of Kenya's top female vocalists, Suzzana Owiyo comes from Kisumu,
near Lake Victoria. Growing up in that area Suzzana watched
and listened as her grandfather played Nyatiti, a traditional
While at school, Suzzana won many awards as her talents were
recognised early at local and national drama and music festivals.
After finishing school Suzzana moved to Nairobi to be a backing
vocalist for Sally Oyugi and then for the band Bora Bora. She
moved back to Kisumu for another year then decided to become
a solo artist.
Nairobi would be the best place to be based for opportunities
so Suzzana moved back there, enrolled at the Kenya Conservatoire
of Music and signed a contract to sing at a club in Karen. She
was asked to compose a theme song to mark Kisumu town’s
elevation to city status during its centennial celebrations
in 2001. Her song was 'Kisumu 100' which has become very well
known all over Kenya and Africa. Suzanna plays guitar and has
recently taken the bold step of playing the nyatiti (see photo
above), which has previously been considered inappropriate for
From 2002 to 2004 Suzzana performed at numerous international
ceremonies and festivals, most notably the KORA Awards in South
Africa, FESPAM in Congo Brazzaville and Festival Mundial in
Holland. In December
Suzzana and her band were on stage at the Nobel Peace Prize
concert alongside a host of international stars.
was part of Ecofest in Nairobi,
on 4th June 2006. The theme was
she and other participants pledged to use music and art to sensitize
the public about healthy living and the environment.
in 2008 Suzzana performed
during the 46664 Nelson Mandela concert in Hyde Park, London
as Mandela Day celebrations in New York. Another chance to perform
internationally came in 2011 when Suzzana joined Carlou D and
Youssou N'Dour for the 'New African Voices' tour that included
an evening at The Barbican in London.
The lyrics of Suzzana's songs are socially and politically aware,
covering issues such as child labour, womanhood and peace. She
refreshingly sings in several different languages. Her music
is mostly acoustic, a fusion of traditional and contemporary
beats. Suzzana's first album, internationally titled Mama
Africa has 12 tracks and was released in 2002. This was
followed swiftly in 2004 by a second album, Yamo Kudho
(meaning The Wind is Blowing). Two outstandingly beautiful tracks
are a Luo version of the ever-popular 'Malaika' and 'Petit Soeur'
in French. Both albums have excellent production - highly recommended!
Suzanna can be heard on the compilation CD Spotlight on
Kenyan Music on the momentous track 'Wakati ni Sasa' together
with other prominent Kenyan singers.