Tetu Shani is among the pioneer artists of Nairobi’s musical renaissance, particularly in the alternative genre. Despite being offered a full scholarship at the prestigious Berklee College of Music, Tetu opted to stay at home and produce. He is proud of being self-taught in guitar and percussion, and of mastering these instruments in his productions.


He describes his debut album Mood Music as a soundtrack against the rut of career and relationships. His brooding persona shows in much of his album artwork, his voice and sense of dress. The photo accompanying his first single ‘Round and Round’ plays with shadows and light for a haunting effect. This feeling weaves into ‘Jacaranda Tree’, which turns a blossoming symbol into the theme for heartbreak.


Although the verses and refrains are sparse, each song is a well of emotions. To achieve their brooding quality, Tetu starts his arrangements with chord progressions, a folky tune from plucking guitar strings, the low hum from strumming.


“Or maybe a hook that gives me goosebumps."


‘Chemistry’, featuring Mayonde, started this way. “The chords were born first and the words shortly afterwards.” From its composition, he knew he wanted to involve her since hers was the only voice he had in mind. Tetu has a way of making his visions come to life.


“The song was just meant to be.”


Tetu says his favourite songs are often tucked into his album and would never be released as singled.


“I play them at night when I need to unwind.”


His music is written and performed to transport his listeners to another world and experience. 


“When I perform, I change the atmosphere and transport people to a spiritual state.”


But he manages to stay on course with his audience through banter, sing alongs and call and responses.