On her debut release of ‘’Happy’’ in 2004, Kenya were undoubtedly sure that the new hit single was a product of an award winning musician such as Angie Stone or Aretha Franklin on account of her powerful vocal abilities surpassed all local industry standards. Atemi has been described as Kenya’s Miriam Makeba- her stage presence during her live shows fills up and brightens up even the darkest and coldest of spaces while her debut album ‘’Hatimaye’’ which is Swahili for finally, is powerfully real and emotive. Many have described her music, as simply magical.
Coming from a musical family Atemi began singing at a very early age out of constant encouragement from her family to take part in a number of musical projects. At 10yrs old she began singing at the junior choir at Nairobi Baptist Church. At the end of her secondary education, she and a group of friends formed an acapella gospel group called Thrown Together by Christ (TTBC) and were sponsored by Youth for Christ to go on a musical tour of Zimbabwe. Atemi continued with the group until she joined USIU in 1996 and formed the singing and dance group Karisma.
Karisma’s main performances were at USIU functions and alumni events. Their first performance at a Love Jam concert at the Barn, one of Nairobi’s premier entertainment spots in 1997 and the group immediately became a smashing success. The group stayed together until late 1998 when Atemi and Natasha Gatabaki, also a member of Karisma, formed the group INTU and began recording with producer Tedd Josiah at Sync Sound studios.
INTU featured on a song with one of Kenyas premier urban musicians, Hardstone, before they released their first single ‘Shivers’ that is featured on the compilation CD ‘Kenyan – The 1st Chapter.’ The duo released their next single ‘Tamani’ on the compilation CD ‘Kenyan’ the 2nd Chapter’ and won a university achievement award in 1999 for best new group. The group continued with numerous performances though out their campus life until their graduation in June 2000 when they took a break to have a go at the business world. They still did a number of performances and appeared as individuals on collaborative songs with other artistes.
Atemi’s first collaboration was with Nyatichi Nyasani and Ugandan sensation Kawesa on the song ‘I need to Know’ for a UNFPA project supporting sex education for children in schools. Her next was with Nikki, aka Sheila Mwanyigha, called ‘Earth Song’. This song was for a UNDP project focused on cleaning up the Nairobi river.
Atemi then sang with various bands in Nairobi until she joined Eric Wainana’s band in 2003. Together with the Eric and the Mapinduzi band she has performed in Zimbabwe in 2004, Ghana in 2006, Sauti Za Busara Festival in Zanzibar in 2004 and 2008, Festival Mundial in Holland 2004, The North Sea Jazz Festival in Holland in 2007, at Big Brother Africa in South Africa in 2007 and in Germany at the Annual German Ambassadors Conference in 2008. She also played a major role in Wainaina’s musical production Luanda as produced by Sterling Q Theatre Company.
Her work experience include Events Manager for Kahama Group Hotels, Events Director for PHAT Music & Entertainment, client service executive at Face to Face Experiential Marketing Platforms and studio manager for Kijiji Records. The above gave her the experience she needed to begin and manage her solo career as a recording artiste. She is currently the General Manager for Pine Creek Records and is also an independent events manage
She released her 1st single ‘Happy’ in 2004 and in the June of 2007 was signed to Pine Creek Records. She has performed alongside Les Nubians and Shu with her band The Villagers and has had three sold out concerts in Nairobi since her signage to Pine Creek Records.
Her album ‘Hatimaye’, which was launched in May 2008, is a mix of neo soul and afro fusion. The albums’ has a ‘Miriam Makeba meets Jill Scott’ kind of vibe and features song written and produced by some of the most talented music mind in Africa. The likes of Chris Adwar, Aaron Rimbui, Eric Wainaina, Kanjii Mbugua are some of the personalities one might encounter on this album. Hatimaye is defiantly a Kenyan record worthy of international recognition.
In 2009, Atemi was cast as one of the main characters in Kenya’s biggest theatre production yet, Mo Faya. A creation of award winning singer and songwriter Eric Wainaina, Mo Faya addressed issues of good governace, poverty and corruption- issue which Atemi held dear in her personal life and through her music. She was also involved the ‘Simama’ anti-corruption program, Umoja, Pamoja – a project promotion peace during the 2007 elections- and involved in various projects aimed at raising money for those displaced by post election violence.
In the same year- 2009, Atemi was selected to host an Africa-wide talk show, Africa Rising. For her this was not only an opportunity to further her musical career but also to further her dearest cause: Africa. She speaks passionately of the misconceptions and stereo types that the Western world holds about Africa. The show is therefore an avenue for her to speak about all the things that she loves about Africa in a bid to spread her passion for her continent. She also worked with award winning producer Stephen James Taylor (know best for his work on the movie ‘Why do fools fall in love’ starring Larenz Tate, Vivica Fox and Halle Berry) on music for a short animated film for Warner Brothers.
In March 2010, Atemi Oyungu made yet another milestone in her career, when she signed with International record label Gatwitch International. The record label founded by International recording artists Emmanuel Jal signed her in a bid to diversify their talent portfolio as well as open up East African Artists to the global market.
Passion, hard work, and extraordinary talent only vaguely describe this phenomenal musician who is bound to make huge waves in the world music scene.