I am meeting Navy Kenzo at Samaki Samaki, Tanzania’s top seafood chain of restaurants and my favourite of all. Milimani City branch is currently undergoing renovation and we are lucky the manager, Zulha, manages to get us a cozy hidden spot—perfect to meet the mega stars who would otherwise stay away from public areas.
It’s just a day since Nahreel and Aika nearly broke Tanzanian Instagram space through the announcement of their unborn child. At the time of the interview, Aika is eight months pregnant with their fist baby, already named Gold. Aika says: “We wanted to accomplish our dreams in 2017. First was to build our mansion – the one that’s got everybody talking. It’s something like a music video,” she jests, adding, “Everything was planned. We decided that in one year we would build a house, drop an album and have a child.”
I can’t decide what I am enjoying more. Samaki Samaki’s dhow-inspired décor and their Basket Jahazi Platter – a mix of Prawns, Calamari, Tilapia Fish, Octopus, Fish Fingers, Tuna and King Fish or Navy Kenzo’s company. I am so inspired by their hard work, consistency and dedication to each other as a couple working together in business and building a brand. The two have been together for nine years now. Aika says, “We have evolved and changed thanks to our mistakes and learning from our celebrity friends.”
Even though titled AIM (Above inna Minute), Navy Kenzo’s debut album that dropped early 2017 took seven years in the making. The album included international African stars including Tanzania’s Alikiba and from West Africa: Mr. Eazi and R2Bees. Aika says, “AIM is an amazing product that represents the revolution of Navy Kenzo. Before it dropped, there hadn’t been an album in Tanzania that was as talked about or as anticipated as ours. We always love to take risks and the release strategy of this album has leveraged us to a level that so many promoters from different countries are calling us because we have a huge album.”
The group also went on an AIM tour worldwide that saw them stage performances in several countries including Kenya and Israel. Nahreel recalls, “The promoters in Israel said that we were the first African artistes to perform there, and while at Coke Studio Africa – 2017, singer Denise told us that our singles: “Game” and “Kamatia Chini” were doing well in Madagascar.
In 2017, Nahreel was the only main music producer from East Africa featured on acclaimed Pan African music show Coke Studio Africa. He says, “It’s my third time to be on Coke Studio and second time as a producer and it’s such an honour!” When Nahreel started producing music he was only a hip hop producer, working with Tanzanian rap king Joh Makini, among close friends, after which he decided to diversify. “I wanted to be a producer for every type of artiste and so I started producing pop, afro pop, R&B and songs in all genres possible which would all become award-winning hits. I am producing everything – that’s why I am a special producer.
In 2018, Navy Kenzo promise to deliver a new music project featuring more international collaborations with artistes across the globe, and more music videos. To date they have made history as Tanzania’s first music group to rise to stardom while singing both in English and Swahili. Most of the top artistes in Tanzanian sing largely in Swahili. Aika expounds: “We made it because we are doing this for the culture and for fans across the world not just East Africa. And just like the others, once you give East Africans good music, they take it and love it!”
Navy Kenzo are extremely creative. Nahreel says of their creative direction when it comes to music videos and image: “We always take our time to create videos that will be timeless. It’s all about preparation and sometimes we take even three months to plan. We are already planning for a music video to be shot March 2018.” They are assertive, and their own bosses. Aika says, “We don’t want to do normal things and that’s why we are unique,” sharing advice to other artistes: “There will be many opportunities presented to you but you must ensure that they don’t devalue your brand. Our brand is our business and that’s why we embody it fully.” They are also self-professed foodies with a state of the art kitchen in their new home. Aika laughs at the fact that Nahreel can only boil Macaroni and put rice in the kitchen cooker. She says, “We love to cook weird things just mixing things up. Nahreel loves Macaroni served in Beef and I love to bake Lasagna!”
BONUS: Read an edited version of this story – oroginally written for YUMMY Magazine’s Dec Issue here.
Thank you Samaki Samaki for the warm hosting and great food. Guys when you are in TZ, you know where to lunch and dine 😉