I was born into a fairly small family. The second and last born of two daughters with a 9 year age gap between us siblings. Which meant that most of the time, my elder sister was away at school while I remained behind. To while away the time, I began developing an interest in music at a young age.
My tastes in music were influenced by my sister who had been a huge fan of the 90s RnB hits from the US and my parent’s love for Rhumba and Soukous. Mum and dad would sometimes listen to loud Rhumba and Soukous music from the DRC on those weekends when they were both home. For a long time, the Kenyan market consumed the RnB hits from the US, before we decided to begin appreciating our Kenyan artistes and playing more and more of their music.
By the age of 10, I knew most of the 90s RnB thanks to my sister by heart, in addition to the new pop ones that came out. I couldn’t quite sing the Rhumba because most of it was in Lingala with a mix of French which I didn’t speak then. But I could identify the ones I liked at that age. I remember my mum once wondering aloud, where I had learnt the music lyrics to many of the songs I sang along to. As you can tell by now, I was gifted in something else (writing), but listening to music was more of a favorite hobby and still is.
Sometime in 2002, Kenyans started being introduced to a lot of Bongo Flava from our neighboring country, Tanzania. At the time, I listened to the likes of TID, Professor Jay, Mr. Nice, Lady Jaydee, Matonya… It was a fresh kind of music that these Tanzanians crooned in the most fluent Kiswahili. It also proved to many, that you could pass strong messages through music. Like I previously mentioned, it took a long time before we began appreciating our own Kenyan artistes. So for a while, Bongo Flava ruled the airwaves together with foreign artistes from the West.
Alikiba and Diamond Platinumz would come a bit later into the Bongo Flava music scene. By then, I was a high school kid and by my estimation, I think these two guys began making hits at about the same time or slightly later for the younger, Diamond. Over time, Alikiba and the then Diamond, who had began with humble music videos, have evolved into two major acts not only in East Africa, but the rest of Africa as well.
I remember us being introduced to a young Ali Kiba singing the single, Cinderella back then. He was a pretty simple guy obviously trying to make it in music.
He would later on go on to produce a few more hit singles before disappearing for a while from the music scene altogether. When he next showed up, it was obvious that Alikiba was a changed man!
In came a polished, more sculpted Ali Kiba, with high quality music videos and even greater music. It wasn’t long before I decided that I really liked Ali Kiba as a musician. I mean, it was hard not to miss those abs in his music videos. His voice was equally a component of his music that I admired. Being signed to Sony Music Entertainment Africa eventually, went a long way in elevating Ali Kiba’s career.
As for the then Diamond, I remember him for Mbagala. It was the first song that introduced me, in particular, to this guy.
He seemed like just a normal next door guy and I didn’t really like his choice of shooting the song’s video, in the middle of an obvious rubbish dump. He looked nothing then like the polished Diamond Platinumz of today. But like Ali Kiba, he possessed the most beautiful of voices, a bit more mellow than the former’s and it wasn’t long before Kenyans took notice.
I once walked into our hostel’s kitchen while in campus, to find one of the lady caretakers who was an elderly woman,watching one of Diamond’s music videos with a mesmerized look on her face. She quickly pointed out to me that she liked the guy and how he sang. Recently, my own mum would seem highly interested in the Salome hit remake of Diamond’s featuring Rayvanny. She went on to ask me incredulously, how I could miss that beautiful voice.
Indeed, Alikiba and Diamond are the kind of crooners, who can reach all age groups with their music. However, in recent times, Diamond Platinumz is touted as the biggest act of the two.
Going by his personal life, he has got a pretty socialite and savvy businesswoman who is older than him in his life and who has already borne him two children. Plus his PR Team seem to really know what they are doing. Definitely, these things have kept him relevant in addition to his consistency, collabos with numerous African artistes and obvious talent.
There equally happens to be a rivalry feud between Diamond Platinumz and Ali Kiba in the Tanzanian music scene. Some of these feuds in the music industry according to my reasoning, are fueled by the comparison fact and especially if you are in the same genre of music.
Diamond and Ali Kiba happen to be two music artistes who have constantly been compared to each other. For sometime in the past, Ali Kiba did not seem to be getting it right but Diamond was the quicker of the two in revamping his image. Plus these guys were a kind of representation of the Bongo Flava evolvement. If TID had still been active in the music scene he could as well have been compared to Diamond and Alikiba. It is something that sadly, the two have none been the wiser on how to handle.
However, the direction that Ali Kiba’s music has since taken in recent times, was pretty smart on his part. I also consider the consistency of these two guys to be amazing. It’s something any aspiring musician can look up to and try to emulate.