alexa One on One: Elani - Daily Nation

One on One: Elani

Sunday May 18 2014



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BUZZ: When did you officially get together as a band?

In 2008. We were very young, but in 2010/2011 we decided to go for it.

Was it hard to start out in the beginning?

Yes it was because we were not even friends yet. We were just getting to know each other and it was a bit challenging handling three different personalities, but right now we are like a family.

How do you describe your sound and style of music?

We call it Urban Afro because we couldn’t find a word that could fully describe three people from different places with different musical inspirations. When we put it together we ended up with an amalgamation of this huge sound. And as much as everyone’s interest is different, it is uniquely African because we sing in an African setting. It’s just a big pot full of inspiration that we call Urban Afro.

What makes Elani unique and sets it apart from other bands?

We started from the bottom and now we are here — three different human beings raised in three different ways listening to different types of music coming together to make beautiful music. No-one in this world thinks like Brian or does anything like him and that applies to the ladies as well. That in itself is what makes us unique.

Every musician in every band is so unique because they didn’t come from the same place. What we brought was a connection solely built on music. When you hear something from us, it’s a collaborative effort and everyone is giving 300 per cent.

Your latest song ‘Kookoo’ is being received well, what was the inspiration behind the song and the video?

It’s about being crazy in love; all you can do is think about this person when you wake up in the morning, anticipating a simple text. And that’s a feeling that many, if not all of us, have experienced. It is crazy unconditional love.

When we were thinking about a video concept we had to go for something that we felt would touch everyone from children to adults. We found every type of relationship imaginable and we showed what a good thing that is — that’s why people are calling it unique because they know that feeling or they want that feeling. We were able to capture different kinds of people making sure that at the end of the day in as much as we are so different we are looking to be loved and be happy.

Do you write your own songs?

Yes we do, but we do work with other people. Jana Usiku is co-written including Mahindi which is co-written by a guy called Meshack who is just fantastic. But Brian is like the song writer extraordinaire. But the good thing is it’s a collaborative effort.

In a group this brilliant, do you often clash creatively?

Of course, all the time. The same way and magnitude that we are able to make the songs is the same way we disagree when it comes to artistic stuff. It can get very interesting to hang out with us, to an outsider it might seem crazy but it’s been such a long time that we understand how everyone works. Whether we fight or not, as soon as we come to a decision everything is forgotten and that’s the beauty of being together for so long.

Do you play any instruments?

Everyone plays the keys and the guitar. Wambui is better at the keyboard and Brian and I (Maureen) are good with the guitar.

Do you think Sauti Sol and you guys are on the same level?

It’s very difficult to say that because they are a boy group — they have a whole different harmonic thing happening than when girls are involved. That’s why you can’t hear a Sauti Sol and an Elani song and think they are the same because there are girls singing.

In terms of quality of music and vocal ability we’ve always looked up to them, they are the most fantastic singers. We learnt a lot about harmony from them because then we didn’t fully understand the dynamic of singing in harmony.

But if you were to go head to head, do you think you could take on them?

Anyone can take on anybody. That’s the good thing about being a singer. Wambui has something that Maureen doesn’t, the same way Sauti Sol have Bien is the same way we have Wambui who has a husky smoky voice and Maureen has a sharp voice that can go high with a smooth peak. Everyone has something that is unique to them.

Do you have a manager?

No, but we do have a good team behind us. It would be impossible for us to do everything.

Did you ever imagine that one day you would be this big?

We always hoped and dreamt about it. But the thing is you can always get bigger and better and that’s something that we have kept in our minds from the beginning. There’s never a finishing line, we just keep working hard. The thing that shocked us most is the reception from people.

For instance, the song Milele made someone want to get back with her husband. Such comments make everything worthwhile. Giving hope to another human being is what keeps us going. Every single second of the arguments, of not being able to find a producer that understands our music is made worth it by that comment.

What personalities do you each have that make Elani what it is?

We all have strong multiple personalities.

Brian: Maureen is the firm one, she is the decision maker, she is brainy and a perfectionist.

Maureen: Wambui is timely and organised and likes to plan. She is also the class clown

Wambui: Brian is protective, a creative thinker and very calm.

We don’t know whether we are funny in public but when we sit down together it’s the most fun. We laugh a lot.

Are you guys ever afraid that you might break up or head into solo careers?

One thing the band has shown us is each of us can’t do this on our own, and we didn’t think we would get here. The fact that for some reason we’ve stuck together through all the hardships six years in, going back to ground zero will be hard.

If any of us try to go solo from Elani it will be starting from the bottom again. Actually Beyonce might be the only person who has ever done it successfully. And that said, how long ago did they break up for her to get where she is?

What is your ultimate goal?

A Grammy would be lovely, 16 Grammys would be even better, let’s just round that number up and say 20. We want our voice to matter, that’s why we sing. With a lot of power — music gives you power because people listen — comes a lot of responsibility. We want to change the way people think, pass on messages of positivity and responsibility to the young people who are living their lives in a manner that is questionable.

We believe Elani is God’s plan because if we weren’t together there is no way that we could come up with songs that are perfectly produced and thought out. The reason that we have perfect products at the end of the day is all because of Maureen.

You have had hits with ‘Jana Usiku’, ‘Milele’ and ‘Kookoo’. Do you fear that you will not top the last song?

Each song that comes out is scary, and it’s never even about topping the last song, it’s about the fact that you have created something and you believe in it. The one thing that you want is for it to be loved; the scary thing is not getting the message across when you have worked so hard at it. If anything is true to you and genuine then it will always speak to someone.

We can only hope for better than a previous song did. God is the Alpha and Omega and without Him we are nothing, the thing is to work smart and hard and everything will fall into place.