ONLINE.ON AIR.IN THE STREETS. How Jua Cali Carved His Space in Gengetone – Loud.co.ke

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How Jua Cali Carved His Space in Gengetone

Jua Cali in Gengetone
Jua Cali, Odi wa Murang’a and Swat

Since the start of the millenium, many local artists have claimed the King of Genge Crown, often with meagre success. To many, Jua Cali still remains the Original King, giving contenders a hard time with their conquest. Today, our spotlight is on Jua Cali, who is not only back in the industry, we can say that he never really left. In 2000, Jua Cali, real name Paul Julius Nunda, cofounded Clemo Records in collaboration with Clemo, with the record label quickly dominating the local airwaves with hit song after hit song, a feat only managed by Ogopa Deejays. The lyrically endowed artist Jua Cali has been churning out hit songs since then, cementing his position as one of the most relevant, consistent and influencial Kenyan artist. 

Popular rap style Genge, which ruled the airwaves for most of the 2000s, is a product of Calif Records, with Jua Cali playing a huge role in the development of the style. Jua Cali rocks Genge from the start with his first track Ruka, which unsurprisingly, became a hit. Released back in 2001, Jua Cali joined the likes of E-Sir, who was also just beginning his journey in the game. Jua Cali thus had a worthy competitor who flexed his Swahili prowess without hesitation in the conquest for the crown. However, given Jua Cali’s Eastland roots, his familiarity with Sheng automatically created a niche for his music, with later tracks such as Kuna Sheng dedicated to exploring the use of the slang language in the streets. Jua Cali managed to release four albums, JuacaliSekta, Ngeli ya Genge, TuGenge Yajayo and Mali ya Umma, all heavily rocking the Genge style. His tracks have always been consistent with Genge, until the recent emergence of Gengetone which caught off-guard local artists who had been coasting on their respective genres and not paying attention to the industry. 

Gengetone has become the household music, with the current youth and teenage generations forming the majority of the audience. Local entertainment joints and nganyas plying the usual matatu routes mostly feature gengetone infused mixtapes. Many are of the opinion that Gengetone has rescued the local music scene from catchy Naija tunes to rocky dancehall Afrobeats which initially dominated the airwaves. However the current state is as Rekles put it in Parte after Parte, ‘Na ambia Dj Manaija ni swara’. Although most groups such as Ethic and Sailors have termed their music genre as one different from Gengetone, most of the fans simply refer to the music as gengetone, leaving the groups with little choice but to go with the flow. 

Although several established artists such as The Kansoul, Naiboi, Octopizzo and Khaligraph Jones have either produced or featured in a project with the new Gengetone artists, none of these have been involved in as many tracks as Jua Cali, who is now on 3 tracks: Wale Mang’aa, Inachuna and Nyoka ya Shaba. His appearance in the first two tracks is definitely credits to Vdj Jones, who released the tracks from his YouTube channel. Nyoka ya Shaba is an effort by the radio trio: Kamene, Kibe and Xtian Dela. One interesting observation that stands out is the number of artists on each of the tracks, which is indicative of the fact that unlike other music genres, Gengetone seems to have a collaborative rather than a competitive spirit. Some people have taunted Jua Cali as an artist trying to ride the new airwave although the artist responded on Twitter that the genre borrows the name from the Genge genre, of which he is King hence his affiliation with Gengetone. Whether the argument holds weight is up to the fans to decide but at Loud we believe that the involvement of already established artists in Gengetone has a positive impact on the genre.

Should established artists evolve their music into Gengetone or should they stick to their lanes? Leave a comment