Classical Music Home

Welcome to Naxos Records

Keyword Search
 Classical Music Home > Naxos Album Reviews

Album Reviews

See latest reviews of other albums...

Martin Sinnock
Songlines, July 2020

Excellent debut album of East African pop—Kenya believe it?

This is the debut from an extremely versatile singer and guitarist from Kenya. Fadhilee Itulya’s music is a modern fusion of world music and pop with an underlying influence from the Luhya music of western Kenya. Although this is his first recording, he has been performing professionally since 2008 and he hosts a popular monthly gig called Fadhilee’s Garage, an intimate performance that takes place in different residences and is a showcase of local talent.

On this album he deftly switches between modern and more traditional material in a way that is reminiscent of late South African Johnny Clegg. ‘Shombo’ and ‘Flora’, for example, are beautifully realised productions with acoustic guitars and lavish female harmonies. Both songs demonstrate the power of his voice. ‘Freedom’ and ‘Tabasam’ are potentially classic stadium rock songs; and ‘Nairobi’ is a tastefully conventional Swahili rumba. These are balanced by four purely traditional songs that feature the isukuti percussion of western Kenya. Kwetu is an impressive and varied debut from an artist who is keen to promote his home country’s music while simultaneously exploring global rhythms, singing in a mixture of Swahili, Luhya and English language. © 2020 Songlines

Tony Hillier
Rhythms, July 2020

Singer, songwriter and guitarist Fadhilee Itulya might well be the most notable Kenyan musician to gain an international release since the late Ayub Ogada. His debut album is a delightful melange of styles, an African all-sorts set that references influences from Mali, Cameroon and elsewhere in addition to his homeland. Kwetu features driving, syncopated, and eminently accessible acoustic folk, pop and rock grooves interwoven with four short chants and percussion tracks that showcase the traditions of Itulya’s native Western Kenya. Elsewhere, this talented troubadour draws inspiration from a style of Kenyan guitar music known as Omutibo and, lyrically, from environmental concerns. © 2020 Rhythms

Marius Meyer, May 2020

Music is a universal means of communication somehow everybody can agree on. One that is valid all over the world. After all, there is also world music. Admittedly, this derivation is a bit wooden, but when you hold the new album “Kwetu” by Fadhilee Itulya in your hands, your first thought is: “Something completely different.” But is that really the case? Not really, because music is a home (which is the meaning of Kwetu) you have worldwide. One to agree on. The great love of the musician, who was born in western Kenya and grew up in Nairobi, has always been the guitar - and it is indispensable from his versatile music.

According to the album info, the music was inspired by Omutibo, a Kenyan dance style, but the influences you hear are diverse. The world music character is particularly evident in the opener ‘Afirika’, with skillful guitar picking, but gets a dominant world music vibe thanks to a flute. Something (the world music) that after this track mostly stays in the background. ‘Zion’, for example, has an exotic touch, but is a well done rock piece in the overall sound and structure, which progresses pleasantly and conveys catchiness. Something that ‘Shombo’ does too, which picks up a bit at the pace and shows how much there is in Fadhilee Itulya’s voice.

In spite of all influences, the artist does not deny his roots, of course, but always brings them close in the midst of the multifaceted sound. With a piece like ‘Nairobi’ you can already say “Nomen est omen” because Fadhilee is singing about Kenya’s capital, with traditional instruments are well woven into the piece. The end becomes really traditional again, because ‘Bandu Milembe’ feels like a ritual dance.

An album that was created to overcome boundaries, celebrates the worldwide language of music and is definitely a tip for friends of world music influences and guitar lovers. © 2020

Torsten Schlimbach
Dream Out Loud Magazin, May 2020

The songs radiate a lightness that the music from Europe now often lacks. “Afirika” ​​opens the door to the musical world of Fadhilee Itulya. Danceable number, but it also holds back in a very pleasant way. “Kwetu” is not a loud album anyway. The musical nuances are sometimes thoughtful or melancholic. “Mama” convinces with a fine accentuated guitar playing.

“Zion” discreetly incorporates a few reggae elements. The lightness of “Flora” takes the listener on a wonderful journey that will make you forget all the crap out there for about just under seven minutes. “Shombo” and especially “Tabasam” have a lot of groove, so it’s pure joy. The latter already goes in the direction of funk. Something that lifts your spirits!

“Mukamulala Shimbuya” is committed to the traditional music of his homeland. With the calm title track “Kwetu”, the man slowly turns towards the finishing line. “Freedom” takes several musical turns and eventually ends up in dance music. “Nairobi” illuminates the beautiful, but also the dark side of the city in which he grew up. “We Don’t Know” ripples before the traditional sounds of “Bandu Milembe” end this debut.

Conclusion: Fadhilee Itulya made a great debut with “Kwetu”. The songs are enriched between folk, funk and pop with traditional sounds of African music. The mix is ​​extremely exciting. The songs are partly permeated with a lightness that is very beneficial. Then there are the melancholic nuances that make you think as a listener. “Kwetu” is a work full of emotions and triggers them. © 2020 Dream Out Loud Magazin

John Warr
AfroBase (totallyradio), April 2020

It’s a stunning album. Fadhilee Itulya has an emotionally charged voice and an honest delivery which I love. The very fine backing arrangements envelope his songs, making this a beautifully produced quality album. The incredible traditional chants, Isikuti percussion and excellent chorus work are really powerful elements not to be missed, and while many of the songs have a strong European influence in the arrangements, the songs ‘Nairobi’ and ‘We Don’t Know’ take me to the rumba, and the song ‘Freedom’ takes me to the Swahili coast. No filler songs here and the overall effect is a heartfelt warmth that springs very much from Fadhilee Itulya’s incredible energy. © 2020 AfroBase (totallyradio)

Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group