatus where everyone was working on their solo projects.

Matata, on the other hand, has been very busy with an album and tours across Europe.

A collaboration between these two huge groups is something Kenyan music lovers had waited for, for such a long time, and they did not disappoint.

16. Kagwe Mungai: ‘Ghostika’ 

Kagwe Mungai’s last major hit was ‘Mbogi ya Madenge’ featuring Benzema in 2021.

I had honestly given up on him in 2022, but then he came through with ‘Ghostika’ in September and I was right back on his train.

‘Ghostika’ was an anthem to all those clingy ex-lovers who just won’t leave even after all the signs are clear that they’re not wanted anymore.

17. Maandy ft. Exray and Trio Mio: ‘By the Way’ 

You can always count on Maandy to write a raunchy song, always.

But they’re not the type of raunchy songs that make you want to block your ears and switch off the TV, absolutely not. They’re the kind that you listen to and turn to your neighbour and ask: “Did she really say that?” And then you rewind it because it was catchy.

I always say for a collaboration with Trio Mio, all you have to do is tell him how many minutes he has and then watch that boy work.

18. Cedo ft. Nyashinski: ‘Shots’ 

Music producer Cedo’s album – Ceduction – is one of the most beautiful pieces of work I have come across this year.

He finally took himself from behind the shadows and fully embraced the album, travelling across East Africa and sourcing for collaborations with some of the region’s greatest.

‘Shots’ featuring his longtime collaborator Nyashinski is the one that picked up the most due to its bumpy yet still almost casual beat.

I’m not even going to talk about Nyashinski’s verse because we already declared him the GOAT after selling out a solo show.

19. Femi One ft. King Kaka and Mbithi: ‘Hepi’

Kaka Empire queen, Femi One, who was recently crowned the ‘Best Female Rapper in Africa’ at the 2022 AFRIMMA Awards, did not come to play this year.

In ‘Hepi’ she tapped her boss King Kaka and Mbithi the Kamba Boy to give us what they described as the recipe for a perfect party; Money, Friends, and Drinks.

20. Odongo Swagg: ‘Lindah’ 

I have tried to keep this list balanced.

I did not want to have to put two Luo Ohangla/Benga songs, but I could not ignore how fast Odongo Swagg came up and how hard he has worked to claim his piece of the pie this year.

His song Lindah made more TikTok challenges than most urban songs and garnered more than a million views within the first month of release, you have to respect that.

21. Nadia Mukami ft. Arrow Bwoy: ‘Kai Wangu’ 

Nadia Mukami and Arrow Bwoy gave birth to an adorable boy whom they named Kai in March this year.

They then retreated back to the studio and wrote him a moving song titled after him, in which they expressed all their love to him and described their personalities to him. They vowed to always put him first despite their fame.

22. Jabidii: ‘Weka Tick’

Between Ringtone’s social media antics and the likes of Willy Paul and Bahati quietly switching to the secular industry, the Kenyan Gospel industry has not seen much action this year.

Jabidii got back his groove and released ‘Weka tick’ which is probably the only gospel song we could even dance to this year.

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