What’s cooking across the border
Recently, comedian Eric Omondi revealed his appointment as a district ambassador in Tanzania.
The self-proclaimed ‘President of Comedy in Africa’ promised to take up his duty with utmost commitment.
“Na mimi nitayatekeleza majukumu haya kwa umakini sana. Nitaipa nguvu zote! (I will do my duties well, and dedicate all my strength),” said Eric.
The award-winning comic is one of the few local artistes who have sought for greener pastures in Tanzania, especially following the Covid-19 pandemic.
Bongo is one of Eric’s fan bases, with stadiums filling to capacity each time he performs.
Another artiste who has recently travelled south to Tanzania for entertainment business overtures is Sauti Sol’s Bien-Aime Baraza. He travelled to the country earlier this year together with renowned creative powerhouse Eugene Mbugua.
Eugene—the founder of renowned entities in the Kenya’s film industry Young Rich TV Limited and Documentary and Reality Television Ltd—also revealed in an interview that he was in deep talks with a number of Tanzanian show industry movers including music producer and sound engineer Hermy B, singer Juma Jux, and legendary stand-up comedian, and radio and TV personality Evans Bukuku.
Mombasa-based singer Yusuf Kombo aka Susumila intimates that the collaboration between Kenyan creatives and their Tanzanian counterparts has existed for a long time, only that this time the connections are working to the advantage of the Kenyans.
“In the past, it was hard to get airplay in Tanzania, but now it’s getting easier, and by so doing, it’s a good thing to pursue.
I believe this two-way relationship is going to last because we have now seen that it’s all about good music and networking,” he tells Spice.
The singer has had successful collabos with Tanzanian artistes. One of such is with Wasafi Classic Baby’s (WCB) Lava Lava in 2019 where they released the song Warembo, and a second hit with Mbosso titled Sonona, a fusion of slowed down chakacha and taarab. Mbosso is also signed to the WCB music stable.
“Working with Mbosso was a great experience because Tanzanian artistes are very serious when it comes to promoting music on social media platforms, particularly Instagram.
The collabo also made me learn a lot from Mbosso and his team,” adds Susumila, who also intimates that he has an upcoming collaboration with one of bongo’s finest musicians Ali Kiba.
But while he believes that Tanzanians are not better than Kenyans, he feels that Kenyan artistes focus a lot on music and forget the showbiz.
“Our Tanzanian counterparts invest a lot in their brands and don’t sell themselves short; they showed me that music is all about perception—how you present yourself is how people see you and treat you,” he says.
Banjuka hitmaker Dennis Kaggia aka DNA believes that the movement has been accelerated by internet connectivity.
“The more people have smartphones and access to internet, the more you are going to see entertainers become more successful and more crossing borders,” he says, adding that it is the Tanzanian rich culture that draws the Kenyan artistes to the country.
“Tanzanians have culture. They fall in love with an artiste and they love and support you forever.
Eric Omondi will continue being supported there forever because Tanzanians are loyal and stick to the artistes they love.
As long as you are in the game, they call you legendary, and you keep on getting more love and work.
They are not like us (Kenyans), who love you for a short while and give up on you when you mess up.
If we just showed more love to each other and not hate, we would do much more,” says DNA.
Despite the fact that his recent trips to bongo have not been for music, but other businesses, DNA adds that it is in Tanzania where he has done some of his biggest shows in his career as a musician.
He currently has as a YouTube show called Dreams and Ambitions, where he focuses on everything creative, but skewed to music.
He believes that the rise of gengetone has played a big role in unifying young Kenyans since in the past, there wasn’t really a music genre that unified Kenyans.
The gengetone wave sprouted from underground around 2016 and has reinvigorated the Kenyan music scene.
“For the first time in Kenya, we have a music culture that is uniting a majority of the people, and has crossed over to Tanzania.
Tanzanians have always collaborated between new artists and legendary ones, but it is the new gengetone wave for us,” he says.
Beny Berty, a Tanzania radio presenter, believes that the collaborations are happening more because the two countries create vast opportunities for everybody to thrive.
“Tanzanian music is massive and there are a lot opportunities here, and that’s why Kenyan artistes are coming here.
Our musicians also invest a lot in their music in both audio and visuals. Their promotion aspects too are different from how the Kenyan artistes handle theirs,” he notes.
He adds that his compatriots know how to grow their artistic products on social media and that’s what has made them grow.
As for comedians, Beny argues that it’s the Covid-19 restrictions that have made Kenyan comics want more of Tanzania.
“They want to be able to organise and also earn from their events without any restrictions unlike in Kenya.
They are also looking for a fan base and people they can work with. It’s all about survival. That’s why they are fighting to have shows here,” he observes.
According to event host and radio and TV presenter Selly Amutabi, though the two countries complement each other, this wave began with Kenyans falling in love with bongo flava in the early 2000s.
The smooth vocals, melodic beats and catchy lyrics are what Kenyans loved the most. It is this love that built a lot of Tanzanian artistes including Diamond Platnumz, Harmonize, Ali Kiba, Professor Jay, and Rayvanny.
For instance, Diamond’s first song Mbagala blew up in Mombasa, while his video for Number One was shot by Kenyan production house Ogopa Deejays.
“Kenyan artistes also tend to appreciate more of Tanzanian artistes than their own.
In fact, if you ask me, we give them a good platform and revenue for their music by playing it and hosting them in events in Kenya,” explains Selly.
Having had many opportunities to host shows in Tanzania, she observes that Kenyans never spend money on their artistes, a reason why many are looking for greener pastures in the neighbouring country.
“A Kenyan will be so willing to cough money for a Tanzanian or any other foreign artiste, but not a fellow Kenyan unless it’s a big name such as Sauti Sol.
However, just like in politics, things change in the entertainment scene too, where you find a ‘small’ name today becomes big in a couple of minutes,” she says.
Kenyan rapper Hubert Nakitare aka Nonini has worked with big names such as Professor Jay, Chidi Benz and Juma Nature.
However, he has tapped into another dimension of connection with the country, which is in business.
“I have great business relationship with artistes like AY and Chidi Benz whom we continue working with businesswise,” he intimates, adding that the two countries have an equal share of fan bases, but Tanzania loves brands.
“If you started music back in the day and collaborated with some of the legendary artistes they’ll love you forever,” says Nonini, who believes that the movement is not because of the Covid-19 pandemic, as the restrictions have made people limit on expensive travels due to the massive loss of incomes.
He is currently trying to push his apparel compan, Mgenge True into the international market. The label sells designer wear and watches.
Kenyan R&B crooner Otile Brown and his bongo counterpart Juma Jux have also in the recent times worked together.
They released Regina in November last year, which went on to become one the biggest jams of this Covid-19 period.
Other recent Kenya-Tanzania music collaborations have been between Willy Paul and Nandy, Bahati and Rayvanny, Tanasha Donna and Diamond Platnumz, Otile Brown and Ali Kiba, and Nadia Mukami and Marioo.