KENYA: Makosa - Murfy's Flaw
Updated: Jan 20
The African rockers show they're more than just an average group with a funny band name
The word ‘Makosa’ is Kiswahili for “the evil that men do”, which to me seems rather ironic given the fact that Makosa, as an album, tells me much more about the goodness that women can do. This is not necessarily through any kind of feminist lyrics that focus on empowering womankind, rather they get across this message not just simply through the fact that a band made up predominantly of female musicians, which in itself should be celebrated in a genre dominated by men, but also due to the fact that they are able to evoke such powerful feelings. If there is one thing their debut album does best, is that it makes me smile. Perhaps the band’s magic ingredient that enables them to do this so effortlessly is the rawness of their music and the authenticity of the connection that the six of them have.
“They remind me of a band that I saw play at an open-mic night in a dingy bar in Prague a few years ago, who were covering Zombie by The Cranberries (not the Fela Kuti song unfortunately), their obvious love for the music, rather than their production skills is what got everyone on their feet, and I feel a similar energy when I listen to Murfy’s Flaw.”
One does not need to go to a show to get a sense of their companionship, nor their love for music. More often than not it sounds like a bunch of friends jamming for their audience as they seamlessly bounce around different sub-genres of rock. I am, of course slightly biased in my praise. This is because like many in the West who have heard that rock and roll music has its roots in Africa, upon searching I have been disappointed to find that there does not seem to be a booming modern rock scene on the continent as their once might have been before it evolved into what we know rock music as today. Therefore, I am perhaps placing an assumption that the group are just delighted to be playing together and expressing themselves despite not being in the mainstream within Kenya. Perhaps this is wrong of me, but I do genuinely feel like I can hear the smiles on their faces as they play.
In terms of the musicianship it seems that different members of the band all get their time to shine. Perhaps most notably is the involvement of lead guitarist, who goes by the name of 9, whose guitar skills are Hendrix-esque in the first two tracks the punkish Contagious and Rumours. However, in my opinion he really gets his chance to shine when he sings. In the title-track Makosa he takes centre-stage as he accompanies lead vocalist Reema Doshi, occasionally going into falsetto. However, his soulful voice is just as full of vigour on the tracks Unrequited and Been Okay. Like 9, Doshi herself also shows off the power of her voice, particularly in a song about trust called Your Friend. This song seems rather appropriate for a multi-cultural group of misfits looking to make it as a rock band in Kenya, who certainly need to have a lot of trust in one another for the project to work as well as it has, but also to show the wider population that nationality or the tribe in which one is from is irrelevant, and through trusting one another people can come together to build something beautiful.
However, it was not only the vocalists who stood out for me. In the final-track, All I Know, the guitar playing is less hard-rocky and almost has a flamenco or fado-like quality to it. What stands out most on that song, however, is the great work on the keys by Jojo. There is a high level of experimentalism to their music which I like. Despite, all being rock music, it is eclectic enough within the genre and there are obvious influences from other schools of music. For example, Nafasi and Care For Me have a reggae twinge to them, whilst there is an obvious R&B inflection to Out Of My Mind (Butterfly). There are some other great tracks including Only With You which has a Joni Mitchell level of softness to it, despite just about counting as rock. The song which really stood out for me, however, was Going Away. It might just be the sound of the summer. I can imagine this earworm, which is firmly in the school of Fleetwood Mac, being the backing track to a montage in a coming of age film.
Whilst I don’t believe this album is a world-beater, despite its moments of high-quality, it is more about the feelings that it evokes. Although there are some obvious issues with the record, namely its length, I can forgive it for this, partially because it is their first album, but also because they seem like they are passionate about what they are doing and that rubs off onto the listener, making me desperate to fly out to Nairobi and see them play live. They remind me of a band that I saw play at an open-mic night in a dingy bar in Prague a few years ago, who were covering Zombie by The Cranberries (not the Fela Kuti song, unfortunately), their obvious love for the music, rather than their production skills is what got everyone on their feet, and I feel a similar energy when I listen to Murfy’s Flaw. Whilst rock and roll evolved into a different beast once it departed from its African roots, I am glad to know that the rock scene in Africa is still producing bands like this who have an obvious love for the music, which at the end of the day, is all that really matters.