When we think of modern Kenyan music, what comes to mind are genres such as Gengetone, R&B, Alté, traditional music and more recently, Arbantone. However, there is a new sound that’s gaining prominence and fans, and it is reminiscent of the sounds of the 80s and 90s such as Rhumba and Zilizopendwa. While newer artists such as Watendawili  and Okello Max are some of the acts in this genre, more established artists like Bien and Nyashinski have also dabbled in it. Spotify City Express playlist, launched in February 2023, is the home of this sound.

One would therefore expect that City Express’ top listenership are millennials, specifically those above 30 years old as they are more familiar with Zilizopendwa and Rhumba, but 30-34 year olds only contribute to 16% of the playlist’s streams.

Spotify data over the last 90 days shows that 18-24 year olds are surprisingly the largest audience, with 39% of City Express  streams coming from them. 25-29 year olds are next with 32% of City Express listenership. Gen Z’s parents are Gen X who were the original fans and artists of the sound back in the day. This could  explain this age group’s fascination with the genre, as it feels nostalgic.

It would not be a stretch to call Okello Max one of this sound’s leading artists. There is a reason why his tracks have appeared the most on City Express, since its launch. Bensoul and ItsYaba are next appearing frequently in the playlist since it was launched in 2023. BienCharisma and Watendawili are also some of the artists who have appeared repeatedly in the playlist.

City Express was created to be a musical companion on the road, so it does not come as a surprise that the top streaming days for the playlist are Friday and Saturday, as people wind down and get ready for the weekend.

Keeping with the theme of winding down, the playlist’s top streaming time is between 6pm and 7pm.  People unwind to the beat of their favorite songs and groove after a hard day, akin to a musical happy hour. 12pm makes an unexpected appearance as another top streaming hour. Perhaps a lunch break is best accompanied by some nostalgic beats with a modern twist?

Over the last year, the playlist has grown by 121% overall, while Gen Z streams of the Spotify playlist grew by 110%. Kenya is naturally the top country streaming City Express as the artists are Kenyan. But Tanzania and Uganda also seem to be enjoying it, coming in second and third respectively. South Africa and Nigeria round up the top five, in a final surprise twist on City Express.