It was a cold February night in Washington, D.C., my one-bedroom apartment was full of people—people captivated by the acoustic guitar and soulful voice of local musician K’Alyn. As he crooned, “If I have to leave will you follow me where I go?” he shot me a knowing glance—an inside joke about my problems staying still. That was over fifteen years ago and I am proud to include Kenny Allen a technical assistant cum musician/producer cum fashion designer in my globalcreating network.
Originally from Washington, DC, Kenny landed in Addis Abeba in December 2006 for a 6-month artist in residency program. He was so well received by local audiences he decided to stay. This decision to relocate would see his career develop in ways which dwarfed his five previous years accomplishments. In Addis he found his life’s rhythm, “I discovered many more creative passions in a place where my experiences were accepted uniquely and I decided to continue my journey thereafter establishing a solid name for myself in the music and entertainment industry.”
Come with no expectations, perhaps in search of finding yourself.
His success as in Ethiopia spawned larger venues, group projects, and introduced him as a gifted producer. He says, “One of my most inspiring moments overseas was performing live on national television for 40 million viewers.” To date, he has recorded five solo albums, including the forthcoming Journey to Forever. This year will also see the culmination of a duo album with DC artist Dre King. The eleven track Dre Kay Common Thread is a musical melange and experiment in global connectivity—having been created solely over the internet. With too many musical collaborations to mention by name, Kenny fully embraced the sounds of his adopted homeland working with artist such as Ethiopian reggae singer Jonny Ragga and the Ethio-Fusion band Misto-Misto. Not to be limited to one region, later this month, he will be performing in Dakar with Senegalese poet Souleyane Diamanka. Taking an active role in all aspects of music creation he has produced over 10 albums for artist from 8 countries. In 2013, he produced Gash Abera Mola’s album of the year, Yamral Hagere’, a compilation featuring only traditional instruments and voice—no electronic elements. Further supporting his skill in interpreting regional preferences he produced a song featuring six artists for the Ethiopian National Soccer Team. Delving into the diverse sounds of the Continent, he went on to collaborate with South African deep house producers Essential Deeptone, Darque, McGee Keys on songs released in the South African market.
Exploring his dramatic chops, he acted in three feature films. In Horizon Beautiful, he played a character based on himself and produced eight of the songs on the film’s soundtrack. In a daring move in line with being a globalcreator, his roles in Bihons and Erastas were in Amharic. When asked about the experience, Kenny says, “Acting in Amharic for me was like acting twice, once for the character and once for getting the words and pronunciations right. Taking part in these films allowed me to travel to amazing parts of Ethiopia and gave me the confidence to seek out more roles especially as my grip on the language gets better.” In 2010 he launched a radio show called Pulse on the first English language station in Ethiopia. His current weekly show, Time Travels, features soulful music from around the globe. It broadcast live every Wednesday from 2-4PM GMT+3 on Zami 90.7 FM and is available for live streaming on the station’s website.
After achieving further renown in radio, television, and film, Kenny still had more creative energy to lend to his internationality experience. An entrepreneur at heart, Kenny went on to launch undken, a line of ethically produced leather and African textile bags sold online with worldwide shipping. He explains, “Undken roughly translates to one day in Amharic. The name is an ode to the dreamers and people who work hard to reach that pinnacle time or moment where it all makes sense and all pays off.” That sentiment rings true with his message to those who want to explore new paths in globalcreating, “Come with no expectations, perhaps in search of finding yourself.”