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Quick chat with... Liz Ogumbo

BEAUTY AND BRAINS: Liz Ogumbo

KENYAN star Liz Ogumbo is a proud “African child.” Having made waves with her debut album Kensoul – the term she uses to define her sound – the talented singer, model and businesswoman has worked in Milan, Paris and the USA, and currently resides in South Africa.

However, the 34-year-old songstress declares that Kenya remains the place she calls home.

With her music rooted in her African heritage, but boasting worldwide influences, the talented singer is confident of achieving global success.

Here, she tells Davina Hamilton why she’s pleased that African people have realised the continent’s potential – and why she’s proud to have a shapely ‘nyash’ (bum)!

How do you describe your music?
The album is called Kensoul and that’s how I’d describe my sound. I’m a Kenyan who has been influenced by different genres of music. While my music is deeply rooted in my heritage, I’m believe I can be relevant globally. I love music, I love fashion, I love Africa and I love life. I think my music reflects that.

Having lived and worked in many places, where do you consider to be home?
Oh, home is Kenya! There’s no two ways about that. I think it’s a beautiful thing that Africa has really realised now that Africa is hot. I think Africans not realising the beauty and potential of the continent has been a real challenge. So many Africans were once leaving Africa and it made me wonder why we couldn’t stay in Africa and achieve all the things we wanted to, instead of trying to fit the ideals and the criteria of others. As Africans, I think we’re growing; we’re seeing and appreciating who we are and what we have to offer. I feel that I’m a part of that and that’s exciting to me.

Your career credits also include modelling and owning your own fashion line, House of Imani. With your experience in these industries, do you feel things have changed in terms of the representation of black models?
Definitely. I was on the runway 13 years ago and if you look at how things were then and how they are now, things have definitely changed. Things like the ban against size 0 models and the Vogue Italia all black issue, which showcased so many beautiful black models are wonderful developments in the industry.

One of your songs is called Big As In The Blue Jeans. What was the inspiration behind that track?
I wrote that song during a campaign I had – a campaign to ban size 0 models. Too many aspiring models were becoming bulimic or anorexic in a bid to fit into what another society considered ideal. So I decided to address the issue and I decided to do it through music with a bit of humour. It was my way of reversing psychology a bit, allowing women, particularly women of African heritage, to not be uncomfortable with the body shape many of us have. The media and other influences have made some African women feel that they have to fit someone else’s idea of beauty. It shouldn’t be that way. I’m very concerned with African girls; what they’re learning and what they’re thinking. So I decided to address that particular issue because young people are our future. And things are changing now. Many women are buying padded underwear to try and make their bums look bigger!

Are you happy with the way your bum fits ‘in the blue jeans’?
[Laughs] Oh yes, I have a very nice nyash, as we call it! For many of us African women, no matter how much weight we might lose, that backside is not going anywhere! So we have to learn to love and embrace what we have.

Kensoul, available on iTunes, is out now Mi-Fone Music

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