Album Review: Blinky Bill’s intriguing electronic debut

Everyone’s Just Winging It and Other Fly Tales is Kenyan musician and producer Blinky Bill’s debut album as a solo artist. It consists of 12 tracks of raw electronica, hip-hop and funk music, each song a montage that engages the listener in the artist’s vision of Kenya’s new sound.

Blinky Bill poses with his debut album. Photo: Black Major

For those unaware of Blinky Bill’s work, the artist has made a name for himself in the current East African electronic music scene, and it known for producing tracks that pay homage to both modern and traditional sounds.

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The album art for Everyone’s Just Winging It and Other Fly Tales is reminiscent of the late Swedish musician, DJ and record producer Avicii’s album, Stories. Both covers are beautifully done, with an incredible mix of colours and with each depicting the artists wearing their caps backwards.

But that’s not the only likeness between the two albums. Avicii is remembered for his distinct sound, full of soaring synths and keening melodies. This is what differentiated him from many other global producers. Similarly, Blinky Bill’s employment of bass synths and percussive electronic sounds in his music makes him the only player at his game.

Any music enthusiast in Nairobi would tell you that Blinky Bill has always shown a proclivity for experimenting with different sounds and rhythms: he has always been adventurous in his music, experimenting freely with hip-hop, electronica, jazz and funk. Between 2003 and 2015, Blinky Bill was a member and producer of the group Just A Band, but has flourished since going solo, producing some of the most sought-after female artists in the region such as MDQ and Fena Gitu, and now releasing his debut album.

The power of Everyone’s Just Winging It and Other Fly Tales is evident from the start. ‘Lwanda Magere’ is a strong opening, exhibiting Blinky Bill’s ability to make beauty out of melding pleasant sounds and rhythms with what might otherwise be considered ‘noise’.

In ‘Lwanda Magere’, the artist seems to be making a symbolic point. The historical Lwanda Magere was a mighty warrior from the Luo tribe in the western part of Kenya: perhaps Blinky Bill sees himself as a warrior and the undisputed king of Kenyan electronic music?

Throughout the album, it is clear that Blinky Bill has distanced himself from the mainstream musical styles which Nairobians are accustomed to hearing. It is refreshingly free of hackneyed influences from Tanzania, Nigeria or southern parts of Africa, and this can partly be explained by the impressive list of collaborators on the album. In addition to featuring Kenyan acts such as Mayonde and MDQ, the release also boasts appearances by South African singer Petite Noir and producers Hook and GR (Switzerland), Nneka (Nigeria) and Sampa The Great (Ghana/Australia). 

In my view, the strongest track on the album is ‘Oh Wah’, a song which taps into the primary role of an artist, which is to mirror society. With help from Petite Noir and Nneka, the song paints a true picture of Africa’s socio-political scene, and leaves the listener with a forward-looking, revolutionary message to consider. 

One feature that might give listeners pause is Blinky Bill’s vocal performance on the album. When you first hear his voice, its uniqueness is exciting, but as you move on through the album, the delivery becomes rather repetitive and lacking in tonal variety.   

Everyone’s Just Winging It and Other Fly Tales, however, remains a resounding success due to its excellent production values and song arrangements, reaffirming that Blinky Bill is on his way to becoming one of the most important producers of electronic music in East Africa.

Listen to and buy Everyone’s Just Winging It and Other Fly Tales here.

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