About a week ago, I was watching NTV’s Lit 360. One of the celebrities being featured was none other than the legendary Wyre.
His new song called “Wanilinda” was the topic of discussion and while having a chat with the presenter about it, he said something that really impressed me.
He got the beat for the song from the popular Jamaican riddim “Superior Riddim”, which was released in 2004. Wyre mentioned that he kept asking around for the producer who created the riddim and when he found him, he asked for his permission before he used it for his song. After completion, he went the extra mile and sent the final track to the producer for a review and honest opinion before he finally unshackled it to go rule the airwaves.
“Superior Riddim” is one of the old Caribbean beats that have stood the test of time. Unlike modern-day riddims, which usually get boring after a month or two, this creation remains a staple among Reggae lovers. It consists of over 20 tracks, with standout songs from heavy hitters such as Morgan Heritage, Gentleman, Sizzla and Turbulence.
Whenever one of the songs on riddim gets played in Kenyan clubs, revellers usually get on their feet to dance while leaving their drinks unattended, forgetting the looming danger of kuwekewa mchele (getting drugged). That’s how good it is. The only fear is usually when a human with a cap, who also happens to be dancing Odi, moves near you. At that, you hold on to your phone tightly otherwise you won’t know how it disappeared.
In case you are not a reggae and dancehall fan and you are wondering what a riddim is, I’ll educate you briefly.
In Jamaica, producers usually create a single beat then give it a name e.g. Mashakura Riddim…haha. A producer then invites several artistes to sing on the riddim. That’s why it’s common to hear different Jamaican songs with the same beat. Of course, the producer owns the rights to the riddim and artistes are obligated to give him part of the profits they make from their songs.
What Wyre did (seeking permission) is something many Kenyan artistes would never bother doing. In fact, it is something many artistes don’t bother doing.
The infringement culprits are many. Perhaps the government should be more focused on arresting and locking up such people instead of young graduates who have defaulted on their Helb loans because they don’t have good sources of income.
Throughout his career, Wyre has actually been an extremely disciplined artiste. His life model appears to have four tenets: write good music, release good music, perform good music, and when needed, go back home. He has been in the industry for more than 18 years and inasmuch as we’d enjoy it we’ve never had even a single scandal revolving around him. Not even a false rumour.
Beating up a producer? Never! How about an incriminating screenshot from a jilted lover? Never! We’ve rarely even heard news about his love life and family life. For him, it has always been about the music – no side dramas.
How does he even do it? How do you keep most information about you away from the public eye and ear? If he was to ever write a book, it shouldn’t be about his life as a musician. It should be a tutorial on how to be a scandal-free celebrity.
Let’s drift back to Wyre’s craft a little bit. As I mentioned, him going out of his way to seek permission shows just how much he takes his music seriously. It’s thus no surprise that he has been relevant for so long.
For all the years he has been around, Wyre’s style has never changed. Interestingly, his music has never become boring either. This is probably because he knows what he’s doing. If it isn’t broken don’t fix it, right?
Some might argue that Wyre has remained at the top for so long because he doesn’t have a lot of competition. They might be right to some extent. Not many Kenyan artistes venture into reggae and dancehall. Winning a race with only a few people in it is not a big deal, right? No, wrong.
I can argue that not many Kenyan artistes venture into these genres locally because these genres are tough. You cannot say that a person getting high honours in aeronautical engineering is not intelligent because there aren’t many people pursuing the course with whom they can be compared to. The fact that not many people do aeronautical engineering means it’s very complex, hence those performing highly in it should be respected.
Wyre deserves our respect, not only for his longevity and contribution to Kenya’s music industry but also for his discipline. If someone starts issuing a lifetime achievement award to Kenyan artistes, the first one should go to him.
Need more reasons why he deserves proper recognition? He was the first East African artiste to do collaborations with Jamaican artistes. He worked with Cecile, Alaine and Moran Heritage. He was also the first African to be crowned Best New Entertainer at the International Reggae And World Music Awards (IRAWMA). He was also once nominated for Best Male Artiste and Best Live Act at the World Music Awards.
The man has clearly overachieved. Make him president even. Okay, maybe not president. I am just playing.
Kudos to Wyre!
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