‘I got started in music by accident’, confesses Kenya Kondo, who aspired to a career as an astronomer as a teenager in Kenya. His mother bought a second-hand guitar from a local carpenter and Kenya began learning covers ranging from Simon & Garfunkel to Mowtown to Matchbox 20. As his musical interests grew, so did his fascination with science, leading him to the astronomy program at the University of Alberta. The harsh weather paired with the challenges of transition became a rich source of lyrical inspiration.
Kenya released his debut album, “Wait,” last week in Edmonton while already garnering international support from his website. He took some time to share about his process.
Kenya confesses he does not have a disciplined approach to songwriting, however significant turning points in his life have proven an easy source of inspiration. Moments when the internal editor is overridden and he gets in touch with pure creativity. These moments produce a strong urge to express an emotion which is what he strongly connects to in other people’s music.
The song “Moses” came from such a moment of emotion. Kenya had a half hour break between classes. He was dead tired from working an early morning shift at a fast food restaurant before his first class, and the stress of the academic life, paired with loneliness and loss overwhelmed him. The song came from this painful moment along with the lyrics, “Moses was in pain, he is my brother.”
After tapping into such raw emotion for inspiration, the rest of the song came easily by writing it for a different voice. It seemed the song naturally loaned itself to being sung by someone else and writing it from this perspective helped Kenya to connect the lyrics to the emotions he was feeling without the fear of being judged for his vulnerability. However, when he began pulling material together for live performances, “Moses” seemed to flow into his set and became an important song on his album. It took him a few scratchy demo versions before he found his own voice to sing the song.
The reaction to the live performance of “Moses,” always surprises Kenya. He does not feel it is a catchy song. It has a dark subject matter written over a very simple chord progression. Still, it is one of the songs that seems to connect most with people. This connection is what Kenya values most, over and above the process of songwriting, for which he is still developing his own love-hate process.