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Not every song is a hit…some are epic fails

Not every song is a hit. Some are epic fails. Manuel Ntoyai and Faith Chebet put the spotlight on the local entertainment industry

Music like any form of art has been used for centuries for different purposes. To entertain, to educate and to inform. Locally, like any other part of the world, music is consumed at a high rate and the local music makers are in business.

And while there are those who are doing an amazing job, many lag behind. For sometime now, majority of Kenyans have lost interest in local music and most are rightfully justified by their contempt and lack of interest. Kenyan artistes need to wake from the slumber.

Recently, a group of artistes demonstrated in the CBD, asking for 60 per cent airplay. Celebrated artiste, Eric Wainaina added his voice to the never ending debate: “When Kenyan artistes march the streets asking for more airplay, what do they really mean? Surely they don’t mean a total ban?

Where would we be without Stevie (Wonder)? Michael Jackson? The Beatles? Who wants to live a life without Beyoncé?” Then came in blogger Cabu Gah, who called them D Listers as few, if at all was any from mainstream entertainment who bothered with the demonstrations.

These fellows have “made it” and their bloated egos would not allow them to carry placards and twigs among the glaring Kenyans who don’t fancy their music. Of course, many of them know that Kenyans don’t care what they release, due to pre-conceived thoughts on how whack and bad local music is. Kenyans prefer international content to local.

Just look at the clubzone. When a DJ spins a mixcrate with say, Drake, Wiz Khalifa, Kendrick Lamar, the crowd storms the dance floor.

Reggae, ragga, Kwaito to the most hated Naija music; foreign music reigns supreme in terms of airplay. And while local musicians won the battle, Media Owners Association Chairman Hanningtone Gaya, made their position clear when he said “local music should be of good quality and authentic, not something duplicated from the West.”

However, the reality on the ground is that the work ethic among local artistes is pathetic at best. There are many instances during which artistes double as producers and whatever else they need to be for a record to pass. Because of this, we have content flooding that doesn’t make the cut.

And while many will argue quality is expensive to, majority will ignore the fact that music is business and businesses needs investments. Averagely, a good studio will charge Sh15,000 for a single track, but to some artistes that is enough budget for five songs. The result, garbage and like one wise man once said, garbage in, garbage out!

In a private conversation, we were informed that Tanzania music industry releases over 50 songs a day and Nigeria, 100. Kenyans musicians aren’t few in number. Jamaicans are less than three million artistes, yet they have been able to export their music. We are over 40 million Kenyans!

Do the math and see where the market share falls. When it comes to publicity and marketing, it is either artistes engage quacks to do the job or they don’t engage anyone at all. You see, they are a Jack of all trades.

They are their own managers, publicists, agent, lawyer… When they make CD Covers, expect funny artwork with zero research on new trends. Perception is key and this knowledge seems to have been thrown and washed down the river. Content is the other main factor.

Heck, we have folks singing about ugali and about ‘riding’ our women like matatus. Others are passing time by bursting our eardrums with bad quality tracks praising basically nothing apart from women thighs and derrière; irrelevant stuff that no one cares about.

The last song that inspired patriotism was done by celebrated musician Eric Wanaina, Nchi ya Kitu Kidogo. Sadly, no one is making such music. For others, Jamaican patois has hypnotised them to the extend of making strange sounds that we are made to believe is music. Leave that to Jamaicans.

That beat is their tune, not ours. Another fever that has caught up with our artistes is sampling of foreign music. What happened to creativity? Why is it that our music outfits can’t match with the quality of the likes of Kalawa Jamze and to Chocolate City? Creativity level is zero and with the level of laxity of the music makers, we are in for it.

It is worrying that more and more Kenyans are losing interest in our content. Don’t be surprised when someone knows the latest Vybes Kartel hit, but they do not know that Bien of Sauti Sol was first featured in a hip-hop track more than a decade ago.

Young music lovers in campuses are ‘in love with the Coco’, but they know nothing about Johnny Vigetti’s self-titled album. Kenyans are tired of bad quality music and getting 60 per cent airplay won’t change our perception unless you do something about it. You see, it is not for Kenyans to reach out to you, but vice versa.

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