Rhumba Dancers
Rhumba Dancers
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Gengetone, R&B, Alté, traditional music and more recently, Arbantone are what we think as  Kenyan music.

But there’s a new sound that’s gaining prominence and fans, and it is reminiscent of the sounds of the 80s and 90s such as Rhumba and Zilizopendwa. While newer artists such as Watendawili  and Okello Max are some of the acts in this genre, more established artists like Bien and Nyashinski have also dabbled in it. Spotify’s City Express playlist, launched in February 2023, is the home of this sound. 

One would therefore expect that City Express’ top listenership are millennials, specifically those above 30 years old as they are more familiar with Zilizopendwa and Rhumba, but 30-34 year olds only contribute to 16% of the playlist’s streams. Spotify data over the last 90 days shows that 18-24 year olds are surprisingly the largest audience, with 39% of City Express  streams coming from them. 25-29 year olds are next with 32% of City Express listenership. Gen Z's parents are Gen X who were the original fans and artists of the sound back in the day. This could  explain this age group’s fascination with the genre, as it feels nostalgic. 

It would not be a stretch to call Okello Max one of this sound’s leading artists. There is a reason why his tracks have appeared the most on City Express, since its launch. Bensoul and ItsYaba are next appearing frequently in the playlist since it was launched in 2023. BienCharisma and Watendawili are also some of the artists who have appeared repeatedly in the playlist. 

Over the last year, the playlist has grown by 121% overall, while Gen Z streams of the playlist grew by 110%.