OP-ED: The Essence of Music Festivals for Kenyan Musicians

Music festivals are currently among the most waited upon moments in the music world. The evolution of global festivals such as Coachella, Rolling Loud and Lollapalooza is nothing short of awe-inspiring in terms of what it has done for music in general. These festivals cited are however predominantly white and the exclusion of the urban audience led to the creation of similar spaces in Essence Festival, Broccoli Festival and African ones such as Global Festival and our very own Africa Nouveau. All these festivals, black or white are good for music. But what are the reasons these festivals are good for Kenyan music?

A number of Kenyan musicians have recently been recruited as part of the line ups for different global festivals. The first group of Kenyans to be tapped up for a festival included Khaligraph Jones, Blinky Bill, King Kaka, Naiboi, Victoria Kimani, Phy and Kagwe Mungai. All who were enlisted to perform at the SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas. The SXSW Festival is known to be a hub for the global music industry to make personal and business connections whilst also coming across new talent. This means this festival provides an opportunity for Kenyan acts to get linked to industry bigwigs, introduce the attendees to new music scenes and help artists acquire new fans. The same happens to be true for the Essence Festival where Kenya’s biggest musical act, Sauti Sol will be performing.

The Essence Festival is at heart an urban festival (urban is the politically correct word for saying black). It celebrates all great musicians of colour and is arguably the biggest festival among urban consumers.  2019’s Essence Festival is no different with the line up being star-studded and mixing the old and the new. Acts such as Anthony Hamilton, Nas, H.E.R, Teyana Taylor, Pharell Williams and self-proclaimed king of R&B; Jacquees will perform alongside Sauti Sol. The crowds that these acts pull should, therefore, provide a decent amount of media coverage for the Kenyan acts. This, in turn, provides Sauti Sol with an opportunity to get an in with the global market in a way similar to that used by fellow African acts Davido and Wiz Kid. They are now signed to huge record labels meaning wider distribution of their content and massive airplay on radio stations worldwide. Ultimately this provides them with a piece of the global cake which admittedly means a lot more income and could open up the Kenyan music scene to the world meaning everybody wins.

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