Jesse Bukindu is one of Kenya’s most prolific master producers. He has worked with some of Kenya’s biggest artists. Despite all of these he has remained humble and always shies away from the public light. He spent most of his childhood shuttling from Kenya and Tanzania; his parents were church ministers who operated in both countries. His dad is still a pastor up to now.
Jesse started his music career playing instruments in the church band. He went on to play in different church functions and his reputation as a skilled engineer grew. His first stint at professional music production begun at Wilnag Studios and he worked on many projects including the late Mighty King Kong’s hit song ‘Casanova’. He then went on to work at Next level studios with Maurice Oyando, Bedrock Studios where he worked with artists such as Wakimbizi producing hit songs such as ‘Hallo Hallo’, ‘Nishike Pole’, Ketebul Studios and Family Studios (TZ, Arusha).
Some of the artists that he has enjoyed working include Anto Neo Soul who records with a band, Afro-fusion musician Winyo, South Sudanese hip-hop artist, Emmanuel Jal. One challenging experience during recording was a Ugandan artist who couldn’t speak English or Swahili.
His creative process is not self-determined; an artist can come with written lyrics and then he makes a beat or he can make a beat and then the artists write their lyrics. He says that a hit song has great vocals first and then great lyrics come second.
He is currently working on albums for Emmanuel Jal, The Creative Band, a Kisumu based band and Iddi Aziz. He contends that the problem with Kenyan music is that it lacks a distinct identity like Bongo in Tanzania, Lingala in DRC and Kwaito in South Africa. Benga has a unique Kenyan identity but it lacks the popularity that can make it identified with Kenya.
Another factor affecting the popularity of Kenyan music is low-quality productions. Today the production landscape has changed; there are many music studios that artists can record quickly and cheaply. The artists end up having low-quality productions that are popular in Kenya but cannot penetrate the international market. Kenyan media houses should encourage high-quality productions that can sell outside Kenya.
Jesse is inspired by great sound engineers like Dave Kerzner. If he was not a music producer, he would be an accountant one of his other passion. His advice to upcoming and aspiring musicians; don’t be desperate for ratings, stick to your own sound and style, be authentic and don’t copy what’s popular in the scene and fans will finally understand and love your originality.