Remember this name

The hunt ran from May all the way to September: On the 7th of May, Antony ‘Anto NeoSoul’ Mwangi released his debut album to a thirsty intimate crowd that had gathered at the Carnivore Grounds. The album title – Star Born – was befitting to the magnificence that unfolded before the crowd on that warm Wednesday evening in early May.

I waited for the hype of the release to die down before getting a hold of the album. But a month later, it wasn’t available on supermarket shelves or music stores across Nairobi. A limited release, eh? How classy. I contacted Anto through his webpage asking him whether the album was available for download online. He said nothing for 12 weeks. Mmh. The response that hit my email mid-August directed me to iTunes. Such a dead end, I thought.

I wandered about for another six weeks before I found a stash of music on wabeeh.com. Wabeeh.com is a pay-per-track download site exclusive to African artists. It’s a paltry 40bob to buy a track. I went gungho and downloaded this, and four other albums.

It was the 22nd of September.

The reason I was so intent on getting this album is because I had already encountered Anto. I saw Anto in performance once last year. He was the backup vocals at one of Ricky Na Marafiki’s monthly afro jazz gigs. He is cheeky chap with a vibrant spirit. Shorty. Skinny. Prominent forehead. He has a small ‘o’ for a mouth.
Anto gave a memorable performance that night. I was hooked.

After that Tuesday, I started to see Anto more and more often in my office building. Radio show host (we’ll get to it in a bit). Anto is a sharp dresser – what with his made-to-measure pants and jackets. Scarves thrown in an ordered disorder around his neck. Sparing accessories. Colours coordinated to a fault. Nothing about his wardrobe pieces is left to chance, I tell you. Then there’s that hair, that static mop of uncombed hair. Jesus. I have been tempted on more than one occasion to reach out and grab a chunk of it. What saved us both (the embarrassment) is that the elevator doors chimed open on my floor before his did. Hehhe.

In many ways, these encounters were a prelude to his album.


Star Born is 16 tracks long, including its two interludes. It runs for 54 minutes. Only one guest artist is featured, the rhyming Wangechi. The album is produced by Pine Creek Records; it’s the tenth to be produced under the label. Sound quality is good.

On the 16 tracks, Anto sings about the fluff of love, and the personal woes of being a lover. And of being in love. It’s breezy and light stuff, pleasant to the ear.
He sings mostly in English and sheng, and his vernacular kuyo.

Anto sells the album genre as world neo-soul. I don’t know what the hell ‘world neo-soul’ means but I disagree with it anyway – the only track on the album which has a hint of the world beat is Afrika, because of the instruments and tempo. All others are neo-soul. The two radio releases – Paid my Dues and Chips Funga –represent the album. Listen to the two and you have an idea of the its genre: it is sonically and lyrically neo-soul.

Yet there is a twist to this version of neo-soul.

Let me break it down to you: Neo-soul isn’t a genre indigenous to our local music scene. That’s why artists like Atemi base their localized version on the self-proclaimed pioneers of neo-soul like akina Floetry and Jill Scott. They borrow heavily from these international artists. You can randomize such two artists – the local Atemi’s and the non-local Jill Scott’s – on your neo-soul playlist, and you’d only realize it’s a local artist because they sing in sheng or vernacular.
But Anto has made some subtle yet distinctive tweaks to his music to create his own local version. His is a new sound: He took what the Atemi’s localized and localized it further to create his own version of neo-soul.
A version he calls world neo-soul. I call it Anto’s neo-soul.

Neat, eh?

The real power of Anto’s neo-soul and of this album is in his vocals. Everything about his music falls to its backdrop, everything curves itself around it – his own writing in the lyrics, the instruments, the backup vocals, the album arrangement. Like a magician, his vocals are the wand with which he casts his magic upon the album. And upon us, his listeners.

Anto’s voice is a tenor blend of sultry and raspy. It seems neither practised nor refined. It is loosely controlled, imperfect. And it is this imperfection that gives it its distinct edge. Listening to the album, one gets the feeling he isn’t trying too hard to hit those high notes. He strains where he needs to, playfully so. I hear him about to fall over the cliff of a crescendo but he quickly catches himself before the balance is lost. It’s brilliant.

The depth and breadth of Anto’s vocals are unbounded. It’s a thin line for him between his talking voice and his singing voice. Sometimes his talking voice is his singing voice. Which means he has plenty of room to play with in his future albums and live performances. Anto can nail any gig he takes a stab at – spoken word, musical comedy, backing vocals, acapella. Even rap.

Speaking of his talking voice and his singing voice, I believe radio is killing Anto’s spirit. Anto runs the late show on Easy FM with Ciru Muriuki on weeknights from 10PM. The show is flat. Why? Because radio is killing his spirit. Why? Because Anto isn’t a talking head who is boxed behind our stereos, he is an artist. An artist whose best punches come from the snappy, sassy lines he writes then performs in wide open spaces. He is in his element then. Not in the scripted conversations he is handed to read on national radio.

One failing of the album is in the sequencing of the tracks. After Afrika – my least favourite track on the album – tempos and textures are carelessly ordered. I was thrown around for a couple of tracks, uncertain of what would come next. Some listeners would appreciate when artists pull such surprises. I didn’t. Not here. Not for this artist. And surely not for this album. What saved things from going downhill from this to the out track was the second interlude, Renaissance. It was well placed buffer. And I sighed a relief when the album regained its earlier sequence after this.

The other failing is that the tracks are far too short. An average of three minutes, 39 seconds per track is relatively short for a neo-soul album – neo-soul is music made to soothe you, seduce you, draw you into its magic then embrace you. You with all the emotions you have exposed from obediently diving into the music. The artist surely needs time to do this.
But with this album, there was barely time to close my eyes and settle into a track before it frustratingly came to an end: At six minutes 34 seconds, Horera is the longest running track, Qwerty Love is the shortest at three minutes eight.

I remember I had a particularly terrible day last Wednesday, and I turned to the album to ease the burden for me. It didn’t work – the track endings came too soon, too urgently, asked me wrap up and move on too quickly. Chill bana. I could blame this on the terrible day – I know I could – but even on a good day, a slow day, the rush of the album is still evident.

I wanted more damn it, more of Anto’s raspy vocals: I wanted more of the forewarning on Utanikumbuka. I wanted more of the sky-high ambition on Pepea. I wanted more of the upbeat tempo on Turnt Up. I wanted more of the confessions on Addicted. I wanted more of the lover who’s begging on his knees on Nipe Asali. Recall he has a knack for just throwing in phrases in to create a tune? Yeah. He does this on the album, too. And I wanted more of this.
I wanted – most especially – more of the schmaltz and overconfidence on my favourite track in the album, Hujawahi. Everything good about this album and everything not-so-good about it came together in this track. Hujawahi, this is the jewel in the album’s crown.

I know I wanted an entire other album when the final chords struck on the out track, Qwerty Love.


I enjoyed listening to this album. No doubt. The hunt and wait was worth it. If anything, it made me even more appreciative listening to it then writing this.

I am not one to compare a person to another. Let alone compare one artist to another. People are best compared to themselves. So it was with a little guilt that I found myself comparing Anto NeoSoul to the artist Maxwell. Maxwell. Oh Maxwell. I hold Maxwell in high regard. Do you see traces of one in the other? Especially in that angry hair? I do.

Well, while I wait for Anto’s sophomore album, and until I find his local equivalent, I will do the harmless thing and place him next to Maxwell. Not compare him anymore. Not ask him to be like Maxwell. Not wish he matures to be Maxwell. But let him stand right next.

I know which name I will remember, anyway.

Five heads, no bodies
Does this blouse make me look like a magician?

Comments (7)

  1. 手腕 ケニア (@savvykenya)

    Wow, I have never seen an album reviewed this way! I shall definitely get it, I have watched Antoneosoul perform many times and he definitely sounds like you described him. He is full of energy.

  2. Anto Neosoul

    I have not read anything this deep in my life. I am speechless. I apologize for the lack of response when you inquired about the album but I am oh so glad you have the album now. I would love to deliver an autographed album…soon. Please share your contacts. Bless you.

    • fra

      No sweat. I will find you.

      Thanks for stopping by.

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Florence Bett-Kinyatti


Columnist Saturday Nation Writer Craft It Author of best-selling ‘SHOULD I?’ and ‘HOW MUCH?’ ~ Guiding word: Overdrive Subscribe to our Newsletter👇🏾 eepurl.com/igmN8P
  • Dear God, 
It’s me again.

I don’t pray as often as I need to, You know that. I don’t kneel by my bed in child-like humility, as Muna does. I don’t whisper a prayer in the morning. Or at noon. Perhaps just in the evening. 

This going-to-church habit is a constant false start. So is reading the Word. 

I’m often guilty but I also know: You and I have a language only we can understand. 

I speak to You through this gift You bestowed upon my Kale shoulders, this gift to write in colour. It’s a gift that sometimes feels like a curse, a burden I have no choice but to pursue. 

Yet other times – most times, actually – it’s the very breath of my essence. Everyday I sit to write, when the words flow from my head and heart through my fingers to the page, I feel You next to me. 

You are here, Lord. Hovering. Lingering. Swooshing about in Your regal robes, like a character from Bridgerton.

Sometimes You get so close I can feel You breathing on my neck and I’m like, ‘Err, God, do You mind, personal space?’

And You chuckle uncomfortably. ‘He-he, of course. Of course.’

I’m here to tell You, Thanks!

I hosted my first in-person event last March, Lord, thank You to all the lovely ladies who granted me their time and full attention. 

I’ve carried them in my heart since and every day, my prayer is that You bring them closer to the life of abundance they each seek. To their own version of wealth. 

I always call them by their name: Becky. Purity. Lindsay. Wangui. Naomi. Shiqow. Mercy. Liz. Winnie. Polly. Nduta. Lynet. 

And Mike. 

Dear Lord, I’m prepping for my next in-person event in June, Inshallah. 

Walk with me as I get there. 

Love always,

  • Highlights from our first-ever in person event hosted by Craft It and @financialfitbit 
Thanks to all the lovely ladies — and gent, hehe — who honoured us with the privilege of their time and attention. And colourful energy. It’s been weeks since and it’s only now that I’m coming down from the high. 

Thank YOU!

🎥 @mikemuthaka 

#craftit #author #MakeYourMoneyMatter #personalfinance #money
  • I am a woman.

I’m strong. I’m brilliant. I’m like a comet shooting across the sky, I’m so bright you have to put on shades to see me.

I’m almost 40, I’m almost fully realising myself as a woman and the power of womanhood I possess.

I’m so powerful that if KPLC connected me to the national grid, I’d power up this country and we’d never have another blackout.

Ho! Ho! Ho!


To recognize and celebrate International Women’s Day today, I’d like to recognize and celebrate eight women.

I have eight things to give away to each of these women:
a) Two tickets to my upcoming event on March 18 with @financialfitbit Theme is ‘Make your money matter’
b) Three autographed copies of my book ‘Should I?’
c) Three autographed copies of my other book ‘How Much?’

To participate:
1. Like this post
2. Tag women who deserve a win of either event ticket or book (tag as many women as you like)
3. Tell us what you’d like her to win and why she deserves the win
4. Make sure your tagged women follow @_craftit and @financialfitbit 

Here are the rules for the giveaway:
— One woman, one win
— Winners will be contacted via DM
— Giveaway closes at the end of this week, Inshallah, on Sunday 12 March
— Only open to people living in Kenya

All the best!

(Swipe right to see the women I’m celebrating.)

#craftit #internationalwomensday
  • My 2022 word of the year was Wholesome. 

Wholesome meant engaging in moderation and in pursuits that didn’t leave me feeling yucky.

An example: there’re weekend nights I’d go out then have too much to drink. On the drive home, I’d tell GB to stop the car every half mile so I could throw up on the side of the road. Then I’d take three working days recovering. 


No more of that nonsense.

Now I have only two doubles of Singleton whiskey and chase it with water. I eat less food and I eat better. I take my supplements. I treat myself to an early bedtime and arise with my body clock, no alarm.

I spend a lot more time hanging with my kids, Muna and Njeeh. 

I buy fewer things. 

I play the piano. 

I created a disciplined routine for my work and take Thursdays off. 

You catch my drift…

Wholesome has become my lifestyle. 

(By the way, I was asked, ‘Where does this word-of-the-year come from, Bett?’ I don’t know about other people but for me, the words present themselves when I’m journaling. My spirit tells me what it needs; I must be still enough to listen and brave enough to obey.)

My word for 2023 is Overdrive.

My two books have unlocked new opportunities for me as a writer and creative. As an urban brand. I’d honestly not foreseen them. 

I know that if I adjust my sails to where the wind is blowing, these opportunities will translate to wealth.

Last Friday, I listed all the work I’m already doing and all the new opportunities – potential and realised – knocking at my door.

I asked myself, ‘What am I taking up here and what am I dropping?’

The response, ‘None – we go into overdrive and smartly pursue them all.’

#craftit #urbanguide
  • Years ago, my best friend said to me, ‘Bett, we’re almost 40 – forget makeup, let’s take care of our skin instead.’

I had to laugh because this was coming from Terry. Terry my Kisii pal, this fine gyal with skin the colour of honey, the only practising SDA in my circle. 

Terry had spent her 20s and early 30s sleek with Arimis. That’s right, the milking jelly with a lactating cow on its logo. 

Arimis addressed all her skin pickles back then. It was her problem fixer. Her Olivia Pope. It’s the one thing that always said, It’s handled.

Now here she was preaching to us about a consistent skincare regimen in the AM and PM.


It wasn’t until Terry shared her selfies on our girls WhatsApp group that I stopped laughing. It wasn’t until we stood next her – and took these selfies – that I reeally stopped laughing: Terry’s skin was youthful and toned, plump. Hydrated. Moistured but not shiny. 

It looked like it had been kissed by the Greek goddess of radiance. 

So we gathered around her feet and said, ‘Forgive us, master. We are ready now. Teach us everything you know.’

She did. 

Terry and I now spend plenty of time before work and before bed squeezing out little portions of expensive skincare products from expensive tubes, we layer them on our face in a calculated measure.

This serum here is for the circles under my eyes and the fine lines around my mouth.

Turns out I’ve been giving away too much of my face: I’ve been looking too hard, laughing too easily.

I’ll have to spend the next year into my 40s with my eyes half shut and laughing little. I'll have a resting bitch face.

Don’t blame me, blame the retinol.

And age.

#craftit #urbanguide #urbangirl
  • I’m Bett. I’m the author of your favourite books about money. I’m hosting an in-person event in March, Inshallah: This is my personal invite to you.

#craftit #moneymaker #moneyinkenya
  • I am hosting my first money event this March, Inhsallah. It’s the first of quarterly events I have planned for the year. 

(Give me a moment here so I pull myself together long enough to write this. I’m smiling very hard right now, ha-ha, I look like a donkey.)


The event will be in-person. On a Saturday morning, a loose three hours which, I am certain, you’d have burned on some other pursuit you couldn’t account for later. (I’d probably be oiling the hinges of a squeaky door or decluttering my sock drawer.)

My guest host for this edition is Lynet Kyalo. 

Lynet is a personal finance coach under her brand @financialfitbit She also hosts @getyourbagrightpodcast 

Buy your tickets from our Market.

Early bird tickets are discounted until the end of this month.

Limited slots available. 

#craftit #millenialmoney #moneyevent #moneymaker
  • Sometimes I sit down and read my own book. 

Odd, huh?

Reading my own stories is like an out-of-body experience. Or getting introduced to myself again. An outward journey inward.

It’s fascinating.

I also read because I need to improve my writing for my next project.

We call them the Elements of Craft: things like sentence structure and punctuation, word placement, story length etc, they all inform your reading experience.

This is what makes the book easy to read, and has you turning the pages.

Cop your autographed copy and #betteryourmoney 

#craftit #howmuch #millenialmoney #moneymaker

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