June 30, 2019

The Evolution & Legacy Of Keisha Chilufya

Keisha launched her solo career at only 16 years old….

HER MUSIC

Keisha arrived like a thief in the night and stole our hearts. Something about her was different. If you were one of the people paying attention, you might have first heard her via the rap single (Christ Kid). It was the song of a passionate little girl boldly airing out her beliefs. But before we were even done trying to figure out if a girl her age should even be on the mic rapping, Keisha’s breakout single (All I Know) blew up before our very eyes and left us speechless. Most of us were wondering if Christians could or should even talk about that sort of stuff in their music. Her music was dark. Yes, dark! And we loved it! Because so were our lives. We instantly connected without even knowing it.

Actually, the truth is, before (All I Know) Keisha had released another less-known single. It was called (Help). But like most of her cries for help, the song didn’t make it to most people’s ears. Keisha needed help because for most of that period, and most of her childhood, she had struggled with depression. She actually touched on the subject on (All I Know) but most of us thought nothing of it beyond being just a deep creative song. She was actually talking about her life on that song. Up until that point, no Zambian artist was doing that kind of music (underline that). And for Keisha, having a predominantly Christian audience didn’t help. Keisha was often criticized for her dark tones as not being representative of what Christian music should be like. She was labelled an outcast and her music even deemed “unmarketable” by some. Her song (All I Know) however left a great impression on a lot of people and grew her audience. The song went as far as number 3 on the Retunes Top 10.

For her third single (Siyabonga) Keisha played it safe and didn’t go too far into the dark tunnels of lyrics about depression and self-harm. This was the kind of song most Christians appreciated. It was released in November of 2015 and made it to number 2 on the Retunes Top 10, becoming her highest charting song at that point. (Siyabonga) was also the Retunes Song of The Week for two consecutive weeks. The song’s lyrics were derived from a popular church song and was perhaps generic enough for most church people to relate with. Keisha ended the year by being awarded the Best Female Artist of 2015 in the Kountapoint Online Awards. And there was peace. But not for long…

In 2016 Keisha released (Broken Mirror) and made it even more clear that she was unlike her peers. She was a troubled child. And as much as she was a Christian artist she wasn’t afraid to put it in her music. That fact alone set Keisha apart (underline that). Her rebellious boldness to address matters people twice her age would never dare bring up made her a force to be reckoned with. (Broken Mirror) was surely a provocative piece of work! The song made it to number 1 on The Nativez Hot 5 Song Downloads for the month of April 2016 and was the Song Of The Week on Social Lumiere.

In perhaps an attempt at going mainstream, Keisha’s next release, (Answer), failed to hit the mark of depth that she had set for herself with (Broken Mirror) and raised more questions than answers. This song was actually her first single as an independent artist after leaving the 260 Africa music label. The song sounded too commercial and her core fans were not particularly amused. Regardless, the song did very well with new audiences and had one of the longest reigning periods as the PowerJam on Radio Christian Voice, reigning for 7 weeks!!

With the months that followed, Keisha was musically out of her fan’s reach. It was hard to keep track of her direction. Was she rising or falling? What was she about? They hadn’t yet figured her out. But at this point, most people stopped bothering trying to. Ironically, Keisha herself at the time seemed more concerned with being a socialite and making vines venting about one thing or another and wasn’t taking herself too seriously as an artist. She lost a lot of fans in the process. People slowly started switching off. Only her core fans stayed (that’s worth underlining).

Eventually, Keisha found herself in a studio again and (Poison) was released. The song sounded like she was still recovering from (Answer) but was definitely a better attempt at staying true to her core fans. This, at the very least, meant there was hope! The Keisha that her fans loved was somewhere in there.

Keisha had never been known to feature other artists on her songs. So when (Boza) was released in April of 2017, most people weren’t sure if her not featuring artists was actually a good or a bad thing. Boza was also different in that it was her first song not written by her. It was both written and produced by George Musiwa aka gEO. The song received mixed reviews and it seemed the Livin2Die feature didn’t do much to help the situation. The chorus was nonetheless undeniably catchy. Most people thought she was again moving too far from what she was known and loved for. The song obviously grew her a new type of fans.

But what was really going on with Keisha? She was still more of a socialite than an artis. She was all over the place on social media, going off at everything and anything. In fact, in early October 2017, at the height of her stint as an online sensation, Keisha coined and initiated the “You Skeem I Feel Laka” trend that went as far as getting a song by rap artist Tiye P on which her viral vine video was featured/sampled. The trend was around a boarding school video that had gone viral where a pupil was verbally and physically assaulted by his peers. Shortly after, in the midst of this, Keisha produced yet another vine video venting aggressively. But the video was not well received and got a lot of backlash. After this, Keisha withdrew from the Internet and went off the radar. This was later followed up by rumours of her retiring from music. This being after having already made a prior announcement of working on an EP.

She was then gone till November. November 14th to be exact. Keisha released (Make Me Whole). The song was an instant hit among her core fans, the epitome of what Keisha was known for as an artist: deep, emotional, dark and transparent lyrics that pointed to hope. It made Keisha the Artist Of The Week on Zambezi Juice with 2,700 sips and the following month showed up on the Retunes Top 10 at Number 6. Despite having a slow commercial start. (Make Me Whole) grew to become Keisha’s biggest song thus far.

Two weeks after the release of (Make Me Whole), on the 1st of December 2017, the (KWESI’S DAUGHTER EP) was finally released. Keisha’s first packaged body of work. It was a 5 track EP with songs, namely, (Kwesi’s Daughter), (Oasis), (Spiteful), (Zina Lanu) and (Make Me Whole). On the title track, Keisha rapped one of her most passionate verses yet. This was something she hadn’t done since her debut single Christ Kid but fused in her singing too. The EP was well received with (Kwesi’s Daughter) and (Make Me Whole) being the stand out tracks. The EP was initially only released exclusively to streaming via Zambezi Juice, before being made available for download.

After the EP, Keisha went quiet musically and didn’t release anything for the whole first half of 2018 apart from the rap feature that she did for Abel Chungu’s album, (Love Revolution), that was released on April 21st. She featured on track 15 titled (Home). Her own musical single only got released in August on the 14th titled (Don’t Leave Me). The song was unique in its own right as it reflected a more mature Keisha in both sound and message. It was also her first release under the brand name Keisha Chilufya. Keisha would later announce the following month that she was stepping down from doing rap.

Using what was widely accepted as one of the best music marketing strategies of 2018, Keisha Chilufya released (KWESI’S DAUGHTER 2.0) on the 1st of December 2018. A follow up to her last EP. Kwesi’s Daughter 2.0, or KD2 as it was popularly known, had no lead single and was a 7 track project with songs namely (Sanity’s a Dream), (Light Up), (Breathe) and (KD 2.0). The other tracks were an intro (Crazy), a skit (That’s Not Funny) and an interlude (Byenda’s Poem). The EP was famously dubbed as being “For the troubled kids” and came after Keisha had publicly opened up about having struggled with depression and mental illness. The project was exceptionally well received and gained critical acclaim. The EP was initially available for free download but for only 24 hours following its release and was later only available on digital music stores and limited edition physical copies. As of the writing of this, Kwesi’s Daughter 2.0 sits as Keisha Chilufya’s highest rated release with (Light Up) and (Sanity’s a Dream) being the stand out tracks. Keisha singled KD 2.0 as her favourite from the project.

HER BRAND & IMAGE

Keisha entered the music industry as an energetic breakdancing tomboy rapper going by the name “Keisha Tha Black Rose”. She was very passionate and started her career performing with J.O.E Nation. She was only 16 at the time and her image was that of a typical rapper; wearing a cap, neck-chain, ripped jeans and sneakers. 

After launching her singing and solo career her music became more low tempo and emotional with Keisha adopting a more gothic image frequently going for dark clothing, black lipstick and black eyeliner. 

Over the years, she slowly began experimenting with makeup and showed a steady shift from the tomboy and gothic image to a more feminine looking young woman.

With the rebranding to Keisha Chilufya, she adopted the look of an African princess donning an Afrocentric dress code and a natural hairstyle to go with it. Visually, she dropped the black and white colour scheme for a red one. Keisha has since worked with Byenda as her stylist and she was independently responsible for Keisha Chilufya rebranded look beginning from late 2018 into 2019. And in case you were wondering who (Byenda’s Poem) was dedicated to, that’s the same Byenda.

HER TEAM & AFFILIATIONS

Keisha Chilufya started out as a member of J.O.E Nation under Southbang Music. It was during this time that she released (Christ Kid) and (Help). She later left the group and eventually got signed to 260 Africa as a solo artist. Under 260 Africa her debut release was (All I Know). Under the label, she also released (Siyabonga) and (Broken Mirror) after which she left the label. She continued as an independent solo artist working mostly with then, Lit Century producer, Era for most of her releases. The exception was (Answer) which she did with Eazy alongside Era and  (Boza) which she did under The Nativez with gEO. The entirety of Kwesi’s Daughter 1 was produced by Era.

In August of 2017 after his previous role as advisor, Keisha officially signed under Abel Black’s management, Xplode+. Under Xplode+ Keisha released (Make Me Whole), (Kwesi’s Daughter 1), (Don’t Leave Me) and (Kwesi’s Daughter 2.0). The producers engaged to work on Kwesi’s Daughter 2.0 were Sid, Teazy, Mr Champs, MooMoo and Drae.   

Other notable affiliations include the poetry establishment called Snap Lounge under which Keisha held her “Colours” poetry and music show in August of 2018. 

LEGACY

Keisha launched her solo career at only 16 years old, making her the first Zambian artist, not to mention female, with her level of impact to have started out publicly that young. When she could have settled in writing about conventional and more acceptable subject matters appealing to her peers, Keisha created her own lane outside everyone’s comfort zone, addressing issues of depression, self-harm and suicide during a time when such topics were not only uncool but taboo. She through her work made it more possible for people to publicly speak about their personal struggles through art. Being possibly one of the most hated Zambian Christian artists, Keisha built her brand in an environment of rejection and backlash, consequently amassing an almost unstoppable following of core-fans who have stood by her in the darkest of days with each feeling closely connected to the artist. 

She’s one of the few artists who’ve successfully juggled a career of rapping, singing and spoken word. Despite being a Christian artist, Keisha has also broken barriers beyond not only poetry, rap, singing and comedy but beyond the church. She has an inclusive and multigenre fanbase of people from all walks of life. Keisha is a fighter and a hard worker. She once, according to her manager, in the midst of depression and heartbreak – in the space of 2 weeks; rehearsed and practised for two shows, recorded and released a critically acclaimed project (Kwesi’s Daughter 2.0), studied and wrote an entire exam session and delivered not one but two stellar performances!

Disclaimer: This article was drafted and compiled in April of 2019 and does not cover any work or activity by artist after the month of April.