Nonini and Jua Cali were among the pioneers of mainstream music in Kenya. Some people have grown up listening to them, while some have grown old listening to them. Fame is like a lotus flower, at one time it’s bright and shiny then after a while it withers and dies. Many artistes who began their music careers at around the same time with Jua Cali and Nonini have faded and gone silent.
Nonini refers to himself as ‘The Godfather of genge’ whereas Jua Cali is ‘Baba Yao’. It takes special talent and commitment to stay relevant. Songs by Nonini and Jua Cali radiate maturity and powerful delivery, but what really separates these two artistes? Who’s better than the other or are they just great in equal and different measures.
Nonini started out as the daring rapper with vulgar lyrics. His style made him controversial but popular. In an age where explicit content in music was not tolerated, Nonini preferred to stick by what he believed in, and the rewards were huge. His bold attitude was a plus. He may not be parents ‘best artiste’ choice but with the younger generation, he’s a legend. Through the years however, Nonini changed his musical view to more of inspiration and advisory. He has at times blended his Genge lingo with afro-laden beats.
Jua Cali started out with a style that involved putting stress on words. This style came with a form of unique aura that people loved. Although Jua Cali also used vulgar content in his music from time to time, he did so in a not so open manner. He has always managed to rap about things that the younger generation finds interesting. Jua Cali’s style has stayed the same, though each track has a different feel to it, a slight deviation. He has stuck to what he knows best without creating monotony.
These two artistes have always managed come up with lyrically hard hitting tracks. Their songs are both radio and club bangers. Jua Cali is currently riding high with his Jiachilie, Kuna Sheng and Khadija tracks while Nonini has Jubilation, Kwama Nao and Pole Pole. Songs that these two artistes released years ago still bring back good memories and create the party feeling. In terms of coming up with quality music laden with sure flow, these two stand on equal grounds.
Despite their consistence, both artistes take sabbaticals once in a while. Of late Nonini has been less consistent than Jua Cali. Maybe it’s due to his radio career and the heavy work involved in his charity projects. Jua Cali on the other end has been merciless, releasing hit after hit and getting worthy collaborations. He has had his quiet moments too. No one can be perfect really. However, the truth still remains- both artistes are certified ‘rapreneurs.’
Achievements and Honors
In other music genres, new artistes have managed to upset the status quo. In Genge, Nonini and Jua cali still hold the most influence. Nonini’s music career has evidently paid of well. He has at times topped the list of highest earning Kenyan artistes in terms of royalties. Jua Cali too has been a high earner. Pictures of both artistes from now and ten years ago show that hard work really pays. From slim hood guys back then, to bosses right now, these artistes have made it. They have won various Kenyan and East African awards and they might just continue doing so if they stay on their well- mastered lanes.