The art of survival
They were once the ‘it’ thing in the Kenyan music scene, but not anymore. As CHEBET KORIR writes, some artistes took a bow from the stage and found refuge in new ventures, while others still struggle to remain relevant in the game
Let’s put a pause on the current wave of Gengetone music and flashback to the days when we artistes gave us back-to-back club bangers that are still on replay to date. They were irresistible and their concerts were a must-attend, but with the radical shift of the music business structures, some sidestepped because the music was not working out for them anymore. Rather, they decided to venture into other forms of businesses so that they could pay their bills.
Former one half of pop music duo Dex Vultures, Colonel Mustafa, is currently a cast on K24 TV’s socialite-laden reality show Nairobi Diaries. Together with his group mate Nasty Thomas, Mustafa made a name for himself in the 254 in the early 2000s with hits such as Monalisa, Teremka, Katika and Adhiambo, favourites for many fans. After the group split in the late 2000s, Mustafa tried to stay afloat in his music business, releasing songs such as Ayo, Dodoma Sigida, Lenga Stress and Loboko, which in all honesty didn’t match the popularity of the rapper’s previous hits while in the Vultures.
Since then, Mustafa has been trying to use different platforms, away from music, just to remain pertinent and put food on his table. He tells Spice: “I am a legend whether I am or no longer relevant in the music scene. We (himself and other artistes of yore) paved the way for the new artistes and they will still leave us here, doing what we do in these trenches.”
Rapper Gkon was one of the artistes who reaped big during the campaign period of the general election in 2013, thanks for his then songs’ traction. However, things are awkwardly different now, as his music is good as dead. He uses different social media platforms to attract some attention, since his songs cannot do that for him anymore.
“I believe I am here to stay as a musician and I still do term myself as one. The rumours that my music is dying are just some malicious falsehood. Actually, I recently released a collabo track with Calvo Mistari dubbed Kujiachilia and I know for a fact that it is doing well,” he defends himself.
A decade or so ago, Hey Z was one of the well-established gospel singers in Kenya. He was also a part-time counselor and toured schools in his mission to spread the gospel. Unfortunately, his music career nosedived and was no longer on rotation. His last song was Nimepona featuring Dunco that was released in February 2018 and it was after a long absence on the scenes. He says he put a pause on music because the corporate world didn’t have faith and trust to support him and others like him.
“Artistes who once had a huge following did not fail, the support systems of the day failed us. There was a time the corporates gave artistes more than enough platforms to better themselves through their art, but the case is different now. They do that no more,” he says.
Charting new courses
Singer Qty Jennifer was one of the few female artistes around who would sing and rap, an attribute that differentiated her from the rest. According to her, the type of music currently being consumed in the country is nonsensical and that was one of the reasons that pushed her to take a step back and venture in other fields.
“I am currently the head of marketing at two upmarket clubs in Nairobi and I am also planning to launch my gym. Music did not fail me; I just don’t have time to release it. Also, people should also realise that just going to the studio and release music doesn’t make you an artiste. It takes something more including understanding the craft of music and the business angle before jumping right into it,” she says.
Music manager and publicist Maurice the General describes the current style of music as demanding and timely, a reason many ‘old school’ artistes are finding it difficult fitting in.
“Time have changed and so has the Kenyan music scene. As the listeners, we cannot be listening to the same artistes and sound, year-in and year-out. This is why we are embracing the new breed of artistes and their style of music. We are not dismissing our old fellows, no; they just need to understand that the craft has changed and they need to tow the line or ship out if they have to artistically remain relevant,” he says.
Maurice wishes to see the musicians who graced the scenes in the last two decades make a comeback, but with something fresh and trendy.