Kenya’s music scene has been witnessing a significant shift in recent years, with a new and vibrant genre, Gengetone, taking centre stage.
Spotify has created a one-stop destination for Kenya’s hottest music genre; Gengetone Fire. This homegrown style of music has rapidly grown in popularity and has become a cultural phenomenon that resonates with Kenyan youth, specifically those aged 18-24 according to Spotify data over the last 90 days.
Since its launch in 2021, the Gengetone Fire playlist on Spotify has been setting East Africa ablaze with its infectious beats and catchy tunes.
The East Africa Editor at Spotify took on the exciting task of curating a playlist that would reflect the culture and spirit of Gengetone and propel the genre beyond its underground roots.
In this article, we will explore the elaborateness of curating the ultimate Gengetone playlist, exploring its impact on the genre’s perception, its growing global audience, and what the future holds for this dynamic music style.
Gengetone is for the streets
Every Spotify playlist has a spark or a vibe that sets it up for success on the platform. For Gengetone, the spark is its audience, particularly in Kenya.
According to the editor, “It’s music for the streets by the streets”. The music has been buoyed by its audience through sharing DJ mixes via social media platforms, house parties and consumption via Nairobi’s vibrant matatu playlists.
What about the audience? The editor notes that Gengetone is particularly Gen Z driven and Kenya has the biggest listenership, with more than 15 million streams of the genre.
The USA comes second, followed by the UK then Tanzania. Other African countries streaming Gengetone include South Africa, Nigeria and Uganda showing its cross-border appeal. Top artists currently enjoying heavy rotation are Matata, Octopizzo, Breeder LW, Iyanii and Mejja
Coming up with an iconic playlist like Gengetone Fire is an exercise in inputting exactly what the audience likes but also using data; after all, Gengetone has very unique and specific vibes.
Gengetone is party music for Gen Z young men; it is a pre-game music genre meaning it is definitely in the background before heading to a party or the club. This is probably why Spotify data shows that Gengetone streams increase by 8% between 6 pm and 8 pm.
Gengetone Fire: Changing perceptions and going global
Gengetone had humble beginnings as underground music, surviving through word-of-mouth sharing and live shows.
However, playlists like Gengetone Fire have played a pivotal role in transforming the genre’s perception. Its growing popularity is evident, with Gengetone Fire streams increasing by 88% from last year.
The playlist has become a conduit for exporting Gengetone to the masses, and new players have emerged alongside the OGs, expanding the genre’s reach. The majority of the playlist streams are from Kenya, then the USA, Tanzania, Uganda and the UK round off the top five.
Gen Z-driven and embracing diversity
Gengetone’s raw and unapologetic style resonates deeply with the authenticity-seeking nature of Gen Z. The genre has straightforward and relatable lyrics, often reflecting everyday struggles and triumphs that capture the attention of young listeners looking for music that speaks to their experiences.
The infectious beats and danceable rhythms also provide the perfect soundtrack for social media challenges and viral trends.
Gengetone has long been considered a man’s game but the girls have also made their mark. The editor says, “There’s a lot of female artists in the genre, with artists such as MAANDY and Ssaru commanding a large audience and Gengetone has definitely been a catalyst. Ladies coming up in the genre are a real breath of fresh air.”
Catering to passionate Gengetone fans
Ensuring that the playlist represents everyone’s favourites is a priority. The playlist reflects artists’ current output and fans’ preferences by accommodating both OG artists and new talents. This balance allows Gengetone Fire to evolve alongside the genre, maintaining its resonance with the passionate and ever-growing fan base.
The editor’s personal favourites and the future of Gengetone
The editor shared his top three songs from the playlist—Miondoko by Rico Gang, Naskia Wah by Boondocks Gang and Ethics, and Kiss N Tell by Kushman. He highlighted their storytelling, humour, and audience engagement, which makes them stand out.
As for the future of Gengetone, Max is excited to see the passing of the baton from the OGs to new talents, bringing fresh creativity to the genre.
With its mainstream recognition and increasing export value, Gengetone’s potential for global recognition is undeniable, and the interest from the diaspora further solidifies its bright future.
by Maxwell, East Africa Editor at Spotify