Nairobi Cool’s Best 10 albums of 2020

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Despite the year being horrible, music made our year bearable.

It held our hands. Wiped our tears. Soothed our souls. Walked with us through the highs and the lows. Gave us a beautiful smile and assured us that we would be okay.

Regardless of the hard times, 2020 was s a good year for music. The year brimmed with a lot of talent, creativity, authenticity, diversity, and everything beautiful and unimaginable. Artists were on fire, giving us brilliant and memorable works of art.

It wasn’t easy to come up with this list because, all albums were legendary, but here are our top ten albums;

Midnight Train – Sauti Sol

This is undeniably one of the greatest albums to ever come out of Kenya. It is Magical. Beautiful. Exceptional. Authentic. Powerful. Inspiring. Classic. Words aren’t enough to describe how amazing this album is.

The album has 13 songs. Songs that take us on a musical journey of Insecurities, love, hope, sponsors, almost everything to do with life.

I loved Sober. A deep, emotional song that highlights the struggles of someone lost. Someone trying to find their way back to themselves, back home. Sometimes we become the people we try to run away from, and this song reminds us that it’s never too late to change. That we are never far away from home. It is hopeful and uplifting and so are Brighter Days and Midnight Train.

Insecure, Feel My Love and Nenda Lote are beautiful songs that talk about the struggles we go through in life. Struggles with ourselves and those of the heart. To love and be loved. And to find peace, joy, and stability.

Disco Matanga with all its energy and vibration, I believe is a song that can bring the dead back to life. Suzzanna was a masterpiece and so was Rhumba Japani, My Everything and Wake Up.

Is there a song in this album that’s unlovable? My favorite was Nenda Lote and people who don’t like this song need a physical and mental examination. Because something isn’t right.

Midnight Train has great sound, lyrics, mad vibes and lovely voices. It is Mind blowing. What more could you ask for?

Jungle Fever – Octopizzo

When you hear of a musical evolution, this is what it sounds like. Octo decided to give us differently this time, creating an afro – rap rhumba fusion that is out of this world.

Jungle fever is Unprecedented.  Legendary and special. A fine artistic production and one of the best albums Kenya will ever have. It is a blend of beautiful quality sound, killer beats, mad lyrics, crazy talent and creativity. It is smooth and entertaining, full of good vibrations, energy and life.

City Cabanas is a great tune. A lovely witty song with Ohangla vibes, a remarkable sound and features the most talented and distinctive vocalist Idd Aziz. They team up again to create a sensational track Good Morning Africa. A beautiful track with traditional sounds and lovely instrumentals. Idd brings a different vibe to the song, giving it a lovely melody and authenticity. It makes you proud to be an African. They collaborate again in Dungu, to create an incredible song with some Ethiopianish vibes.

Lela featuring renowned Suzzana Owiyo is phenomenal. The rap star decides to finish us by teaming up with  Blinky Bill and Zzero Sufuri in Kibanda. The track is dope. Has amazing beats, a smooth flow and great vibes. Could a song get any better?

Octo teams up with the legendary singer and songwriter Maga, to create Swaga Za Wapi and the lovely Zambe. He also features Owino Kitoto in the beautiful Plus One.

The songs are outstanding and so is the album.

Dala – Nina Ogot

Nina Ogot is a phenomenal singer, songwriter and performer. Talented, unique and blessed with a beautiful, soulful voice that can get addictive.

She is known for combining traditional sounds to create contemporary music sang in English, French and Dholuo. If Africa had a sound, I bet it would be hers.

Dala is a Dholuo word for home and indeed the album feels like home. It is relaxing, soothing, and speaks to your soul. This is a masterpiece and the lovely band working with Nina makes Dala heavenly. If this album doesn’t get you in a good mood, lift up your spirits or take you to another world, then I don’t know what will. 

In a recent interview, Nina confessed the album was inspired by pan African rhythms from Joseph Ngala’s Bango, Fela Kuti’s Afrobeat to Manu Dibango’s Soul Makossa and Joseph Kabasele’s Rhumba. If you love these legendary people, then you will love her sound.

My favorite song in the album is Yuwapi. A beautiful song about a bride who fails to show up at her wedding. It has a slow rhythm, great instrumentals, and makes you want to get on your feet especially at the end of the song.

Tabasamu is also another lovely track that gives you good vibes. And reminds you to be jovial no matter how life is. Rafiki is a great track too and so are the other songs that are beautiful and eccentric in their own way.

The ten track album is absolutely magnificent and timeless.

Nyashinski – Lucky You

Ever since Nyash came back, he has been unstoppable. Releasing hits like Malaika, Hello, Mungu Pekee, Now you know, Marathon Runner among others. You cannot afford to compare him to another artiste because he is on a level of his own.

In April, he released Lucky You, an authentic quality album that is a mix of Pop, Hip Hop, and RnB. It is a blend of good vibes, killer beats, creativity, punchlines and he doesn’t forget to address societal issues.

Luck you is a deep song that talks about the struggles of an artiste. Lack of privacy and being under scrutiny 24/7. He talks about how outsiders think it’s easy for him, yet they don’t know the battles they fight behind closed doors. He reminds us that he had to go off topic to reward our ears. Its message is intense and hence the name of the album.

Lyrically, I feel Glory was the best written. With awesome beats and a powerful message. Traveler is a good poetic song that might sound cold but reminds you that sometimes beautiful things are momentary.

Wach Wach is undeniably the people’s favorite song, if not the best song on the album. It has great beats, a smooth flow, a good message and slaps different when you have a good sound system. Other great songs in the album are GOAT, an easy song with a Latino vibe. Too much, a lovely spiritual song. Everyday, a beautiful love song dedicated for lovers and with a great intro and beautiful instrumentals.

Flowers is another lovely song for people in love or trying to be in love. It has an African sound and Acappella-ish vibe. Greener, Time and Fathela are also great tunes.

This album is worth listening to. Diverse and one of the coolest albums we have. The energy and life in it are amazing.

Just in Love – Otile Brown

This guy’s vocals are crazy. Melodious and honeyed. Like you could drown in his voice. Sometimes I have a problem believing that he’s called Jacob. Not that Jacob’s don’t know how to sing. Otile, was on fire this year and so was his album, Just In Love. Some of the year’s biggest songs like Dusuma, Watoto Na Pombe, Regina and Leila are from this album. The album has ten songs and other wonderful tunes worth listening to are; Hit and Run, Pretty Gal, Umedamshi, Dede, Kosea and Zaidi yako.

This guy overworked his year. He deserves mad respect and support.

Kuwe – Serro

Serro is a beautiful lady with a strong, magnetic voice that touches your soul and leaves fingerprints on it. A great performer too.

Kuwe is a glorious album which consists of 14 songs. A blend of genres such as reggae, Neo soul, folk, benga, salsa and pop. The diversity in the songs is great, some are in Kikuyu, Luo and Giriama.

Her viral track, Kasyoki wa Mitumba, a witty love song with benga vibes that put her in the spotlight, is part of the album.

Her album has beautiful love songs like Kuwe, an amazing song about a lover afraid of losing their loved one. Aheri, a smooth moving Swahili song where a lover questions a drying relationship that’s running on broken promises and false hope. A very relatable song. Mtumwa is another emotional love song that talks about someone enslaved in a relationship where their love is not reciprocated.

Níúradukania, this kikuyu love song can’t play while you are seated. It gets you in a great dancing mood, good vibes and energy. Mama is also a lovely song that appreciates mothers.

Serro and Mutoriah the producer, collaborated to give us exceptional music that’s soothing to the heart and mind. Other great songs on the album include; Niind, Ya Dunia, Ahiko, Okello and Hey Baby.

Qwarantunes – Bensoul

Bensoul, a talented singer, songwriter, and performer blessed us with Qwarantunes. A beautiful EP released in April when there was a Lockdown and we couldn’t travel to see our families or our loved ones.

Qwarantunes is touching. Beautiful and Breathtaking. It was medicine to the soul. Still is.

Forget you is the first acoustic song off the EP. A lovely song that hits deep in the soul. It has a lovely rhythm, instrumentals and reminds you of someone special, whether in this world or the other one. This song is timeless and a rare piece of art.

Bensoul knows how to trigger emotions and in No Kisses, you can’t help but feel the intensity and the overwhelming emotions. It is a beautiful moving song, of a love turned cold. A lover reminiscing the good times, questioning what changed because they can feel their lover slipping away from them and they don’t know what to fix because they don’t even know what’s broken. The lyrics are amazing and I love when he asks ‘Am I needy when I’m needing you?”

Salama is another acoustic jam, a prayer asking for protection for those who had no choice but to go to work despite the rising cases of infections, worry, tension, and police brutality that was experienced during that time. It is uplifting and inspiring.

Peddi is the fourth and final song off the EP. It is a happy tune. With killer beats, good vibes and gets you in the mood to have a good time. Alone or with someone. It is a partner’s plea to be a love peddler to their lover.

 This was outstanding.

Shift Happens – Emma Cheruto

Emma has a beautiful sultry irresistible voice. A talented RnB singer. Her Debut EP (Extended Playlist) is fire. One of the best RnB albums of the year. Her vocals, the beats, the tempo, instrumentals, lyrics, everything about this album is amazing. It is chilled, soothing and entertaining. This is a masterpiece. A sample of what the future sounds like.

Shift Happens revolves around the cycle of love, expressing the passionate highs and the heartbreaking lows of relationships. One of my favorite songs is Look What You Did, a slow, deep emotional song with an amazing instrumentals and vocals you get lost in. It talks about a dead love that’s beyond the point of resurrection.

Get Up and Mood are amazing songs with feel-good vibrations that get you in a happy mood and make you feel alive.

Nice Car. This song is thrilling and arousing. It gets you in the mood for uh, romance maybe? I don’t know. If you are one of those people who make playlists for such occasions, this song will do you good.

Switch featuring Valerie Muthoni, is an amazing song as well as Is It Though and Circles, a chilled track where she is waiting for her lover to pull her astray from the circle of things.

Emma did an amazing job and needs more love and support.

Vikky Secrets – Steph Kapela

Steph Kapela, a singer-songwriter and rapper is undeniably the most vocally versatile artist in Kenya. His music cannot be put in a box.

Vikky Secrets is a blend of Hip Hop, RnB, rap, trap, and Afro-pop dance anthems. It explores the roller coaster of relationships, from intimacy and fantasies to the regret of lost love, the good, bad, and ugly.

The album is vulnerable, beautiful, and breathtaking. It gives you chills and some lovely vibrations. The sound is to die for, his voice amazing and the lyrics great.

Pamoja is magical and has a jazzy feel. A charming song that gives you goosebumps. It starts slow with an acoustic vibe, a saxophone, and a piano playing in the background. It then shifts its tempo into a Hip Hop mood.

Ambasada is a lovely tune, as well as Wangu na Wangeci and Waste No Love. Weekend is a sexy romantic song that gets you in the mood of spending time with your lover even when you don’t have one.

The album is sensational. A rare gem, and the other tracks; Mara Ngapi, New Girl, In The Booth, and Taste are exceptional and worth listening to.

Hayawi Hayawi – Jivu

Little is known of Jivu. An amazing talented Afro Soul band that consists of Uncle K and Chege Anderson. These guys are great performers, song writers and their vocals are out of this world.

Hayawi Hayawi is a beautiful chilled EP with 6 great tunes. It is smooth, entertaining and has a distinctive sound, blended with creativity and great messages.

I love Watasema. A lovely song with great beats, a slow rhythm, and a beautiful sound. My favorite is Nakupenda Bado. The instrumentals and the beat are crazy. It is about a lover who questions their partner asking why they left if they claimed to be in love. Clearly, the lover has not moved on and reveals to the other that they still love them. Amsterdam and Hellen is another great track. Of a girl trying to find satisfaction in riches and people to fill the void in her life.

Mariru is another fine-tune, and they nailed it on Struggle. A phenomenal track that is a certified banger.

African Popstar-Nadia Mukami

Nadia Mukami invented her own sound, so signature that at some point she was accused of her songs sound the same. But the last three years, Kenya has witnessed the birth, the growth and the finessing of one of the greatest superstar to ever emerge out of Africa.

Wangu featuring Sanaipei was arguably one of the best songs last year, pairing not just two of the greatest songstresses, but the beat and the lyrics were super relatable.

Jipe would have enjoyed a lot of airplay in night clubs but sadly, Covid-19 happened.

Currently, Nadia is a ball of energy and she seems unstoppable. She works hard, writes good music and seems to be having the best chemistry with her producers and some of the best names in the industry. Her collabos are worth a listen.

Other awesome albums released this year are My way by Wendy Kay and Honey by Wanja Wohoro.

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