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Kenyan music performance has been taking a shift

In the last one decade, Kenyan music performance has been taking a shift. Presently, a lot of artistes and fans have embraced the art of live music, while giving playback a cold shoulder. Writes Chebet Korir

fortnight ago, Ali Oumarou the Managing Director at Kiza Lounge and Restaurant hosted the Alternate Sound Band from Nigeria. The band proved why it’s one of the hottest raving bands in Africa. With over 500 people in attendance, the four-man band pulled out all stops to give an unrivalled show.

From founder Gospel Obi aka GospelOnDeBeatz on the synthesiser, Orowo Ubiene aka Roy on the piano to Kenneth Ubiene aka Barr on the bass and Stanley Amanza aka StanStyx on the drums, their eccentric live performance definitely earned them plaudits and cheers.

You see, the band that recently played alongside Tiwa Savage in Kenya, was birthed to create optimum musical sound with less amount of manpower as they make alternative sounds off popular songs of Nigeria. This begs several questions; have Kenyans and artistes come of age to embrace the art of live music concerts? Are fans willing to pay top dollar to enjoy a live music band as opposed to playback music?

Speaking to Alternate Sound, they openly said that live Kenyan music has been doing well, but Kenyans needed to export and embrace more of it.

“As a band, we are willing to work with Kenyan artistes such as Victoria Kimani, Sauti Sol and others who would like to,” they said, adding it was so exciting to see how Kenyan fans came out in large numbers to see them live in action.

Dan Aceda, a Kenyan musician and producer says, “I started this whole live music thing a few years down the line, and I am not surprised. We insisted for so many years and it’s actually the best way to go about, especially when it comes to musical concerts. It has a culture that is exciting and it’s great that Kenyans have already embraced it.”

In as far as musical concerts are concerned, Taurus Group Limited CEO, Iyke Anoke, insists that Kenya has rich live music art, but the biggest challenge is being unable to translate it to radio.

He says: “The likes of Susan Gachui and Eric Wainaina have always set the pace when it comes to live music. However, we are yet to get the studio art aspect when it comes to live music. You know, when you give a concert and all you have is playback music, fans feel shortchanged in terms of quality and money and that’s why many complain when an artiste has not performed with a live band. Platforms such as Coke Studio Africa have helped in nurturing the live band art aspect of our music.”

“There’s space where both performances work.” says Jemedari, the brain behind Suits and Mics showcase. He says playbacks work well in club settings, as opposed to live performances, which are best suited for a big-audience concert and auditorium setups.

“However, live music is more of an experience and every good musician needs to think about it. If you’ve not explored live music, you haven’t explored the riches of your art,” he adds.

But growth isn’t always good news. Music fans have raised their expectations on which artistes they’ll shell out money to see and how they will perform.

Onyango Alfie, a live music fan, says: “Artistes have improved on their stage presence and more genres are being accepted widely. From Blues in the CBD to major festivals such as Blankets and Wine, I have gotten the chance to see different artistes take the stage and leave a good impression.”

In the rapidly shifting landscape, Thomas Olango — known for Jamhuri Festival — says the space for live bands has grown and he has been working closely with young artistes in that line.

“I remember a while back as Ali Kiba music director, he only used to have a Kenyan band and he really had much faith in us. This showed me that our culture is being embraced by others and it is well received.”

He adds that it could be a great idea if such sessions were included in the school curriculum, as many young aspiring artistes could learn more about music.

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