Eric Musyoka has made a name for himself not only in the Kenyan music industry but also in the film and TV industry. The legendary music producer and industry pioneer has worked with artists like Ukoo Flani Mau Mau, P-Unit, Kleptomaniax, Bamzigi, Wyre, Sauti Sol, Just A Band and more. He has also worked on some of Kenya’s top films and TV shows like Rafiki, Disconnect, The First Grader, Country Queen and Second Family as a sound engineer and music composer.
In his most recent TV project, Musyoka (pictured) created original music for Twende, Showmax’s first 2D animation, bringing a diverse blend of Kenyan music genres that includes gengetone, rhumba and benga.
With the first five episodes of Twende now streaming on Showmax, Musyoka shares more about working with his team at Decimal Records, his kids lending their voices to the soundtrack, and what to expect from the show’s music.
QUESTION: What was the experience like creating original music for Twende?
Eric Musyoka: It was very intense; we made so many versions and iterations until we settled on a direction that worked. Creating something unique is never easy. Since we wanted Twende to be a stellar creation, we really immersed ourselves in the world of Twende to create a compelling outcome.
Q: What Kenyan genres can viewers expect to hear when they watch Twende?
EM: I leaned more towards rhumba and gengetone. The guitar played a crucial role in cementing the melodies together to create the unique sonic character of the song. I worked from a demo idea created by Charlie Maas, Twende’s co-creator, and transformed it into what is now the theme song.
Q: Take us through the process of creating original music for a TV show like Twende. What does it entail from beginning to end?
EM: We do a spotting session with the team and we decide on a direction to follow. I create a few demos, then the team decides which one fits the brief and intent, and then I refine the music until it works.
Q: How long did this process take you?
EM: It can be a few minutes to a few days…it really depends on the complexity of the scene and how detailed the scope of music needs to be. Some ideas come quickly; others have to go through various iterations for them to be approved and be in sync with the scene.
Q: Was Twende a solo project or did you work with a team at Decimal Records? Any artists you worked with?
EM: Brian Nadra is the lead voice on the songs, and Konkodi and I, plus a few friends, provided the background vocals, so it was a team effort.
Q: Let’s talk about Twende’s catchy theme song, Twende Pole Pole Pangolin. How did this particular song come together? And at what point did you know it was the one?
EM: This particular song had four versions! The music was inspired by Swahili pacing to create a groove that would fit the lyrics. We added some Swahili words and cadences, and the guitars for me really glued the music together. The team heard it, tweaked a few things, and it became “the one.”
Listen to one of Musyoka’s tracks in Twende’s launch trailer:
Q: Did you always know that you wanted to take the leap to creating music for the screen?
EM: Not really; it was a natural evolution from making music for artists to scoring. They are different disciplines that all merge at the same place with a common language. When I began creating music for TV commercials in the early 2000s, I saw the potential of writing music for the screen besides TVCs, and I just paid attention to it.
Q: What would you say is the most challenging aspect of creating music for the screen?
EM: Interpreting the vision of the director. But my experience in recorded music and scoring has come in handy with this. I have had misses in the past, but with time, you begin to see how related all creative processes are and that your contribution – the music – is part of the sum, so I strive to fit it into the mix.
Q: As a parent, what does African animation like Twende mean to you?
EM: My kids actually sang the kids’ vocals on the songs. They’ve already become hooked since I ran some of the music ideas by them, and they’re very excited to watch it. It offers a very refreshing outlook about a pangolin. The strong themes of friendship, sharing and unity serve as great lessons for kids to learn to appreciate each other in a diverse world.