Irene Kariuki of Performers Rights Society of Kenya (Prisk) and Margaret Mutunga, a director with Kenya Association of Music Producers (Kamp) say time has come for women in the entertainment industry to get proper recognition
How long have you been in the entertainment industry?
Twenty two years. Can you believe that! How did you start? I started at KBC when it was the only TV station for actors to showcase their talents.
My journey in the industry started when my mother challenged me to try voicing a radio advert. The rest as they say is history. I used to do radio programmes, later went into TV and now I am settling into film production and management.
How was it then for actors and actresses?
There was poor leadership, no structure and people operated independently. The pay was also poor. How did you end up at Prisk Before Prisk, there was Society of Performing Artistes of Kenya, which was conceptualised in the year 2000 by several people including the late Wahome Mutahi.
However, it was not vibrant because members did not know their rights and there was little understanding of copyright laws. In 2007, I was invited by friends including Daniel Ndambuki aka Churchill and Charles Bukeko (Papa Shirandula) and other faces in industry to lead the society.
However, things didn’t work out then. In 2009, I said enough is enough and Prisk was formed. When we started, we realised that many people didn’t understand copyright laws. We sought counsel from Angela Ndambuki, who is a trained lawyer, to help us with that.
What are the challenges?
In a male dominated industry, the place of women in art is at times looked down upon and those who venture into its leadership positions face the same hurdles.
Market players sometimes have little regard for women. Some people still ask for sexual favours in exchange of services and even when it comes to payment, women are paid differently. This is what we are working on changing as directors.
What are you doing in terms of ensuring there is more local content and better pay for women?
I am working on a draft policy that will see equal payment to artists through revised contracts that members can use across the field. We have already presented a music policy that took 10 years to prepare. It seeks to have 60 per cent of local content get airplay.
Advise to female artistes?
Stand by your principles, get the right exposure and information. At the end of the day, swimming with the shacks requires strong will and self c
I am a gospel artiste. I compose, arrange and produce my music. I am married with four children and a granddaughter.
How were things when you started out?
I started 15 years back. Things were tough. Many people discouraged me especially because of the perception about female singers. Financially, it was tough and I barely made money from my music since piracy was high. When I look back, I thank God for the steps that he has taken me through as an artiste.
What do you do at Kamp?
I am a policymaker. Together with other directors we oversee the running of the association.
What are the qualifications for the job and what was your strategy?
Those who run the board are elected. Just like any other business, music is a risky business. I knew lack of understanding of copyrights laws and poor management was a problem, so I dug deep to find out more and out of this dedication, other musicians saw the zeal in me and elected me to represent them at Kamp.
What are the milestones so far?
At the board, we have tried as much possible to improve the welfare of our members. The job comes with challenges that require one not only to be principled because it is traditionally a male dominated industry.
Both organisations recently signed a deal to work together, what do we expect?
This is an important milestone that will forge unity in the multi-billion shillings industry with endless job creation platforms. This agreement will put impetus in our quest to transform the industry not just for us, but also for those who will come after.
Advise to female artistes?
I would urge women who wish to join the industry to follow their dreams. One can manage family, business and personal issues with devotion, good management skills and prayers.
At times the market forces are blunt and if you do not study the trends and analyse them carefully, you will end up making losses. At times it is understandable as a starter, but I would advice anyone to do a situation analysis first.