Elsy Wameyo to Release Debut Album; Shares Lead Single 'Umva'

The album, Saint Sinner, is due out July 26th.

By: May. 22, 2024
Elsy Wameyo to Release Debut Album; Shares Lead Single 'Umva'
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Nairobi-born, Adelaide-based singer, rapper and producer Elsy Wameyo has announced her debut album, Saint Sinner, due out July 26th.

Lead single “Umva” is a blistering and compelling testament to her strengths as an MC, writer and producer. On the single she shares, “There’s a comfortability that comes with understanding one’s greatness. Respectfully, in this game I know I run laps around most so it’s easy to say and do whatever I want. I know exactly who I am and have nothing to prove. I carry myself with a lot of pride because Elsy Wameyo is that girl and they know that too. Umva is a statement. This is who I am, who I've always been and how I've always felt. You’re welcome.”

The announcement comes on the heels of a momentous 2023 for the rising artist, who supported Genesis Owusu across Australia, appeared at Falls Festival and Lost Paradise, and took home six awards at the South Australia Music Awards for Best Studio Engineer/Producer, Music Video, Song, Solo Artist & Release of the year for her debut EP Nilotic. She capped off the year with Triple J Unearthed’s Artist of the Year accolade.

The success came at a cost, with the grueling touring schedule resulting in exhaustion and disillusionment with her creative path, adopting a misanthropic worldview which in turn led her to crisis of faith. Wameyo made the decision to retreat to her ancestral home in Kenya, resting and reconnecting with her creative self. She built a team of close confidants and collaborators, including Polycarp Otieno, Wuod Omollo (who sings the chorus of “Piny Lara” in traditional Luo) and Ywaya Tajiri. The group locked away in Kenya’s Naivasha region, writing, sharing, and recording ideas. The result is a powerful exploration of personal identity, spirituality, and the struggle to exist in this modern world. 

“Saint Sinner is the flesh versus the spirit,” shares Wameyo, “A confession of physical weakness in order to find strength in the spirit. Piny Lara was the first song we wrote narrating the tug and pull sensation. A chaos brought by a mind that’s stuck between the devil and the father who rests on either side of your shoulders. Your spirit knows what it wants, but your flesh always directs you to the wrong places.”

Born in Nairobi and hailing from the Nilotic tribes of Kenya, Adelaide-based Elsy Wameyo embraces her cultural heritage through her musical offerings. Her self-produced 2022 debut EP Nilotic was hailed as a game-changer and praised by The Guardian, Acclaim, NME, Fashion Journal, & Complex for its incisive lyrics and impressive production. A bilateral journey of spirituality and personal growth, the EP sought to claim back, fix and uproot the world’s evil while processing frustration and sadness through music. Informed by an Adelaide upbringing and singing in church choirs from an early age, Wameyo posed questions to her heritage and the equity of societal structures as she unraveled her self-identity across six self-produced tracks. The EP’s success propelled her on to tours with Grammy award-winner Printz Board, Maségo, Sampa the Great, Genesis Owusu, Ruel and Adrian Eagle, among others.

Honing her production over the course of 2020, the Black Lives Matter movement had a profound effect on Wameyo’s writing. In an interview with NME, she shared “It’s one of those things where as much as it’s happening in the US a lot of these things are happening in Australia – Australia just knows how to hide it.”

Following on from 2024’s virtuosic “Sinner,” and the hypotonic single “Piny Lara,” “Umva” sees Elsy expand on the theme which is to dominate her debut: the temptations of our material world, the push and pull of external forces on our spiritual and emotional wellbeing, and the struggle to maintain ‘saintliness’ or purity when surrounded by degradation and grief.

Born in Nairobi, Kenya, Elsy migrated with her family to Adelaide, South Australia at a young age. Experiencing displacement and unease as a young person, neither identifying as a “Kenyan” or “Australian”, the anchors for Elsy as she navigated the world during this time came in the form of her devout faith, and in music. 

“Home is a place you retreat to for safety, love and comfort. A place that your being recognises and your spirit connects to,” Elsy explains. “My accent allows me to assimilate and my ways of thinking embed me seamlessly within the community, but my spirit will forever remain unsettled.”

Describing her “safe place” as the music room at her school, Elsy developed a love for the craft as a way to express herself, but connect with a sense of identity that would flourish into her artistry in later years. Identifying a natural talent for singing early on, Elsy’s father took her to a local music studio in Adelaide’s northern suburbs, NSS (Northern Sound System), where the teenage Elsy became a go-to singer for the community of musicians and rappers there.

Still, her spirit remained restless, and the hunger to do more became central to Elsy’s journey. As she remembers, “Though I felt very welcomed during this time, I was always determined to break from the shadow of others’ artistry and become my own.”

Early mentorship from fellow artist, and founder of independent music label/collective Playback808, DyspOra, further incensed Elsy’s drive to create art that represented the unwavering desire within to find belonging. Becoming the first female artist to be signed to the label, Elsy began professionally releasing music in 2018, with the arrival of debut single “Intuition”. Following soon after were impactful singles delving into experience of growing up in Australia as an African person; exploring themes of ‘home’, and presenting commentary on racism’s impact on her community.

2022 saw the release of her long-awaited debut EP, Nilotic, a self-produced six-track fusion of hip hop, alt-R&B and soul-infused music that represented a kaleidoscope of emotions: pride, fury, sadness, understanding, and acceptance. The EP was a moment of arrival: acknowledging Elsy’s heritage – ‘NILOTIC’ referring to the Nilotic peoples indigenous to the Nile Valley – the powerful collection of music put Elsy on a national radar.

“It was off the back of the Nilotic tour, the Hilltop Hoods tour, and the Deep North theatre tour. All the tours, back to back, being so exhausted and over it all. Not wanting to sing, be on stage or show my face.” Elsy remembers, revisiting memories of being in London, needing to write new material, yet feeling like she was in a state of limbo. 

A powerful collection of music that journeys themes of identity and spirituality, Saint Sinner documents a potent and poignant chapter of Elsy’s personal and artistic evolution. Through the turmoil and tumult of young adulthood, navigating the modern world as a Black woman has been a process not without its constant struggles – struggles to find a sense of purpose, clear identity and belonging. 

Tracklist:

1 Repercussions

2 Quagmire

3 Sinner

4 Umva

5 Ler

6 Selah

7 Slowly Slipping

8 Wonder Horns

9 Piny Lara

10 Conquer

11 Journey

12 Saint

13 Thank You

Photo credit: Holyziner



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