Fennie: Making Waves
Fennie on sheds, opening for Jason Derulo and the Ashford music scene
“Yeah, that was pretty big,” Fennie Mukuze finally admits.
To others, performing as the opening act for global music star Jason Derulo might be as high as they get, but the chilled nature in which Fennie – how he is best known – suggests his goals are far higher.
On the mic at the Gallery nightclub in Maidstone back in February, Fennie had a 1,000-strong crowd in the palm of his hand.
“I only found out a week before the gig,” he recalls. “DJ Clarksta from Gallery was playing my track Elsa every week. He inboxed me about it and asked if I’d like to perform at the club... and then told me if the management were cool with it I could open for Jason Derulo.”
Fennie took some 50 friends and fans by coach from his home in Ashford to the Maidstone club, but it was arguably the Gallery crowd who became new Fennie followers.
“It’s really motivating thinking that people are willing to pay, to come and support,” he says. “But having a thousand people in the club singing along to the chorus in your song is amazing. The chorus to Elsa is very easy to remember, so people started singing along. It’s one of my favourite performances.”
Fennie has big dreams, but his feet are firmly on the floor. He still works as a part-time carer, allowing him to further his music, and even still uses his home-built shed studio to come up with new tracks (though they aren’t always finished there).
But this is no two-bit operation. It is slick.
Racking up 45,000 views for his Elsa track on YouTube, Fennie has followed up with new track Waves, which has already outperformed it on Spotify, bagging 45,000 plays, as well as another 25,000 views on YouTube through urban-music channel GRM Daily. That’s not a small amount.
The music he describes as a “mainstream, afro-swing sound but with melodies and deeper lyrics”.
Indeed, Waves is about relaxing and celebrating after working hard, but alongside that fun style there are also references to people who might not see it that way.
“I’m trying to bring something different to the Kent music scene,” says Fennie, who is a big fan of musical artists J Hus, Nas and J Cole.
Fennie and his family left the troubles of Zimbabwe getting on for two decades ago and settled in Ashford to start a new life. The close-knit family have had a huge influence on
Fennie, with his brother Bruno, who owns The Boombox UK, and his father, who was the bassist in the Horn of Africa band, both showing their musical prowess; it’s probably how he was able to convince his parents to turn the shed into a recording studio.
Having studied music at the University of Kent, Fennie started a band, some of whom still play on stage with him during certain performances. He took an extra-curricular course, on which he worked with industry stalwart producer Richie Fargas, and is now working with videographer Jem Karto and Sittingbourne-based producer Anamate.
“Anamate produced Waves, but he has also worked with Wiley and loads of international artists – he has done a lot. He’s got tunes with 40 million views and is someone who just believed in me. We’re putting together a team now, to be more focused and to work collectively and consistently.”
Having had a tantalising taste of being signed by a major label when he got to the finals of a
London talent competition, in which he was mentored by Twin (Alex Boateng) of Island
Records, Fennie knows what he is setting his sights on.
“We were discussing things with Island Records and learning a lot,” Fennie says. “Before then, I was thinking about an independent label, which I don’t mind, but there’s only so much you can do because it is an independent. So to get there, getting consistency is what we’re about right now.
“The problem at the start was that we would create and release something and then it would take a long time to get around to doing something else.
“You’d have to start out all new again, rather than having those consistent releases.”
With that in mind, Fennie will be releasing two new tracks before the end of the year.
An established performer with a strong Ashford support base, Fennie is going to be one of those guys of whom you can say ‘I saw him before he went massive’.
Only trouble is, you probably haven’t got much time to say it.