Why the Kenyan music industry is lagging behind

A few weeks ago we posted an article on ‘The Tragedy of Kenyan  Entertainment‘ a subject that been on the minds of those in the music industry and fans as well. The big question is why Kenyan music is lagging behind, while its counterparts are flourishing and defining African pop culture?

At a forum during Kenya Music Week last year at Sarit Centre, artist and entrepreneur Muthoni Ndong’a aka Muthoni Drama Queen stated that most of Tanzanian artistes are being funded by drug barons who invest in their music and end up owning them.

Kenyan artists with Safricom CEO Bob Collymore

Kenyan artists with Safricom CEO Bob Collymore

As much as Kenya’s entertainment industry is slugging behind its’ counterparts, it’s slowly picking up. Yesterday evening, upcoming artist Shreekezy elicited a good conversation on Facebook about the state of Kenyan entertainment industry. Here’s what he had to say:

A time like now, a few years ago, I was a rapper trying to make a living from music. Don’t get me wrong, I ddidn’tsay I’m not one today, as a matter of fact I’m writing this article from a studio reception before I record a verse; I’m just…. not trying to make a living from rap. Let no one feel offended when I say there is a possibility that the Kenyan music industry will never match the Tanzanian music industry (I nearly compared us to the Nigerian music industry but come on! I’m not a funny guy ). With that said, I can tell for sure that Sauti Sol won’t scoop that 2014 MTV Europe Award for Best African act. Other nominees in the same category are Tanzania’s Diamond, Goldfish(SA), Davido (Nigeria) and Toofan (Togo). Diamond Platnumz has higher chances of winning the award than Sauti Sol though he still won’t take it home. It’s a Davido Award. Again, don’t get me wrong. I’m a Big Sauti Sol fan, in fact my girlfriend is getting bored of ‘Sura Yako’ playing all day in my house but we have to acknowledge these facts. A while ago I relocated to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania for a career in Advertising; my friend, this is the best industry if you want to be rich quick :).”

“Anyway, during my free time, I was hanging with all your favorite bongo Flava artists; most of them are pretty cool and the rest are just there. Among the first friend I made was Vanessa Mdee. Just in case you came from the village the other day; Vanessa is a leading female singer in Tanzania, she is also on Coke Studio Africa and so many other brand endorsements back in Tanzania. She is also Namtero Mdee’s younger sister (Tero the host of KTN’s straight up Show back in the day). Well, Vanessa did record her first single early last year. And just so you know, in that less than 2 years span in the industry she has made more money than most Kenyan musicians who’ve been on TV for years. At the end of the day, it all comes down to ‘how much did you make?’

I know a bitter soul somewhere is arguing that ”Vanessa Mdee got these opportunities since she works for MTV”. Oh, I forgot to mention that Vanessa Mdee is also an MTV Base VJ, TV Host, Radio presenter, HIV Activist, Pilot and Doctor. Well, the last two are not true but she does a hell lot of stuff. Truth is this might have contributed to her success to some extent (Though I have honestly never watched her music on MTV Base) but then again without going corporate and most importantly the support from other Tanzania artists, she’d not have made it this far. I’d like to point out that In Tanzania, unity amongst individuals from the same line of work is more like compulsory. I remember when AY, released Asante featuring Kenya’s Dela. Every single celebrity in Tanzania promoted the song before release on social media. From Diamond Platnumz(Over 500k social media fans), actress Wema Sepetu(Over 300k fans), Profesa Jay(Over 200k fans) , Ommy Dimpoz, most notable radio & TV hosts(B12- Clouds FM, Sam Misago- EATV, Anna Peter-East Africa Radio, Willy Tuva- Radio Citizen etc etc.) Now tell me, how do you expect that song to flop? Another case is when a Kenyan TV producer based in Tanzania passed away (Can’t quite put a finger on his name but he worked for TV1 Tanzania ); everyone in the industry attended his mass and a very huge fundraising ceremony held (and aired live on a rival TV network with the one he was working with) before he was flown to Kenya. Whenever a Bongo Flava artist is having a concert somewhere, this information is uniformly shared by most artists and the support leads to mutual success. That’s why we have a local artist’s concert in Tanzania fill over 15k people while an international artist in Nairobi can’t pull a 3,000 people crowd. This is also portrayed on the bank figures, how many Kenyan artists charge over 200,000 per concert? I can honestly count them with my left hand fingers. But in Tanzania, 200k(4million TSH) is just a common figure. Diamond charges from $25,000(Over 2million KSh) and Ali Kiba not very far from that (This figures might differ depending on agreement but what I mentioned is something I have witnessed 1st hand). As a promoter, I’ll pay these guys that outrageous amount since I’ll get value for my money; they can bring enough people.

Imagine a situation where Elani is to release ‘Kookoo’ and a week before that, Octopizzo, Jaguar, Rabbit, Shaffie Weru, Sauti Sol, Adelle Onyango, Victoria Kimani and DNG share the song on social media. Then after the song is released, this same celebrity’s share the link on social media, just ones is enough. How many YouTube views do you envision? Don’t you think a brand like Jameson that is willing to fly 2 chains to Nairobi for over $200,000 (KSH 16m) won’t invest in you at least $20,000 (Ksh; 1.72million)? It’s only here you find a case of a mega artist say; Octopizzo. who has been in the industry (Limelight to be precise) for over 4 years now and has never met a Kenyan music pioneer like Wahu(Redsan etc). I’m not messing with you, the truth is Kenyan artists don’t know each other, support each other or benefit from each other (The above were just examples though, no one should take shots at me on the streets yo! Number nane’s finest ni jirani here:) ). I’m not complaining, I mean…Who cares if you talk to each other or not. All I’m saying is networking is part of this business, locally regionally and internationally. It’s about time we changed this culture for what E-Sir started

Source: Mpasho.co.ke

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