The first three weeks of 2019 have all but clocked in and that means one thing; It’s Grammy season, the longest-running and arguably most prestigious award in music. The award show usually airs at the end of January and is one of the most star-studded events in the entertainment industry. It is usually graced with entertainers from all over the world who are invited by the association responsible for hosting the Grammies. Last year our very own Octopizzo graced the occasion, opening up the possibility of a Kenyan getting their hands on the coveted award and following in the footsteps of fellow Africans such as popular hip hop artist Sjava and Hugh Masekela.
Now looking at the prestige and history of this auspicious award I couldn’t help but want something similar for Kenya. With the exception of the fast declining Groove awards and the Pulse Music Video Awards, we lack a Kenyan based, nationally recognized award. In the spirit of the 10-year challenge if we juxtapose the prominence of Kenyan award shows in 2019 vis a vis 2008 or 2009 the difference is conspicuous. This got me thinking and I feel like this might be the main reason our award shows have fallen off.
The first thing our award shows lack is a proper organizing body whether media house or independent organization such as the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (organizes the Grammies) that is able to package and make an award appealing to the relevant parties. Gone are the days when Chaguo La Teeniez (CHAT) Awards was a big deal. As a country, we should be nostalgic of the moments these award shows generated for the Kenyan music industry such as Prezzo’s arrival in a chopper much to the joy of the on-standing crowd. This is on top of the motivation it provided to the top tier artistes to work hard each year to have a shot at clinching the then coveted award. This not only improved the quality of the artistes’ projects but sprinkled very necessary spice on the industry and as a result raised the stakes among the artistes and spiked interest from the consumers meaning more airplay for Kenyan music and it should have meant more revenue for the industry from increased ticket sales and corporate sponsorships.
Note that I said ‘should’ve’ in my previous statement meaning none of that happened due to various reasons. As much we like to be nostalgic and associate the past with simpler lives we have to acknowledge the challenges as well and only then can we take the lessons learnt and apply them to the present times. That said, some of the challenges experienced with my suggestion are the lack of proper funding. Kenyan award shows aren’t known for their generosity and this makes the involved parties (actors/musicians) feel like it’s not worth the trouble. This can be remedied if relevant Kenyan authorities that register artistes for the sake of royalties such as MCSK would host award shows and with the use of the data they are privy to, award deserving artistes like Billboard in the States or at least set up an official chart to bring back healthy competition. Media houses could also band together and set up something similar (chart/award) seeing as the entertainment industry and media are mutually beneficial to each other.
The proposed solutions aren’t guaranteed to work but I feel they are one of the steps that could be taken to bring back that spark the Kenyan entertainment industry has lacked in terms of its award shows. This also comes in the wake of the raging Play Kenyan music debate, these two issues we feel (awards and airplay) go hand in hand. As we all strive to go against the grain and bring back great award shows while playing great Kenyan music we have to realize the status quo will not change in a day but what better way to achieve change than start the discussion and provide possible solutions.