Interview with Kenya’s rising music star Neid Cate

Neid Cate may not be a household name in Kenya's music industry, but she has been featured in several reggae riddims with Jamaican artists like Busy Signal, Burning Faya, Militant Degree and others. File Photo.
Neid Cate may not be a household name in Kenya's music industry, but she has been featured in several reggae riddims with Jamaican artists like Busy Signal, Burning Faya, Militant Degree and others. File Photo.

What began as a casual singing career way back in 2008 as a backup vocalist, it has now become a catalyst that would propel Neid Cate and her eclectic voice to the top of Kenya’s rising stars. As a dedicated musician, Neid is involved in all aspects of the creative process. When writing her own music, Neid draws her inspiration from everything she sees and hears through her everyday life. 2017 has been a breakthrough for Neid as she is set to release new original music that showcases her evolution as an artist. In an exclusive interview, Neid spoke to Michael Wandati about her musical journey and more.

KD: Who is Neid Cate?

Catherine Kuria known professionally as Neid Cate is a down to earth, loving and caring person, just like that girl next door neighbor (laughs!) …hope next door neighbor is not nosy. The name Neid Cate, is a rearrangement of the letters of my first name Catherine which was given to me by a special friend.

KD: What inspired you to join music?

I was inspired to join the music industry by everything happening in my life; people, and the environment surrounding me.

KD: When did you join the industry?

I started my music career when I was still in high school way back in 2008 as a backup vocalist, but professionally, I started in 2012 after recording several songs with different producers at various studios like Calif Records — where I featured Genge singer Raudy on a single titled Nilikupa, then moved to Mandugu Digital, and later at Vineyard Studios including some other upcoming recording studios.

KD: How would you describe your music to people who are just getting familiar with you?

If you want to have tips on love and inspiration, then this will be your girl right here. I am versatile in doing different genres of music which include reggae, hip-hop, and R&B.

KD: What are your songs about and who influenced your style?

Mostly I do love songs, but in general, positive music is what I love giving out there… I love Celine Dion style.

KD: How do you separate yourself from other artists, what makes your music unique?

I wouldn’t say am special than my fellow artists, but I put my music into consideration to my fans and the society at large, I do more of doing than just words.

I use my music as a platform to give hope to other upcoming artists, and together with my team Kenya Music Co-operative (KEMCOOP) — an initiative that supports and empowers talents collectively under a mutual principal of collective bargain, collective purchase and collective sharing — we do try to make sure that we give artists everything needed (mentoring them) to better understand the industry.

KD: Any challenges so far?

Airplay, airplay, airplay is the major challenge despite the government’s effort trying to impose/regulate local broadcasters with ‘local content law’ that is set to ensure 40 per cent (9.6 hours) of local content broadcasted on radio and television stations is locally produced.

Another daunting challenge is music piracy which is seriously hurting our industry. But all these challenges have never held me back from giving the best to my fans.

KD: What do you find to be the most challenging part of being a musician in Kenya?

Lack of unity is rife amongst Kenyan musicians. We don’t know what is called togetherness. Most of the musicians are driven by ego and are full of envy. Very few established or seasoned artists embrace and support the upcoming ones.   They have forgotten that music business is built on relationships; you just don’t take advantage of other people.

KD: What are your thoughts on the current trend of music in your genre?

The music of Kenya is one of the most diverse in the continent. With an assortment of popular music forms in addition to multiple types of folk music derived from the country’s more than 40 regional languages resulting to genres like Benga, Hip-hop, Reggae, Rock, Soul, Zouk, Taarab, and others — with my diversity and flexibility, I think I am well accommodated in our industry.

KD: Any achievements for you so far?

Above all, I have acquired knowledge. I have learnt and understood my industry better than I knew it before, and now, I know what to expect in my journey towards my music career.

Another career changing achievement, I have worked with different artist in Kenya whom I respect a lot, I have made collaborations with several United Kingdom artists, and currently I am working with an artist from Mozambique. It is by God’s grace, talent and self-determination that I have had international exposure which every hardworking artist deserves.

KD: Has there been one particular moment in your musical career that you’re most proud of?

Yes. My music got airplay internationally as I have mentioned earlier, Tanzania, Jamaica, Ghana, Mozambique and among many other different countries.

I am so proud that I have been featured in several reggae riddims that consist of big Jamaican artists; Introspect Riddim, Avatar Riddim and Uptown Girl Riddim –that featured artists like Busy Signal, Burning Faya,  Militant Degree, Sean Taylor, Dizzo and others. I have also been featured in Kenyatta Riddim, Kingsmen Riddim, featuring Kenya’s most respected reggae artist like Sir-ne, Mc Starter, Ndocha, Tony Tire, Diddi, Dafari, Scata Bada, Blaxta G Max, Macka B, Lenn Hammond and others.

KD: Who are some of the artistes you have collaborated with and who are you currently working with?

I have had a chance to work with Halftime, Kdwag, Kennet B, Mashifta, Kitu Sewer, Kingskoh Ligh, Wazo Crew, HD Mwas, Raudy, and Adel the producer on several single tracks and mixtapes. Currently, I am working with Wazo Studioz in a series of tracks, Don Gas, Bernsoft, Pacho, Spikes and an artist from Mozambique, Davie are all in my current collaboration working list.

KD: Who produces your music and how many songs/albums do you have so far?

I am currently working with Wazo Studioz. The production house has done almost all my tracks. So far I have one album “Charming,” in total I have done 15 tracks and more are on the way.

KD: Do you belong to any Musician’s Union?

Currently we have no Union in our industry, but I am in Kenya Gospel and Secular Artists Federation (KEGSAF) which is working as a Union for now. Since we have different and several Music Associations in the country, I am also a member and a chair in Kenya Music Co-operative (KEMCOOP).

KD: What would you change about the music industry in Kenya?

I would change the perspective that we have no content or origin in our music, and let the critiques know, there is a lot of good stuff if you get a chance to listen to our own production. This applies to our media and Kenyans at large.

KD: Are you financially able to fund costs of establishing your music career?

Getting a music career off the ground is not only hard work — it also costs money. But the simplest ideas and creativity can deliver big payoffs. Yes, I am financially able to fund the costs, and I thank God for that.

KD: Who handles your daily business activities like bookings, promotions etc?

Peter Njenga (Halftime) and Kevin Mwangi (HDMWAS) handles my daily business activities from production, bookings and promotions.

KD: What is your dream project?

I have always thought of establishing a children’s home especially for streets kids, and a music school that will be free to everyone who is artistically talented, but financially unstable.

KD: Do you have any advice for up-and-coming artists out there?

Never take your talent for granted. There is a reason God gave it to ONLY you. Above all, pray and talk to your God to see you throughout your career and never forget where you came from.

KD: Give a shout out…

Let me start with Kampala Dispatch and people of Kampala, Uganda for embracing us. To all my loving and supporting family, friends and the people who make me wake up and get to do what I love most (my LOVING FANS) I love you and I don’t take you for granted, and all the Djs and presenters keep supporting 254.