Singer, songwriter, and producer roughly sum up who Semo is. In this segment of Artist to Watch we get to feature Semo a debut independent music artist with two amazing singles Lion Heart and her current single From the Ghetto which she’s currently riding high with. The Nairobi-based artist talks to us about ushering in a new era in her musical career, her upcoming projects, and her ambition.
How would you describe yourself to people who don’t know you well? Who is Semo?
I’m a Kenyan-born and raised singer-songwriter and producer. I started making music professionally in 2021 and debuted with my self-produced song “Lion Heart”. I enjoy the whole process of making music which involves writing, producing, mixing, and engineering because I feel like, My abilities don’t have to be limited!
Can you speak briefly about your upbringing and the moments that spurred your interest in music?
I was born in Maringo estate but I have very few memories of the place because I was little, then we relocated to Dandora. I remember always being referred to as the creative and artsy kid. I always felt awkward and misunderstood growing up plus I was an introvert and the best way I could express myself was through art because I never liked socializing at all. Coming from a big family of 9 siblings, I was exposed to a lot of music genres I often heard playing in the household and I would say “that” heavily sparked my interest in music.
Did you always want to be an artist?
Yes, but I never knew how to go about it even though I knew I loved music and that it was something I wanted to pursue full-time. Growing up I was a people pleaser, I always thought my parents wouldn’t accept me pursuing music full time (which is weird to me right now, because they are my biggest supporters!), so I ended up pursuing a very tough course in Uni (I have a degree in Actuarial Science btw!)and it just opened my eyes because I really didn’t enjoy any single moment of doing it. It just wasn’t for me.
Kindly share with us what was your first experience with music?
Joining the music club in high school was my first ever experience with music. I used to love going to the club meetings because we used to sing the whole time and those moments gave me euphoria. I got to express myself with music and gained some self-confidence which got me to perform in front of the school on Sundays at the church services we attended. I even started experimenting with songwriting.
How did you develop your musical skills?
Singing for me came naturally but improved with time because I really sing a lot. I always tried singing different genres until I found what I was comfortable singing and what fitted my voice best. For songwriting, I sometimes read poetry just to boost my songwriting skills but most of my songs are actually written from freestyles really plus playing the guitar has also helped in building my sound. For producing, it was all self-taught from the school of YouTube. One of my older brother’s introduced me to the DAW, Fl Studio which was at the time referred to as “Fruity Loops” and I remember just being intrigued by the software, so I taught myself how to use it and make my own beats. I always enjoy learning and YouTube has a lot of information about producing, so that’s how I developed my producing skills.
What is it like being an independent artist for you in these times?
First I wanna say, being an independent artist is tough like I will not even lie about that because you do a lot of things by yourself and it can get overwhelming at times. Although it has its perks like you have so much control over what you do plus you have the freedom to put out your music and you really enjoy the process more because no one’s telling you what to do. But it gets hectic sometimes because of not having a team to help with some of the workloads. It would definitely be nice to get a team that feels like a family and get me and understand my sound, in the future and just focus on writing my music, singing, and producing but for now I’m enjoying every single moment of being an independent artiste and just trying to put out the best music that I can and enjoy the experiences I learn from all of it.
How has your experience been navigating through the Kenyan Music Industry?
When I started I really struggled because I knew nobody in the music industry but I decided to put myself out there and just make music and all I can say is that I have met some really amazing people, artists, and producers in the process and I’m yet to meet more.
How would you describe your style of music?
My music is a blend of afro-soul, RnB, pop-rap, and alternative with different infusions like an Indie rock which is the genre that I really enjoyed listening to when I was growing up. I also love acoustics and would really wanna make calm music that you can just chill and listen to.
“From The Ghetto” is your current release, was there anything in particular that inspired you when writing it?
Yes, there definitely was. From the ghetto is a very personal song to me because the ghetto is my home. I really wanted to tell my story through the song and be vulnerable with the lyrics. I have always felt insecure because of my background and dealt with my share of discrimination/judgement from small-minded people because of where I come from. But now as an adult, I’ve learned to love myself more and fully embrace where I come from because it doesn’t define where I am going. Ghetto has made me into the strong woman that I am today and I wanted this song to always remind me of my roots and get inspired me to work even harder.
Without giving away too many details can you tell us more about the song?
From the ghetto is a powerful inspirational/motivational song that’s relatable and gives out a positive message. Definitely a song you can chill and listen to. Something different, a breath of fresh air, and a positive song to usher in the new year.
At the end of the day, what do you hope your listeners can take from your music?
I want my music to be a source of inspiration, and vulnerability, give healing if possible, and also be music you can just vibe and listen to. I aspire to put out music that’s also relatable and respected. I would want my listeners to enjoy listening to me and feel heard in some way.
What’s the biggest highlight of your career thus far?
So far I think my biggest highlight has been me being able to shoot and put out my first-ever music video for my song (From the Ghetto). It really took a lot of time, hard work, sacrifices, faith, support and just believing in myself to be able to pull it off. I’m super proud of myself and thankful to everyone who took their precious time to support me in making the video and thank God for just giving me that opportunity. I still can’t believe I did it.
What do you like to do in your free time (outside of music)?
I love drawing and painting (it’s my way of meditating plus another source of my income), and I have an interest in photography, sewing, and making hair. I really enjoy being a creative. Anything artsy, count me in!
What good advice that you live by?
I’ve had to unlearn so many pieces of advice that I took in the early stages in my career which I thought were “good” and just believe in myself and do me. I have three advices that I live by now and they have really helped me along the way and they continue to push me further
- Start now because there will never be a perfect time to start and you will never have everything figured out.
- Get out of your comfort zone as much as you can, you will never grow if you don’t.
- Being you is your biggest asset so be proud of yourself.
Where do you see yourself as an artist by the end of this year?
I see a lot of growth and manifesting a lot of opportunities coming my way. I want to look back when the year ends and be proud of the beautiful music I made and put out and hopefully hope it would have resonated with someone.
What’s next for you?
I have a lot of unreleased stuff and just thinking about it, I can’t wait to put it out because it’s really some of the best music I’ve written really. Also, I don’t want to give myself specific expectations as an artist because I feel like if I don’t reach them it would make me really sad and disappointed plus also I feel like they kind of like dim my success and boundaries I could reach. I’m a big believer of God’s time is the perfect time so I’ll just do my best, put out the best music I can while enjoying the process, do me, and let God take the wheel.
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