Kenya’s showbiz industry has its fair share of highs, lows

Friday, December 27th, 2019 00:00 |
DJ Lyta.

In 2019, Kenya’s showbiz industry has had its fair share of highs and lows, with rippling effects on players. MANUEL NTOYAI looks at the factors that shaped the show business landscape 

There is no business like the show business; the showbiz. For long, music makers in Kenya have complained about the influx of foreign music content in the country and with the emergence and dominance of a new wave of music known as Gengetone, the new crop of artistes are flying the Kenyan flag higher than expected.

As the wave grew in influence, especially in 2019, so did the sapience of some of the older folks. The established acts of the industry jumped on the bandwagon, seemingly in the spirit of ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’.

From the likes of Jua Cali and Khaligraph Jones to deejays Crème De La Crème and Lyta, they all looked to embrace and capitalise on every opportunity.

“Gengetone is like a life saver to many artistes. If you look at the last five years, there were few up-and-coming acts being churned out and the old guard acted like gatekeepers with some of them determined to maintain the status quo.

When the West African music cropped them out of the picture, they started the #PlayKenyanMusic drive, but now Gengetone is enjoying such massive support that these young artistes craved for,” DJ Lyta tells Spice.

For established acts and their labels, identifying and nurturing the next generation of talent is something to be proud of. 

Genge maestro Jua Cali admits to have failed to do so during his prime. He also acknowledges the fact that working and managing talent is not a task for the faint hearted.

“Managing talent also involves managing characters and personalities. If you don’t share the same vision it becomes a big challenge. It requires discipline, patience and hardwork.

Few artistes have these attributes. Many want to become famous overnight or using the wrongs methods,” says Kaka Empire co-founder and MD Dennis Njenga.

Economic hardships

The same labels or entertainment outfits have not been spared either by the current economic crisis that has seen private companies close shop and lay off workers, which underplays the role corporates have on showbiz.

“We have also been affected by the lay offs and low business. Many companies that support the entertainment industry have either stopped or cut budgets by up to 60 per cent,” adds Njenga.

Grandpa Records’ honcho Refigah says: “Corporates always like associating themselves with what adds them value. It’s always about them.

So, if things are not working out, creatives should change tack, all the way from production to the finished product in order to attract not only the good numbers, but also make their brand equity valuable as well.”

This can be elaborated by the nosedive the urban gospel music industry has experienced in recent times. The glitterati lifestyle once associated with the gospel scene seems to be a thing of he past now. What went wrong?

“Urban gospel music has lost geniuses in terms of artistes, deejays, and shows. This is because the once lucrative ministry turned out to be a centre for competition.

The corporate heads are also religious and human, and would not side with the numerous negative publicity that clouded the industry,” says singer KimDanny, who made headlines recently after crossing over from gospel to secular music.

But gospel spinmaster DJ Sadiq begs to differ with that notion. He says the state of affairs within urban gospel music circles will help separate the wheat from the chaff. 

He says gospel music players main aim is to spread the Word first, ahead of scramble for financial or any other material gains.

“The gospel cannot die. The owner (God) is alive and He is the one who funds it. Corporates are just partners.

My only wish is for gospel ministers, myself included, going back to basics; praying more and focusing on the main goal, which is spreading the gospel and winning souls as a result. 

“When these are in place it will reflect even in the content put out there by the artistes,” he says.

Strategic partnerships

Finding creative ways to get partners for projects has always been an issue for artistes and recently, Sarakasi Trust in collaboration with the US Embassy, started the Talanta na Kazi, an initiative that aims to empower youth using arts.

“The overall goal is to use arts as a means for economic empowerment to secure jobs, promote social entrepreneurship in established creative hubs in Mombasa and Kilifi counties; to connect them with mentors and trainers who can give them support and training, and empower them with knowledge through relevant business and marketing training,” says Sarakasi Trust head of marketing and communication Annitah Mbugua.

Recently, the Kenya Copyright Board (Kecobo) deferred the licensing of Collective Management Organisations (CMOs) for the 2020-2022 period, pending the implementation of wide ranging reforms in compliance with the newly amended Copyright Act.

“There’s need for forensic audit of the three CMOs for the period 2017 to 2019, and they also must be properly structured to ensure compliance with the law, various regulations, good governance and integrity in the management of members’ resources,” says Kecobo CEO Edward Sigei.

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