Four years ago, Nviiri worked as a videographer, shooting behind-the-scenes footage for the music group Sauti Sol. Today, Nviiri the Storyteller, tops the music streaming charts in Kenya and writes songs for artistes and performs with some of the biggest stars in Africa.
It has been a whirlwind few years for the 29-year-old singer, songwriter, and guitarist whose love for music started at Dagoretti High School, Nairobi, listening to movie soundtracks and learning his favourite instrument. He studied mechanical engineering in college, to fulfil his father’s wish but his passion is music. He joined the camera crew for Sauti Sol and one day he picked up the guitar and started signing.
Sauti Sol’s Bien Aime Baraza says in the TV reality show Sol Family: “I was like, what! You can sing! I told him ‘Never come with a camera again. Come with a song’.”
That song was Melanin, a celebration of dark-skinned women that Nviiri wrote for Sauti Sol and Nigerian star Pato Ranking. It was released as the first single of their 2017 album Afrikan Sauce.
"My songs always have a message, I don’t make songs for the sake of it."
He took part in the Sauti Sol songwriting sessions, meeting Afro beats stars like Adenkule Gold, Burna Boy, Ayra Starr and Wizkid.
Nviiri’s next big break came in 2019, thanks to the single Extravaganza as a member of a collective of artistes, including Bensoul, signed to the Sol Generation label.
His solo breakthrough followed later that year with the success of his debut single Pombe Sigara, a song about a man’s obsession with women, which has almost nine million YouTube views. “My songs always have a message, I don’t make songs for the sake of it,” he says. “I am also just expressing myself. If you want to know me well, then just go through my music.”
His hit single Niko Sawa, a collaboration with Bien of Sauti Sol, was the most streamed song by a Kenyan artiste on Spotify in 2021.
He performed at shows around the world, from Dubai to South Korea, alongside international stars like Omah Lay, Nonso Amandi and Tarrus Riley. He was also nominated for Best Male Artist in East Africa at the Afrima Awards.
Nviiri, the multitalented artist can write songs that connect with a global audience and this will propel his career to greater heights, just like his mentors, Sauti Sol, in years to come.