The nomadic community of Kalenjin might be famous for its export of world-class athletes who take to the world stage to win medals for their country, Kenya. But if one searches just hard enough, they, too, will discover a shining star. Only this time, not as one who runs, but one that sings the praises of God, Emmy Kosgei Madubuko.
Spanning 17 years and six albums, the gospel songstress has taken the sounds of Kenya above and beyond. However, being a renowned artiste was never in her plans. She had barely stumbled upon it while exploring her options as a youngster.
“Doing music for me started way back in church. I served in all levels of ministry.” Emmy, as she is fondly called, recalled her days under the guardianship of her parents who owned a church.
“Of course I never went to music school, and I never envisioned myself to be a musician or something of that sorts. It came many years later after college and higher learning. I ventured into music after backing up one Kenyan celebrity star who is my mentor in Kenya. She asked me to join her band. After backing her, for a short while, she pushed me into recording my music. Then I used to model. She advised me to combine my looks and voice.”
When Emmy went into music full-time, Kenya was going through a difficult period. Tribal clashes were rampant and her community is one of the biggest in the country.
“It was a very awkward moment to be doing vernacular music. And I wasn’t sure of the reception.”
Advancing from her backup role to becoming a full-fledged singer, the ‘Ololo’ hitmaker struck gold in the United States after she was invited to several organised festivals. She would later gain popularity in the Christian community in the US. Eventually, her sounds would spread across Kenya with multiple hits to her name.
“One of the biggest concerts I participated in is the MasterPeace in Concert. It happens in Amsterdam. MasterPeace is a global festival that brings artistes from every nation. Their project is peace; to talk about peace in different nations.”
With her level of success and exposure, the singer feels the continent has a lot to offer in terms of music
“I have realised that African music is very powerful. It has so many untapped sounds. And right now the whole world is looking to Africa. What we have is very natural. It is very real.”
In a bid to push the reach of her music, the singer who has lived in Nigeria for seven years with her husband Apostle Anselm Madubuko of the Revival Church pushes for more presence in Nigeria. Although her progress was mitigated by various factors as the pandemic and scouting for the appropriate outfit to manage her, she prevailed.
“Since I came to Nigeria, I have not been able to get a team to work with, but luckily, during this COVID-19 period, one of the best things that happened to me is that I got to meet a producer and a production company that understands my kind of sound. It is so hard to find people that understand this kind of sound,” said the musician.
Ahead of the release of her yet to be titled seventh studio album, she has her first single ‘Malo’ out to moderate success. The track is an afro-fusion sound that explores the Swahili, Igbo, and Kalenjin vernacular.
For Emmy, music isn’t bound by the limits of language, instead, she defines the experience of her music as one in which the spirit behind it is more important than the language of communication.