Kudade hit: Fancy Fingers’ journey from guitar virtuoso to musical innovator

Kudade hit: Fancy Fingers’ journey from guitar virtuoso to musical innovator

Many of you know Fancy Fingers as the Sauti Sol band member who can strum a guitar into submission.
But there’s a lot more to Polycarp Otieno, the musical virtuoso behind the alias.

Beyond his guitar prowess, Fancy Fingers is the beat genius behind the viral sensation ‘Kudade’, a collaboration with Fathermoh, Harry Craze, Ndovu Kuu, Lil Maina and Johnny Johnny.

In an exclusive interview, he opened up about his musical journey, the inspiration behind his ‘Love Language’ album – a heartfelt project featuring female artists from across Africa that shows his deep respect and appreciation for women – and his innovative Fancy Fingers Guitar Museum, which showcases the guitars that have shaped his illustrious career.
He also shared insights into his latest project ‘Kudade’, which underlines his ambition to elevate Kenyan music on the international stage, and discussed how he carefully selects projects that match his musical vision and energy.

Join us as we dive into the world of Fancy Fingers and explore his exciting plans for the future.

What influenced your decision in choosing the lineup of performers for the Fancy Experience album launch concert?

The lineup was a mix of amazing Kenyan talent who have all had a kind of impact on me, musically. KeemLyf is a new sound in the market that is doing Afrobeats in Kisii that has gone viral. Ochiko is someone that I mentor because I see myself in him when I was younger. His writing, his voice, his style and his music are quite unique. Cedo is a legend in the industry that I admire and respect. We go way back (over 10 years). He played in our band (Sauti Sol) for about seven years and was one of the few people who actually taught me production. We have worked on a lot of music together since then, including “Mungu Pekee” by Nyashinski. Vijana Barubaru are an exciting new age of music, and being a group of course it makes me relate to them quite a bit. Their writing style is uniquely Kenyan and very relatable. Nyokabi the MC is just a multi-talented artiste who can sing, dance, act and emcee, of course. Her energy and laughter are quite infectious, and she knows how to connect with my audience. She is also a big fan of my music.
The band and background vocalists that you worked with, how long have you been working together for this show, and what energy or themes were you pushing for with the show?

This was actually the first time I have worked with the band as a collective. I have previously worked with each one of them in an individual capacity. I only had about two and a half weeks to put the show together, so I had to look for a band that was already a unit and had great chemistry with each other. And they did amazing! As for the background vocalists (Lisa Oduor and Manasseh Shalom), they are each great artistes in their own right, and I have worked with them for the past seven years or so. They were fantastic.

Why did ‘The Woman’ influence your album ‘Love Language’?

Without ‘the woman’ I am nothing, really. From my mother to my wife, to all the women who work with me in my team, they make me who I am. And it was only right to show my love and appreciation by doing a project that’s focused on only women. The album Love Language is a collaborative album with female artistes across the continent. And to keep that narrative, most of the team that worked on the concert were women, including my sound engineer Joy Ndinda, who did a fantastic job on that day and the whole time leading to the concert. Who runs the world? Hi Beyoncé. (Laughs).
The guitar has been your instrument and voice for a long time. Now, you’re also using your voice more. Tell us about the Fancy Museum that was prominently set up at the concert.

The guitar has been and will always remain my main voice forever. It’s my first love. My forever love. The Fancy Museum was a collection of most of the guitars I have owned throughout my career to date. One special thing, though, was that there was a ‘prototype’ of an African-made guitar line that I am working on that will be launched soon to the global market. Once again, the first of its kind. It’s high time we took ownership of businesses like these, that for some reason we may not believe are for us to own. Most wood comes from the continent. We have great skill and labour here, and our own kind who can invest in our businesses. So, nothing should hold us back. Look out for the launch of this amazing project sometime later in the year.

‘Kudade’ is definitely the most talked about experiment you took on as a producer. Does that mean you’re not limiting yourself in that aspect, and so then what speaks out to you when it comes to projects you’re willing to lend your producer’s input to?

Production is another facet of me that seems most people do not know. In all the years, I have produced most, if not all, of my band’s (Sauti Sol) works. And now that we have allowed ourselves to spread our wings outside the band, I definitely will be doing more of these. My aim is to elevate the Kenyan sound to an international level, with the great sonics and experience I have gathered over the years. Case in point, “Kudade” refix. With regards to what speaks out to me when it comes to projects I want to work with, I have to like your music first. The song has to do something to me and make me want to add some sauce into it. The energy, the chemistry and the vibe is what makes great music.

After such an incredible launch, what’s the immediate thing you did in taking the whole experience in?

I literally switched off my phone, turned off social media and spent the weekend with my son; my wife was away on a work trip. I needed that to re-calibrate and re-energise, as I prepare to strategise on the next steps. Which, of course, if you know me, I had already planned for a while back.

What’s next for Fancy Fingers in the next month at least?

This coming month, I have a lot of strategy and planning to do, mostly around the Fancy Fingers business. I am also getting back to creating music, because that never stops. I am also curating small intimate shows across the city, still under ‘The Fancy Experience’ umbrella. I have lots of projects that are just awaiting release, that I have worked on over the past two years or so. Very excited for that, so definitely be on the lookout!

By Nairobileo

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