The Scramble for Kenyan Clout (Part 2)

The last time we talked about this, there was so much to cover that I just had to keep the conversation going in regards to the Kenyan music scene. This time I want us to look at the main source of income for majority of Kenyan artists; shows.

Whilst sales of music and merchandise may be lucrative in the west, this is most definitely not the case in most of African countries and unfortunately Kenya isn’t exempted. Before we go in on the country though we have to understand that the digital age of streams is relatively new in Kenya and this stems from sluggish digital integration by the government and also lack of policies that protect the artists’ intellectual property. This was brought to light by gospel musician ‘Timeless Noel’ who months ago took to social media to blast the MCSK and the general royalties body at large after his hit single ‘Odi’ could only amass 8,000 Kenyan shillings. This being so despite the fact that the song had been played and danced to country-wide by people of all ages. The saddest part of this scenario is that this might just be his rightful share as there are so many hands that get their hands on royalty money and with poor policies doubling down, such meagre figures are what the artist ends up getting.

So this being the case it’s pretty clear that shows are the most stable way for artists to make a proper income as this is purely a transaction between the promoter and the artist and his or her management. The highest paid artists in Kenya; Sauti Sol allegedly charge between 5 million Kenyan shillings for corporate events and 1 million shillings for privately promoted events with some artists being paid zilch, at times told to perform for ‘exposure’. Circling back to Blankets & Wine, this used to be the most popular event to provide upcoming artists with a proper platform to showcase their talents but apart from the 10th anniversary, they have in recent times gone the pop way and have opted to import foreign acts as headlining acts.

Now don’t get me wrong foreign acts are great for our country’s music scene, they open the scene for a wider field of exposure and provide opportunities for possibly groundbreaking collaborations but shouldn’t this be for a music scene that has its house in order? (Not one where the best performing visual is one by a socialite who has no business doing music while real talented acts flee the country searching for opportunities they should have in their home. Forgive my bluntness). I mean the most popular event in the country is one that annually desperately searches for the biggest free foreign act to bring in during the festivities (I’m talking about the Jameson concert).

Enough rants. Despite all the wrongs, there is a flicker of light at the end of the tunnel. Khaligraph dropped a critically acclaimed album and with King Kaka’s promotional appearance on New York based hip hop station Hot 97 before his ‘Eastlando Royalty’ project that dropped yesterday(30th November 2018) they can hopefully lead us into a new era of talent and quality-based content minus all the bells and whistles. For in reality until as a country we are ready to invest in ourselves we shall forever seek validation from elsewhere.