For Kenyan singer and actress Yvonne Shanneyz, it has been a positive year with remarkable achievements, particularly following the recent launch of a Nollywood movie in Nairobi in which she played a key role.
Yvonne, a member of the Nairobi-based Super Squad Band that is led by Roy Captain, starred in the movieEscape, where she played the role of a housewife in a strained marriage rocked by domestic squabbles.
Speaking to theSaturday Nationearlier this week, Yvonne expressed her delight at having been given the big role in the movie, which was produced earlier this year in Nigeria.
She was in Lagos between February and March to shoot the movie.
"Nollywood movie producers got keen to engage me after they noticed my talent in performances in one of my clips on YouTube," Yvonne said.
Her prowess was noticed on the track,Mama Nyaramba, off her debut album titledMon Amour. This is her debut eight-track album, which contains other tracks likeNipe Mapenzi, Asembo SiayaandCollins Omondi.
The title track,Mon Amour,(French for My love), features veteran Luo rhumba musician Igwe Prezda Bandason, who is currently on a concert tour of the US.
Last weekend, Bandason staged two shows in Dallas, Texas, known to host many Kenyan immigrants and workers in the US who are beneficiaries of the Green Card.
The Nollywood movieEscape, which dominantly features Nigerians, also has a Cameroonian actor in the cast.
Among the Nigerians are Chris Onyenso, Michael Okon, Treasure Obasi, Stephen Onyenso and Cameroonian Syndy Emade.
Yvonne was outstanding in her role as she is among the few Kenyans who double up as actors and musicians, and have taken part in Nollywood movies.
"It wasn't an easy feat, considering the short notice but all went well through determination," she said.
The movie gave her an opportunity to interact with top Nollywood producers of popular movies on TV channels in East, Central and West Africa.
It was in a bid to give the movie a Kenyan touch and feel that, together with her Super Squad colleagues, they launched the movie in Nairobi's Eastlands at Club Jam Rescue on Jogoo Road on May 26.
Having grown up in Eastlands (born Yvonne Atieno Otiende), she has learnt to interact with other up and coming musicians. But she took up music seriously only about three years ago, with Roy Captain of the Afro-fusion Super Squad based at Saika, Naurobi being her mentor.
This is the group with which she recorded her first single,Mapenzi Matamu. The song has been receiving good airplay on FM stations. She later recordedNipe Mapenzi,and the effort culminated in the release of the eight-trackMon Amouralbum.
Tracks on the album are in afro fusion blended with zouk and rhumba beats. Other members of the Super Squad include Omore Muziq, Chris and Tinah Achibest, who, like Yvonne, is also a professional model.
During live shows, the group incorporates the traditional Luo harp (orutu), guitars and keyboards. They perform every Wednesday at the Dolce Club on Koinange Street in downtown, Nairobi, while on Fridays they perform at 036 Lounge in Syokimau, off Mombasa Road.
On August 11 , Yvonne will be among the artsites performing during the Pacho Festival at Impala Grounds in Nairobi. Others will be Emma Jalamo, Dola Kabary, Wuod Fibi, Musa Jakadala, Prezda Bandason and Prince Idah.
Already, Yvonne is working on her second album titled,Nduru, and like she pointed out, most of the tracks on the album are in the Afro pop beat.
"I choose Afro pop to strike a balance for my fan base to grow wider to accommodate Africa as a whole and beyond," she says.
Nduru is a party song in which she encourages her fans to socialise in a peaceful way.
It with this in mind that she is looking forward to tour the US and Canada later in the year.
Also as a professional model Yvonne is next month scheduled to be launched as a brand ambassador for a UK-based company making luxury jewelry using wood.
Early in her musical career, Yvonne says she got inspired by listening to Suzanna Owiyo of Kisumu 100hit fame, Iddi Achieng and Makadem.
"These are some of the local artistes I'd also like to work with," she says.
On the continental music scene, she is looking forward to working with Ugandan star José Chameleon, Congolese songstress Alicios Theluji, South Africans Mafikizolo and Nigerians Yemy Alade and Tiwa Savage.
Yvonne who was born in June 1995 in Pumwani, Nairobi.
She attended Baseroot Academy and later Aluor Girls in Kisumu.
She ventured into modelling after joining an agency in 2015.
This year she made her debut as an actress on the Nollywood movie, Escape, which dwells on domestic violence and drug abuse.