Nikita Kering is an award-winning 19-year-old singer and songwriter born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya. In 2019 at 17, she won AFRIMA’s ‘Best Female Artiste in Eastern Africa’ and ‘Revelation of the African Continent’. She rose to stardom after her song ’Tragedy’ that addressed violence in romantic relationships hit the airwaves. The song was an EmPawa project sponsored by African superstar Mr. Eazi. Born on February 26, 2002, to parents, Joseph and Anne Kering, she attended the Riara Springs Academy, Kilimani Junior Academy and Brookhouse International School where she graduated with a diploma in Business and Technology in Music. She started her music career in 2007 and was mentored by gospel artiste, Emmy Kosgei.
Kering has gone on to become one of the most talented artistes in Kenya. Her works include A Side of Me and EP; her biggest song yet, EX, had up to 800,000 streams in just two weeks after she dropped it. In 2018, she won the Pulse Music Video Award for Best New Artiste. As an artiste, Kering likes making music and chilling with friends. She says music surrounds her and it’s her life. She looks forward to exploring music as she sings across a spectrum of genres including R&B, Afro-Pop, Pop, and a bit of Afrobeat.
In this interview the Universal Music signee spoke about her music career, what defines her music and winning AFRIMA award in 2019 at age 17.
You have once again been nominated for All Africa Music Awards (AFRIMA), which you won in 2019 at age 17. How do you feel about this nomination?
It’s something that makes me very happy; it encourages me to keep on working harder; it lets me know that there are people around Africa and around the world listening to my music. This makes me very happy, and encourages me to work even harder than I am.
What is your view of AFRIMA awards?
When I got nominated, I realised that AFRIMA isn’t just about picking the artiste with the most views or the most famous artiste. They were really looking into the art of the artistes, understanding where we are coming from, something you don’t find in many places. I’m just happy that they are able to see real artiste from afar and give them a platform, which I’m really happy about.
What has winning the 23.9 carat gold-plated AFRIMA trophy done for your person and career?
As I like to tell people, the award is never about the trophy itself; the trophy for me is a symbol of the whole process. I’m also glad that I was put on the stage and was able to perform where millions of people around the world watched me. I’m very much pleased about that.
You won two awards at AFRIMA 2019 when you were just 17, what impact did these awards have on your career? And what was your experience like performing at the AFRIMA 2019?
Performing on the AFRIMA like I said earlier was awesome. I got to work with a lot of professionals and experts I wasn’t exposed to at that time because I haven’t experienced the quality of organisations and artistes that I was able to collaborate with.
So being able to get a platform like AFRIMA is heartwarming, interacting with people within the various societies in that environment, whether it is the artistes, the managers, music producers and beat makers at the summit, I was able to learn something from every one of them. The experience has helped me to be a better musician. So, it was more of a learning experience than anything.
Looking at your career before AFRIMA and now, what would you say has changed?
My drive definitely; it has made me work harder. I was able to receive such accolades that I imagined if I put in twice the amount of work than I was and just keep working harder, then the success will be twice or thrice the amount that it was. So, it has definitely made me a different person, made me work harder. It has also given a strong leverage when it comes to speaking to younger people, because when you say you won an AFRIMA award people will start to listen, which is a bit sad because it’s my work that actually projects me not accolades or validation from other individuals.
However, it has afforded me the opportunity to speak to the youths in the language that they understand and I’m happy that it has given me a level of influence that I didn’t have before that. Again, I would have won the trophy and a few seconds of fame and gone back to sit down and bask in my glory but I decided to take that and put in more craft and work twice as harder to make sure that I keep that engine running and that is why I’m here today. I don’t allow a symbol or anything like that to define who I’m. So, I will definitely say that I’m where I’m today because of the hard work I keep putting in every day.
What should your fans across the continent expect as you return to the AFRIMA stage for the second time in Nigeria?
I don’t want to raise their hopes, so they should not expect anything because I don’t know what my plans are. I don’t structure my creativity, I let it flow and I think that is different about artistes. The only thing I will allow them to expect from me is the truth, honesty in my work, which I’m sure they love.
What is your view of the continent’s sounds and which of these do you find more appealing?
I’m a fan of Southern African music, and I’m very happy that we are still being influenced by our cultures from a long time ago. So, I’m very pleased that we are able to keep our identity, preserve and let it grow for musical artiste to find inspiration from. Now, we are beginning to go back into the communities to find out what makes music in their culture. So, I’m just very happy that African music is now greatly appreciated across the world compared to the past. I don’t really like any kind of African music specifically. I have a heart for all of them but I really find a piece of comfort listening to artistes themselves not just about the sound but the message they are trying to deliver. We can consider music in genres but it must not be that one genre is more appealing or superior than the other in my eyes. For me it’s about the artiste and how they are delivering their message.
Talking about Afro-Pop and Afrobeat, particularly Afrobeat, how much has this genre influenced your style as an artiste?
I will say it has influenced me a lot. Growing up in Kenya, mainstream radio stations were playing either Afrobeat or R&B. There was no other thing, except reggae. The night life was completely taken over by Afrobeat and R&B from Psquare to D’Banj. As crazy as the genre was in Nigeria, so it was in Kenya all those days. I will say that it has really been a lot easier for me to be versatile with style and my writing. I know that if I didn’t have such exposure from a young age, it would have been very difficult for me to write music in Afro-Pop.
I appreciate artistes who write their own stuff because it makes the story a lot more personal. So, because I really wanted to be unique, I write my own content. I’m glad that I was able to be positively influenced by all those in the music that I do right now.
What influenced your decision to go into music professionally?
Well, my family is not musically talented. So, sometimes I think that my music is a gift to me by accident. Well, it’s a gift, perhaps I need to go back and find out where it came from. However, I found that my parents discovered I was musically gifted, and that opportunity exposed me and had me perform at family functions, weddings, church and all that good stuff. It really made me fall in love with performing. After that I met Emmy Kosgei and performing with him just made me know that music is what I want to do professionally in my life because I have fallen in love with it and here, we are.
What was your parents’ reaction the first time you told them music is what you want to do professionally?
Well, I didn’t tell them I want to do music because my parents are uniquely different from a lot of parents back then. My mother is a creative person and she is learned. I think she didn’t get the opportunity to explore her creative art, so she allowed me to do my music. As a matter of fact, she instigated the whole process. (Interview courtesy, AFRIMA).