All hail the music

Friday, October 18th, 2019 06:32 |

Music as a form of art combines vocal or instrumental (or both) sounds to create a composition. Primarily, the purpose of music has been to provide company, express and modulate emotions, but along its long untraceable journey, it has found itself doing more than just that. Simply put, the world would be dead, literally, without music. 

In the world of sports, music is held in high regard. It is a component that complements any sport in ways that surpasses any human understanding. In football, for instance — which is arguably world’s biggest sport — nothing else comes any closer to bringing out the emotions so passionately and powerfully like the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Champions League anthem.

The anthem’s composer, Tony Britten, who in 1992 was commissioned by the UEFA to adapt the music and write the anthem’s text, has been quoted in different documentaries saying that nothing could have prepared him for what would become his most successful composition ever. He is always in awe, seeing how his composition has continuously touched billions of football lovers across the world when watching Europe’s most prestigious football competition.

“When UEFA wanted music, which would reflect the gravity and importance of this competition they were launching, it was very useful to have a reference. The whole notion of branding with music just didn’t happen back then. I think we were really the first to brand a sporting championship,” says Britten in one of the documentaries.

Five-time Ballon d’Or winner and Barcelona FC talisman Lionel Messi underlines the influence the anthem plays on him, every time he steps out for a UEFA Champions League match. He says: “It continues to be a very special and beautiful anthem for all of us, so listening to it when coming out is something that motivates you.”

Therapeutic feel

Bob Marley, who is regarded the greatest reggae musician of all time, once said: “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.” Different research findings have shown music has a profound effect on one’s body and moods. This has led to an interesting medical field that fusses music and medicine to give therapy. This type of therapy uses music to improve and maintain individual’s physical, psychological and social well being. It involves a broad range of activities such as listening to music, singing or playing a musical instrument.

Locally, saxophonist and Swahili jazz musician Juma Tutu is a witness of the therapeutic powers of music at a personal level. This has in turn motivated him to help people with special needs.

“My son Fungo Tutu is autistic. It is through his condition that I found the need to start impacting positively on children with special needs through music. Sometimes I feel he was born that way so that I may serve my purpose as a teacher for these children. This is the fist ever band in Kenya composed of children with special needs,” he told Spice.

He adds: “Music helps them calm down, helps their concentration and modifies their moods as well. For those with autism like my son, it helps them to develop social skills such as singing and dancing, which helps boost their attention.” 

Political influence

When it comes to generate change in society, politicians and activists have for eons used music as a tool to propagate their messages. Coded messages are sent in form of music to pass special messages depending with the circumstances. In euphoric political moments, music has been used to emphasise unity to work in favour of any political divide.

In 2002, Gidi Gidi Maji Maji music duo released Unbwogable, its greatest song ever. The smash hit almost eclipsed the National Anthem, quite literally, when it was adopted as an anthem by the Rainbow Alliance political outfit for Mwai Kibaki’s victorious presidential election campaign. Unbwogable opened up for other artistes to subsequently reap from political campaigns through songs and performances.

A decade later, Kenyan rapper GKon was one of the artistes campaigning for the Jubilee coalition.

“Former Youth Fund boss, the late Bruce Odhiambo, linked me up with the presidential campaigns team after listening to my music. He told me to compose and record campaign songs for both the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and Jubilee. But he loved the Jubilee song more and asked us (my manager and I) to visit him in his Kileleshwa residence in Nairobi. When we met, he gave us the contract and after our first event at Uhuru Park, I was paid Sh200,000,” he says.

Gkon would later land more deals and would accompany the campaigning brigade across the country. “Soon after the elections, they called my manager again and told him they wanted me to be among the artistes to grace the president’s inauguration at the Kasarani Stadium and I felt so honoured to be in the list,” he adds. 

In the run up to the 2017 general elections, opposition outfit National Super Alliance (Nasa) contracted gospel singer Hellena Ken to headline all its major rallies, thanks to her hit song Mambo Yabadilika. Nasa, in its clamour to bring leadership change in the country, saw it wise to use the song as its anthem. It is said the campaigns were a gold mine for the singer, rumoured to have raked in millions.

Advertising power

A study by Neutosight, which analysed more than 150 adverts to identify which ones are most strongly correlated with Long-Term Memory Encoding (LTME), backs up the fact that music in TV ads becomes more memorable when it drives the action of the ad. For example, when the lyrics or the tempo matches what is happening on screen, it’s more relatable.

However, this has been a tricky business as copyright disputes between composers, producers and the advertising client always arise, always leading to court cases. This underlines the importance of not only having the right documentation when dealing with a corporate entity, but also understanding the same.

“Understanding copyright is a major key for music creatives in order to keep their works protected, especially from people using it without permission, and to make money from their work in its original form and in its altered form. A lot of creatives don’t like to get into the legal aspects of the music industry, but in order to make informed decisions about their rights, creativity and distribution of their work, they should take some time out to learn a little more about Intellectual Property, especially copyright,” Kenya Association of Music producers (KAMP) vice chairperson Angela Ndambuki tells Spice. 

Music tourism

Jacob Gona aka Makushabu is a rapper from Malindi. A decade ago, he was one of the many beach boys hanging around the beach waiting for tips from tourists. Although coming from a disadvantaged background, he loved music, but it never crossed his mind that it would be his key to a better life. An encounter with a music producer from Italy is all it took to open his eyes.

“The producer noticed my talent and encouraged me to pursue music, but with better strategies. Being a tourist town, Malindi has a lot of people depending on the sector and there is a lot of artistic work there too,” says Makushabu.

He would later start Watalii Music and Foundation, which brings together tens of creatives to not only polish their talents, but also get economically empowered.

“There was need for value addition to the creative process and all I see is the massive power of music when these young people stop peddling drugs to work through the programme,” adds Makushabu. He believes in the power of music as a cultural tourist product.

He says: “People go to Ibiza to party. There are many other tourist-targeted events across the world that hundreds of thousands of people attend. Almost every tourist who comes to Kenya wants to see the Maasai morans jumping and singing. That is the leverage that music has over tourism.” 

Fan perspective

Nancie Mama Africa is a rhumba fan and TV presenter who has been emceeing at rhumba events for more than 20 years now. She acknowledges the power of music in influencing trends in various fields.

“Rhumba and music in general is powerful in every sense. I have interacted with many big stars of the genre and I can say that music is such a mighty heritage in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). I Visited the Necropole Cemetery in Kinshasa and witnessed how decently departed musicians are rested. The graves are more of showrooms; it’s an experience like no other,” she says.

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