Creative of the Week: Serro
Serro (@Serro_) is out to tell the African story through her Benga and Jazz-fused Afro-Pop sound. Influenced by Yemi Alade, Dela, Sautisol, Lira and Winyo, her sound contains hints of Kenyan traditional folk sounds.
Serro has graced numerous stages, while still pursuing her degree in Music at Kenyatta University, from Sondeka Festival to Pawa Festival and her own concert (Kasha). She has ended up in the list of “Top 10 Female Artistes to look out for in 2016” by Kenya Buzz. By the time she was graduating in 2017 (with first class honours), Serro had shared the stage with award-winning acts such as Sauti Sol, Dela, Wyre and added her mellow vocals to Juma Tutu & the Swahili Jazz Band and Ricky na Marafiki.
The video to her debut single , Rongai, released in 2016 was selected in Mpasho’s “Best Kenyan Music Videos in 2016”. The song was produced by Sauti Sol’s Polycarp Otieno and the video directed by VjOne
1. Did you always know you wanted to be a musician? How did you get into music?
I wouldn’t really say always. What I knew is that I loved music, but I couldn’t even allow myself to think of that as a career, (I mean, how do I start telling my parents that I want to do music?) After high school is when I really started looking into it. My parents were actually really supportive and so I applied to study music in KU where I just graduated.
Going into KU, I still didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do with this music thing; would it be choral music or pop music? So I joined the students’ band immediately being the only ‘fresher’ and I loved every single bit of it. So I started looking into how I could do that. I ended up joining Sauti Academy which supplemented what I was doing in KU.
2. What is your creative process like?
I usually tell people that I have lots of eureka moments. I just get random ideas and I just go with them. I will be watching TV then something comes to me, so I have to leave that, grab my guitar and try develop the idea. Sometimes, I also just psych myself up the whole day for a writing session that I’ll have later so that by the time I’m writing, I have so many ideas. Though that never works out, so I prefer the random ideas that just pop.
3. How much do your life experiences influence your work?
A lot! I always try to write stories that people will relate to; and so I usually try to draw from life experiences. Not all of them are necessarily my stories, but I try write about life experiences as often as I can.
4. How would you describe your music?
My music is really a representation of who I am. You can hear some softness to it but also get some boldness and drama in it as well. I also wouldn’t describe it as one particular genre, but it is definitely African.
5. Who are your favourite musicians and why?
The answer to this question always changes depending on who I am really listening to at the specific season. The constants have always been Sautisol and Yemi Alade. I love them because of how they have managed to make the African sound really mainstream plus I just really feel their vibe.
But now, I am really into Nathi and Lira, both from SA. What I enjoy about Nathi is the vulnerability of his lyrics and how he picks the perfect melodies for the lyrics. With Lira, its just the whole package! Her music, style, performances and the way she carries herself with so much grace. She doesn’t try so hard; she just does what she does and it is beautiful to see.
6. What are your thoughts of music in Kenya, what challenges have you faced as a musician and how do you think we can improve the craft?
Kenyan music is beautiful, Kenyan artists are talented, Kenyan music is golden! We really need to realise that there is so much talent on these streets. The problem is that the really good stuff is not on mainstream media. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that what is played in radio isn’t good, but when I listen to all the people who talk negatively about Kenyan music, I feel like they haven’t been given the opportunity to really listen to a wide scope of Kenyan artists. I would like for there to be a time where there is something for everyone on the main TV and radio stations where you will have a reggae show, jazz show, hip hop show, afro-pop show, and for all these to be local content because it really is there. This will also challenge us as artists to produce enough work to be able to provide these shows with content.
A major shout out to all the media outlets that support local artists!
I have faced a couple of challenges actually. Being an artist who is just starting out, finding a producer who you feel gets what you want to do with your sound is very difficult. Also getting the resources you need to fund all that goes into crafting your art is quite the challenge. But it’s all part of the process and that’s fine. I am embracing it all.
7. Your single ‘Rongai’ has garnered you some attention, what was the inspiration behind it?
Like I mentioned, I just randomly get ideas then develop them. The story of this song wasn’t any different. Contrary to popular belief, it is not a song about what I have experienced or gone through. The song actually started to develop a deeper meaning after I started performing it (before it was recorded) and people would walk up to me and tell me how much they relate to the song.
8. What work/project are you most proud of?
The first edition of Jamhuri Festival which was in September 2015. I was part of the house band as a Back Ground Vocalist. It was incredible. I got to meet and work with so many artists and it really was amazing. Then the energy on that stage was just perfect. Did I mention that I play drums? Oh yes I do play, and I played for Wyre at this gig. I was also one of the opening acts of the gig and that’s where Polycarp ‘Fancy Fingers’ of Sauti sol saw me and offered to produce Rongai. So that was an incredible experience. Thank you Tom Olang’o!
9. What advice would you give an aspiring musician that you wish you would have gotten when you started out?
The world owes you nothing and you won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. So just focus on doing what you have been called by God to do and be so good at it that eventually, no one will be able to ignore you.
10. Where do you see yourself in five years?
I don’t really like to talk about the future and just try to embrace the now. But there are some things I would love to do. I have this great idea for an EP which will be incredible once its done, and I also want to work on my first album soon. I also would like to collaborate with artists both locally and in Africa. If all this works out, 2022 looks very promising.
11. If you could collaborate with any musician in the world, who would it be and why?
Yemi Alade! She is just really incredible and her story is really incredible too. Then I feel like she and I will just vibe musically and I would like to hear what that sounds like when put in a song.
Check out Serro’s work and profile.
Facebook: Serro Music
YouTube: Serro Music
SoundCloud: Serro Music
Twitter: Serro_http://www.mwendengao.com/2017/09/18/creative-week-serro/LifestyleKenya,LIRA,music,Sauti Academy,Sauti Sol,Serro,Yemi Alade