Soul of a Woman
As the melody from her single, “Love You to Life,” softly plays in the background, the lens slowly zooms into frame and reveals the short-haired songstress. Kenya SoulSinger knows how to work a camera. Dressed in a chic black-lace dress that complements her curves and huge hoop earrings that bring to mind east coast street fashion, Kenya slowly eases into the first verse of the song while making sure all eyes are on her. As she softly coos about the best love she’s ever known, Kenya begins to seduce the camera while swaying her bangle-covered arms to the music. As her eyes smile through the lens, she reveals a confidence that’s strong enough to entice and subtle enough to still garner respect. It’s here, in the fine lines of her art where Kenya is not only harnessing her power as an independent artist, but also rewriting the definition of success.
Confidence shows all over Kenya. It’s even evident in her name. A singer named SoulSinger? Now that’s the definition of being bold in a musical age when the online blogger is now the music critic. Fans are no longer just listening to artists—they’re also programmed to critique them. And with Kenya, the critiques could start before she’s even able to belt a single note. Luckily, her music not only justifies the audacity of her stage name, but it also calls for a rave review.
While her popularity is beginning to grow in Oklahoma, one country is already placing Kenya’s music on the charts. “My music has been very well received in London,” she says. “I’m on playlists every day and am on the UK Soul Charts.” Kenya recently capitalized on her international success with a promotional tour across the pond. “It was a whirlwind,” says Kenya. “I did a record store signing, getting off the plane and going straight to the record store. It was amazing!” Kenya spent her time signing CDs, taking pictures with fans, interviewing, networking and setting up collaborations with other artists while in the UK. She says it was an experience she will always remember. “I feel very humbled by it and pleasantly surprised. They really love independent music in London.”
As Kenya begins to talk about her musical journey, she makes you remember a time when music was actually full of soul. Born and raised in east Oklahoma City, it was there in the primarily African American churches of the region where Kenya developed her love of music. You can even trace the origins of her stage name back to the roots and soul of the black church. “I sang in a gospel group called ‘Set Aside’ for 12 years.” Although the music may have stopped for the group, Kenya says that her passion wouldn’t keep her mouth shut for too long. “When something is inside of you, it has to come out,” she says. “There was so much inside of me—so many lyrics, tunes, melodies and harmonies,” she says. Kenya would soon find the courage to let the music growing inside her speak. It would be somewhat of a difficult transition for her. “I’m from the church and now I’m singing about romance and love,” says Kenya. “At first I was wondering what people would think about it, but that didn’t last for too long. I love R&B music so much.”
A Unique Independence
That love for Rhythm and Blues can be heard throughout her third album, “Love You to Life.” As she sings the title track about “soaring through the sky on a natural high,” you see just how much the married mother-of-two has set aside from her gospel days. But, unlike so many acts who rely on beats and twerking to shift units, Kenya is able to gracefully cover these topics while never compromising her artistry or soul. And with that, soul is the foundation of Kenya’s vocal styling. Her warm smoky voice creates a sound that transcends all genres. Kenya describes it as “sultry soul”—a combination of neo-soul, jazz, funk and hip-hop that mainly follows the themes of peace and love. “It’s a nice mixture,” she says. “Most people love soul music.”
While Kenya has a lot to celebrate these days, she’s most proud of being a mother. She has found a way to balance her growing career with the demands of motherhood. “They’ve made it easy!” she says. The love and support provided by her family makes their hectic lives more manageable. Recently, she purposely scheduled her promotional tour in London around the time that her son was also going to the country with his school’s orchestra. “My son and I went together. I was able to attend his concert! We got an opportunity to hang out, tour London and bond as mother and son,” she says. “I’ll never forget having that experience with him.” As she affectionately talks about her son and stepdaughter, her songs instantly take on a much deeper meaning. “A song called ‘Anything’ is my son’s favorite,” she says. “Once for his birthday, I played that song on the keyboard and changed the lyrics up to say ‘I’d do anything for my son.’”
While many artists would be willing to sell a little soul for a major label deal, Kenya says that she’s comfortable and happy with being on her own. “I love being an independent artist,” she says. “I love having total control.” And Kenya is in control of the majority of her music career. Kenya not only works with her production duo on all the music, but they are also the creative team behind the imaging, videos and releases. It’s a daunting task, but one that adds to the value of Kenya’s music. She says that all the work eventually pays off in the end. “I’d much rather work hard than to give up my personal love and taste.”
Kenya has found a melodic way to represent all of her dimensions. She’s not just a church girl, wife, mother or even just a soul singer. She is all of those things—and more. “I have a special affinity for women and for uplifting and helping women feel better about themselves,” says Kenya. She hopes that her lessons can also be an inspiration to her fans as well. “The sky is not my limit,” she says. “I can do anything and reach all my goals and beyond.”
To hear more of Kenya SoulSinger’s music, visit reverbnation.com/kenyasinger1.