Kenyan tastemaker Sofiya Nzau took the world by storm, with her chart-topping anthem “Mwaki”

Currently, she has been the talk of the town following her milestone of becoming the first East African artist to ever score 10 Million monthly Spotify listeners, a stark gap to her contemporaries and predecessors. 

In her wildest imagination, she recalls she would never imagine that the record she cut for a sample pack and put on the internet for sale for a shoestring price would mature into a viral cut being echoed across festivals, social media and more. Little did she know that a producer from Brazil named ZERB would pick up the sample and flip it into a sticky Electronic cut that could live on the dancefloors and hearts of billions if not millions.

“I think I just wanted to be famous. Just like any other artist, you think you’re going to be famous”

She intimates to Deeds Magazine. “You do 100 songs and none of those songs are getting anywhere, and you think this is crazy, but you still keep doing it” she recalls recording countless records before actually registering a worldwide hit now.

Currently, she has been to Ultra Music Festival South Africa, collaborated with her idols, and is churning out more singles with her now label boss Fully Focus in her now signature native language - Kikuyu - from Kenya on the backdrop of EDM instrumentals and this is becoming her musical identity, with fans singing lyrics they do not even understand but can feel. 

On the heels of “Mwaki” which is an electronic single that sees her croon about pursuing a love interest against the will of her father - a common tale in African households growing up under your parents’ roof - the now highly-sought for music artist, singer, songwriter and muse is on the way to global stardom and her dreams are kaleidoscopic and bright as ever. 

She talks to Deeds Magazine about the idealism of being a one hit wonder, navigating a new-found success, mental health, TikTok and social media’s impact in artist success’s, ZERB, Fully Focus, record labels and more. 

Deeds: Congratulations on your recent milestones. Is there anything that has surprised you so far?

Thank you so much. I think the blessings and the love have been amazing. It’s a result of everything we’ve been through because it’s been a journey to get here. And to see the things that are coming as a result of everything that’s happened (Mwaki), I expected it to come years later because of growth, but things happen so fast sometimes. But how smooth, fast and good it’s happened has surprised me.

Deeds: What do you attribute the success to?

First to hard work and consistency because I’ve been doing this for a long time. I’ve been trying to perfect myself with every song, small or big. Also God, it’s all God’s timing because when He decides “this is the time”, then it is.

Deeds: Talk about your husband Mr. Nzau and his role in your life, as well as what you love about him?

My husband has been one of the people that has helped me with music, and supported me. He has guided me and that’s what I love about him. He’s very honest. He can tell me when something is good, but not the best, or you can do better, to a point he knows I can kill a song in as much as I’m not there. He’s been a huge part of my growth and my journey and love that we have been through all this together. There is no Sofiya Nzau without Nzau honestly.

Deeds: Universal Music is taking music down from video sharing app TikTok, what are your thoughts on this especially denoting that the platform has been key to your song taking off?

I’m not part of Universal Music, but music is a business. And these two companies are a business so there’s a lot of talking and negotiation and I’m not sure about anything right now but I’m sure these are just two people who can sit down and talk. But my music is on TikTok, so people can access it. I really have no comment on this.

Deeds: With that, would you ever sign to a major record label? Speak about why you would or wouldn’t. And have you got approaches yet?

I am already part of a label. This is the Passport Music Group. You only know what you want and what you’re expecting and I’m glad I’m getting what I expected. They have supported me, with “Mwaki”, they negotiated a good deal for me, and I only have good things to say about them. I am happy they are who I decided to be with, and I thank God for that.

Deeds: Creatives from TIESTO, to DIPLO from Major Lazer have been remixing your record. How has it been shipping the Kenyan culture to them, and how is their reception towards it? So anytime I work with someone, whether Diplo or TIESTO, they are so excited about the language. I think it’s the words. It’s like anytime I listen to a South African song, I get excited not because I understand what they are saying, but it’s how it sounds and the vibe they give. I hope this encourages us to use what we have culturally; our language, instruments, visuals, it doesn’t matter what time it was made, just use our own because it’s also music and culture. I hope that our music is helping people embrace our culture more because others are.

Deeds: You mentioned you wanted to be “Beyoncé” and that EDM is not your only forte. Where do you stand now in terms of what you want to do musically?

I don’t do a lot of EDM. I do a lot of Afrobeat, Afro House, Afro Tech, and my music is very diverse. I do Drill, I’ve done Hip Hop, so I’m not a boxed artist. This came as a result of songwriting, because when clients want a Hip Hop song, you will do it because you want the money, and that’s where my growth came from. I cannot even pinpoint to Amapiano or a specific genre, if I love the song I’ll do it because that’s who and where I am.

Deeds: What was your wildest dream or imagination when pursuing music even before “Mwaki” went viral?

I think I just wanted to be famous. Just like any other artist, you think you’re going to be famous. You do 100 songs and none of those songs are getting anywhere, and you think this is crazy, but you still keep doing it. I think though there’s a certain EDM producer I really wanted to work with once I imagined I’d blow up, but now that things have happened the way they have, it’s actually not a big deal to get them to work with me.

Deeds: ZERB mentioned quitting music before the song took off. Were you always confident you would make it as an artist?

As an artist you’re never confident because you’ll write 1,000 songs and none of them take off while you think “This is the one”. But I’ve never got to the point of thinking of quitting. I had a strong faith that I’ll make it one day.

Deeds: What is your thought on people labeling artists “One hit wonders”?

People say whatever they want. Some people are online to encourage others, and others are there to make you feel like you’re doing nothing. I really don’t think much of such comments. If people that I’m working with closely or my label don’t think I can’t produce another hit, then I would be concerned. But people that don’t work with me, who don’t know me, have never heard another song besides “Mwaki”, who haven’t made any effort to listen to my music, that doesn’t bother me.

Deeds: You have been seen a lot with African music ambassador Fully Focus. Speak to your relationship with him, and are you now officially signed to Passport Music Group?

I am officially signed to PMG. We actually have a new project out now that Focus and I collaborated on called Kikuyu House. Focus is a good friend, founder of PMG, he has guided us, and has been good to me and my husband. He has changed our lives, and we appreciate him a lot. We thank God for him, and we pray we can also change his life like he did for us.

Is there a pressure that comes with the recent and surmountable success? 

Deeds: Speak to your mental health at this moment.

I am a very quiet person. I’m an introvert. I do well with people. But from the inside, I’m really trying to be in a space where there are a lot of people, but from the outside, I’m blending in so well or so I think. The only pressure is when I go out now, I take a lot of pictures, I talk to people, I smile to people but I’m hoping to get used to that. I didn’t think about all of it while I was praying for all of this. But I’m not struggling. It’s been a good moment. I think ive learnt that these are people who I have encouraged, I’m the one that made them love me, so I take it with a joyful heart and face.

Deeds: What are some of your most valuable learnings following “Mwaki” blowing up?

One of the main ones is, at the end of the day, you will get the results if you keep pushing. If you’re patient, these are all results of that. There’s the saying “hard work pays” because last year we did a lot of that and it’s true. Pray you also end up being with the right people, who care about you, because you can fall anywhere especially when you become famous: there are greedy people that want to take advantage of you. Or you can fall on hands that God has appointed for you, so pray you are mature enough to know that. You have to be alert when things like this happen. Don’t rush to make decisions because “Haraka Haraka Haina Baraka”.

Deeds: Of all the records you have broken, such as becoming East Africa’s most streamed artist ever on Spotify, is this translating financially?

It is. Like I said before, it has changed our lives and generations.

Deeds: How has your relationship with ZERB grown?

I think we’ve both been really busy, so I can’t say it has grown. We don’t talk much. The fact that we are all under different labels, we are not the people that are negotiating or arranging stuff, the videos or anything, we both just show up.

Deeds: What is on your 2024 checklist? Any plans we can look forward to?

I have amazing music on the way. I have been recording and such. From collaborations with Fully Focus, Major Lazer and others, we have a lot coming. We are hoping to have an EP, or an album by the end of the year as well as a show so we are praying that it comes to pass. We will also be playing globally but I’m hoping I can be on Tomorrowland, but we are hopeful.