Marnell Kenan is a vocal artist, songwriter and lyricist arranger from Detroit, Michigan. Her interest in music began as a young child – she started to sing before she could talk. In church her father would pull her to the front to sing despite her not wanting to but that led to her gaining courage to sing ‘What a Feeling’ at her elementary school talent show. She got the bug from there. Kenan’s range is from alto to first soprano and is known for doing all of her own backgrounds and arrangements. Marnell went to college and got a degree in Teaching and Musical Education from the University of Michigan and a Masters from Full Sail University in Music & Marketing.
How have you managed to keep your mind in the right place to create since life has sped up?
One thing I’ve done to keep my mind in the right place is to create since life sped up is training my mind in the late hours of night and early hours of the morning. since I’ve got so many things and people calling for my attention, I make out time at night for my creations. I wake up at night to write and record my lyrics till the early hours of the morning because that’s the only time I try to settle and relax my brains.
Do you think young African voices are heard enough today?
No i actually don’t think young African voices are heard enough today. I’ve heard that when people try to speak it usually comes with protesting and loss of lives. Everyone have got opinions, opinions about life, opinions about politics, opinions about fashion and so on and they all have the right to feel the way they feel. And I think music is one way people try to express their opinions and it’s one way people try to make their voices heard and I, through music tend to speak for the people and convey a message of how people really feel and what they think.
When was the first moment you knew you were a star? The first time I knew I was a star I probably couldn’t talk. my mom was a singer and I was just a baby, I’d listen to her sing and try to hum the songs and my mom would be like “Wow my baby is a star”. But I’m just like everybody else, I have a job and people watch me and my job on TV, on YouTube, on radio if they feel like.
What is the peak you aspire to reach? The peak I aspire to is to get to the level like late Michael Jackson, not that I’ll be that popular like him but I’ll be able to give up myself and my music and share with the whole world. Aside being successful, I’ll love to be an inspiration to other people, bring fresh and portable water to communities that don’t have it, have a food field also. I’ll love to be of help to others, so it’s not just about me but other people too.
You are also quite a Fashionista. what inspires your style? I’m a cloth stylist and I buy what ever I like to wear. sometimes I just put what I want together and wear it. And I really love designers like Dior, Louis Vuitton, Red Button and so many more, so I just pick up other colourful things like glasses, shoes and combine them. Sometimes I add simple things I got from a resell store or a simple design that’s not popularly known and boom; that’s how it goes.
Months ago you visited Nigeria, what were your reasons for coming in? Yes, months ago I visited Nigeria and my reasons for coming were many. First of all I had never been to Africa and I needed to set foot on the motherland because I am from Africa, so I wanted to know and come back to the place my ancestors lived. secondly, I came because i wanted to work with some artists there. I needed to do music, record songs and promote myself because I feel the best place to do music is Africa. I came to get the feeling, I came to make new friends, I came to test the food, to set my feet on the sand and to see what I’m talking about when doing Afrobeat’s, I wanted to touch, feel and see what I’m doing. I actually don’t want to do Afrobeat in America and I want to do afrobeat in Africa.
Which African artiste inspires your sound? They are so plenty but right now there’s one i reached back to, one that people listen to and he’s well known, Fela kuti. he’s inspirational, an activist, he remembers his ancestors before he proceeds to sing. he also talked about the unsettled and the unfairness in the country where he was in. He got banned a lot but hopefully I don’t get banned. i know not everyone will listen to you nor like you, but God has given me a voice and I want to sing and he therefore has inspired me.
Will there be any project anytime? Yes, real soon. I’m thinking of putting up the fela song late this summer and another one on september with Magnito and put up another one with Harrysong later in the fall and then I’ll follow that up with an EP.
What should we be expecting from your forthcoming Projects? Well it’s gonna be a mix, I recorded over thirty (30) songs when i was in Nigeria. I don’t expect to put them all in one album or do them in one EP. I believe by the end of this year I’ll be dropping projects back to back.
In this overcrowded industry, you have to be unique to be recognised, what makes stand out?
I tried to put myself in the music, you know, using my personal experience to speak because there is no new word out there, the thing wey you won sing, person don sing am before, it is just for you put yourself in that shoe and that’s where I think I am unique because I put my own life story in it. And I think my voice is nice (laugh).