2016 was a busy year for reggae-dancehall singer Vaga Vybz, real name Emmanuel Nyarwaya.
He held a series of concerts in Nairobi, Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar, all in the month of December. It was his way of announcing his foray into the East African market.
That journey continued this year, with the release of his latest single, Hakuna Matata.
Last month, Vaga Vybz returned to Kenya and headed to the coastal town of Mombasa, from where he shot a video clip for the song.
Hakuna Matata may not be the first song the Rwandan artiste has released with the East African audience in mind, but it’s the first complete Swahili song he has released to date.
Hakuna Matata is Swahili for “no problem” and like the title suggests, comes in the mould of a happy-go-lucky song.
Vaga Vybz calls it a ‘don’t worry, be happy’ song. In it, the singer urges people to take time off from their day-to-day struggles to dance and play a little bit. “Everyone has to hustle, and work is not bad. It’s part of life and we must accept it,” he says.
“But the thing is, so many people are worried about tomorrow and they forget to live today. Ever since I was born I have never seen tomorrow. All I see is today, and when I see today I give thanks. I’m not saying people should only live in the moment, but people should not forget the moment as well.”
The audio for the song was produced by Pacento of Narrow Road Empire and is already doing the rounds on local FM stations and in nightclubs.
Although recorded in Swahili, the song’s appeal is in its simple and catchy lyrics laid to a groovy beat, something that anyone will sing along to on first listen.
“We’re in the East African Community and basically Kiswahili is the most spoken language in this region. I wanted to extend the song to as many people as possible because I look at Swahili as an African language,” Vaga Vybz said.
He sings in English, Kinyarwanda, Swahili and patois, but the singer intends to expand his horizons and sing in more languages, the learning of which he has already undertaken.
On why he had to go all the way to Mombasa to shoot the video clip the singer explained, “I had to give it a different setting from all the other videos of mine. I wanted to find more of a chill environment, not in town where people are busy and running and trading”.
“It’s a soft song. You wouldn’t want to tell someone to calm down and then the images you’re feeding them are stressful images because music is therapy, to heal and to relax. It’s a family song, it’s a club song, it’s a song that can be enjoyed anywhere, that’s why I chose that kind of setting.”
He adds that Hakuna Matata is not a single but “a part of something beautiful that will be coming out next month and it has other pieces people haven’t listened to anywhere.”
“This project is like a gateway for me into the East African market. We’ve talked to promoters in Kenya and Tanzania and they’re waiting for the project.”
He hopes to pack more Swahili songs.
Vaga Vybz recorded his first single, Juncture, in 2003, and the song fused Dancehall and Hip hop influences. Before that, he had been playing with different traditional troupes in Uganda and Tanzania. Today, he plays with his own band, the Vibration Band. Some of his other popular songs are; Serious, Jam, Love, Man a rasta, and Bad Gyal.