Kenya Finds Self-Therapy Through Music
When the neo-soul, smooth jazz vocalist KENYA was a kid, she took years of piano lessons and sang in community ensembles. However, after the Denver, CO native graduated from high school, she put music aside and mapped out a career as a physical therapist. “No one in my family considered music a viable option,” she laughs. Fast-forward to 2008, Kenya was married with kids and had a successful physical therapy practice but something was missing and not knowing what it was threw her into a funk.
“Lots of stuff was happening,” she confesses as she reflects on that period when her marriage was crumbling because of her depression. “I had some come to Jesus moments because I knew something was wrong.” As a fluke, she took a music theory class at a community college to distract her from her issues and the joy of being involved with music again began to heal her. “I started meeting people and Chicago’s a big music place so we have a lot of independent artists so I began to feel more at home there. My husband noticed the positive change in me and said, ‘is this what was missing? Music?’”
When Johnson realized that music was bringing Kenya so much joy, he encouraged it and before long she was in the studio recording songs with the Grammy Award winning producer Maurice Joshua who has produced or remixed tracks by Beyonce, Justin Timberlake and Rhianna. The resulting digital EP “Starting Over” ignited the buzz on Kenya’s smooth style and led to her current album “Jazz Made Rhythm” that features her cozy rendition of Michael Jackson’s 1979 evergreen “I Can’t Help It.” The clever Sugaboom remix of the song has been transformed into a music video featuring Malik Yoba and the tune has risen to the Top Ten on London’s Starpoint Radio Soul chart.
Kenya has peace of mind now that she’s reconnected with her musical roots and is having success. She’s opened for Lalah Hathaway at Chicago’s House of Blues, performed at Billie’s Black in Harlem, The Biltmore in Los Angeles and Denver’s Dazzle Jazz Club. Now that she’s back with her first love, Kenya says, “Its hard to dream because there’s so much happening that I never expected. New things keep getting revealed but I’m enjoying the revelations.”