Since her arrival on the Kenyan music scene in 2019, artist Xenia Manasseh has captivated fans with her vocals and her songwriting pen and, this month, she is being recognised for both as Spotify’s EQUAL Africa ambassador for February.
The R&B singer-songwriter released her debut EP Fallin’ Apart in 2019, and has also racked up an impressive CV of writing credits and features with other artists, including work on projects by Tenyana Taylor, Sauti Sol, Mr Eazi, Tay Iwar and Burna Boy.
The Spotify EQUAL Africa programme seeks to provide female artists with the support and resources to grow their craft and reach worldwide audiences through multiple playlists. The beneficiaries also receive off-platform guidance and tools to help take their music careers to even greater heights.
“Being a part of the EQUAL programme is an honor. I’m honored to be recognized for my input and for my voice ESPECIALLY in a male-dominated industry. I’m honored to be a part of any programme that is built on inclusivity. Navigating this industry would be more difficult without platforms like these that seek to highlight that great art is great art no matter the source,” Manesseh says of her inclusion in the programme and on the EQUAL Africa playlist.
“Xenia is a rising star – and not just in her home country. The EQUAL programme looks to support talent just like hers and give women the tools and the platforms to grow their audiences and advance their careers in the music industry,” says Spotify’s head of music for Sub-Saharan Africa, Phiona Okumu.
Check out Xenia Manasseh’s track with Hook titled A Little Thing Called Love on the EQUAL Africa playlist and get to know her with our artist Q&A:
1. What is that one surprising thing your fans might not know about you?
If I didn’t do music I knew I was going to pursue being a professional football player.
2. When did you realise that making music was in your destiny and what is your WHY for pursuing this craft?
I didn’t realise making music was a part of my purpose until around 2019. After spending six months in Atlanta writing music almost every day, it became clearer and clearer. My why is because it is my purest form of self expression. Our gifts are given to us for free and I believe the most important thing we can do is to lean into that wholeheartedly.
I remember hearing phrases like, “If you don’t use your gifts they will be taken away,” and “Your gift will make room for you,” and over the years I’ve experienced and really started to understand how much weight those statements carry. Stepping into your purpose is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. I don’t do it because of the possible rewards or recognition that I may receive but simply because of how connected I feel to who I really am, and it only gets clearer the more I pursue it. I’m grateful and honestly blessed to receive anything after that.
3. Which African songs or artists did you grow up listening to?
Growing up I listened to African artists from all over thanks to my family’s love for music. The list is endless but to name a few we have the likes of Nameless, Nazizi, Khadja Nin, Brenda Fassie, Lady Jaydee, Youssou N’dour, Mzee Ngala, Oliver Mtukudzi… writing it down makes me realise how I’ve been exposed to all kinds of music my entire life.
4. To someone who has never heard your music, how would you describe the sound, tone, and style?
I always described myself as an R&B/Neo-Soul artist but now I would say there’s something for everyone with my Kenyan roots as the source of my inspiration. Songwriting made me curious about what “Xe” can bring to any genre so I’ll always try something new. Experimenting with different genres has allowed me to play with my sound and my tone. I can be grungy, I can be soft, I can be clear cut, I can be moody- it just depends on the song and how I’m feeling in the moment.
5. Any advice for someone dreading following their dreams?
Choosing to pursue all the things I am passionate about and living and learning through these experiences has been one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever done and am still doing. I can’t be anything but grateful!! Take a chance on you, bet on you. Try it out, see how it makes you feel – be relentless and be grateful for every part of it.
Yemi Alade expands Spotify’s EQUAL universe