Are Kenyan musicians worth your time?

Many are times you come across a Kenyan song on the radio or internet, and you are like Jesus!!! but then you compose yourself when you remember that verse from the good book about forgiving them for they don’t know what they are doing. Then you get the courage and strength to move on to the next song or channel in search for something that is worth your time. Something that will leave you feeling some type or way.

Don’t get me wrong, am not saying that there is no good music in Kenya, but the higher % is wack! The unfortunate thing about the Kenyan audience, is that we are very peculiar, in the words of Michael Joseph, the first CEO of telecom giant Safaricom.

Kenyans are way too exposed to content from outside, especially music. They will not let it fly if you are producing substandard music. Also, their taste changes way too often, so if as an artist you are not consistent or able to adapt to the changing trends, you are doomed to fail, you might as well look for another hustle.

There is an ongoing proposition for broadcasters to air 60 % local content by 2018 and am in total support, but for the sake of the content producers both musicians and people in the film industry, am hoping there will be a way of ensuring quality content. Why I keep insisting on quality is because whether we like to admit or not, we have at one point said ‘Skia huyu msee sasa, anajaribu kukua kama Jay Z ama?’ or compared a local artiste with someone on the international music scene.

A lot of artistes blame Djs and presenters on Tv and Radio for not promoting local music by giving them airplay, but what most of us forget is that these people play what the fans want. At the end of the day it’s a business and they have to deliver good quality music and shows that entertain their audiences. The sad reality is most of us listen to a lot of music from outside Kenya than we do to local music, worst of it being Naija Music, but that’s banter for another day. A quick scroll down on your playlist can remind you of that in case you want to start feeling patriotic.

Now, am not saying that Djs and presenters are saints, as a matter of fact I don’t think they are doing enough, they are actually the reason we don’t get to hear some good music released by Kenyans. A lot of complaints have been aired about how you have to bribe someone for your music to be played, how they only push artistes they have agenda with and how they frustrate artistes that are not able to pay the bribes.

I think as influencers, they are in the best position to share and create awareness about local music and artistes but they have to strike a balance between doing that and playing requests from fans. I applaud channels like One Fm and Radio Maisha who mostly play urban local music giving an avenue for new artiste to be heard.

Back to the artistes, I used to work for a website that aggregates music videos for local artistes and I can tell you right now that a lot of them don’t know the first thing about being an artiste. It is not only about the music, it’s about being a brand and it comes as a package. The challenge I had most was finding their music or a point of contact as half of them are not on social media. No Facebook page, no Twitter and no YouTube.  So I guess if you want to listen to their music you have to look for the cd’s in the houses, and that’s how a lot of music dies as you will never get to it. Gone are the days when people used to look for brands, today brands are trying to see how they can get to you even before you leave your bed. I believe artistes should employ the same ideology.

I would blame it on lack of knowledge for most but nothing comes easy, if you have to make it in the music industry you have to create awareness, get the people talking, about you, about your music and everything you do. In the 21 century even farmers from Karatina are online. So as an artiste it doesn’t make sense if your fans only hear about you and can’t interact with you. Some even go to an extent of creating a buzz off doing something ratchet like leaking nudes or fighting just to get the people talking and in the process listen to your music.

I think Kenyan music is worth listening to, in fact, i like the direction a lot of artistes are taking. They are bold and look like they enjoy what they are doing. Although a lot of it has lost meaning it’s still something you can bump into. They are owning it and in return the fans can feel the energy.

There is more original content as compared to previous times where everyone copied what they saw at the international level. Guys are even rapping and singing in mother tongue and it sounds so good. I believe finding our own sound like what South Africans have done with Kwaito and also Nigerians, is key to our industry blowing up. For example, what Sauti Soul are doing, they can afford to sing in Swahili and sheng and people from all over the world enjoy.

I know for a fact that a lot of artistes give up as a result of frustrations by the industry, not getting paid, faulty promoters but I believe that good music has no boundaries. If you take the time to put in more effort in developing yourself in terms what constitutes as good music and how you package and promote yourself, you are bound to blow up in no time. Main stream media is no longer the only way you can get recognition, Social media like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have more power than any other medium. So it’s up to you to put in the work.

Also, as Kenyans, i believe we can do more to appreciate our own in terms of buying music and attending concerts.









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