Blinky Bill talks socially conscious music and breaking free of genre constraints

The former Just a Band frontman gets in depth about the power of music.

Blinky Bill – whose real name is Bill Sellanga – is a Kenyan-born musician with a boundless passion for expanding the musical potential of Africa. The singer-songwriter, beat maker, producer, and former frontman of music collective, Just a Band, sat down with us following his Design Indaba 2017 talk.

Though he’s excited by the growing amount of African musicians gaining visibility on the international stage, Blinky is concerned by how easily they can become boxed in by genres. “I really hate the term world music,” he says. “Because I feel like all these musicians who do such different things, are thrown in this one box,” Most young artists across Africa are heavily influenced by Western, popular music, he explains, and their sound is nowhere close to what would be considered ‘African’ by the rest of the world.

Besides widening the scope of how African musical styles are perceived, Blinky – who’s inspired by boundary-pushing artists like Flying Lotus, Radiohead and Black Coffee – also strongly believes in the power of music to effect social change. He lists Bob Marley, Fela Kuti and Kendrick Lamar as some of the artists whose socially conscious songs have been utilised in protest action and he hopes that his work can fit inside this space somehow.

“I want to be able to help people get through their day and feel good about themselves, but also talk about some of the things that I see happening around the world. Sometimes as an artist it’s important for you to be the voice that speaks out about things that others might not necessarily know how to express. And that’s one of the things I’m trying to do with my music.”

You can watch Blinky’s full speaker talk here.

These interviews are brought to you by Liberty and inspired by the Design Indaba Conference 2017.

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