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no question record labels have played a huge role in the Kenyan entertainment scene

There is no question record labels have played a huge role in the Kenyan entertainment scene. Chebet Korir shines the spotlight on one of the greats

As we gear up for the much-anticipated Ngoma Festival that will go down tomorrow at Uhuru Gardens in Nairobi, we can’t help but reminisce on how music in Kenya has changed over the years.

Some of the biggest names will come together during the event to show off which stable between Calif Records and Ogopa Deejays had the best.

Well, as time has passed and new breeds have cropped up, we have experienced growth of different record labels and how they have revolutionalised the Kenyan sound into something new, funky and fresh compared to yesteryear.

Patrick Sampao, an entertainment strategist, who has worked with some of the big names in the local entertainment scene, says he is a firm believer that record labels have a huge role to play in the growth of the entertainment industry.

“In the past, Ogopa and Calif monopolised the industry beyond music. They had apparel that fans loved, and also had the loyalty of a bevy of artistes whom they grew from scratch. The last record label to do that was Grandpa Records.

This has been occasioned by the realisation that there are more royalties to earn if you are a record label than as an artiste. He adds that today’s artists set up record labels and produce their music under them such as Kompakt Records and Magix Enga, who are currently stealing the show.

As for Gabu, member of P Unit and director of Kompakt Records he says, “It’s a high time the industry changes as we continuously show off and showcase our ability as Kenyan producers and artistes.”

He insists that in as much as we are trying to make music that can be accepted internationally, we should keep the Kenyan original sound, which makes us stand out.

Eric Musyoka, producer at Decimal Record, says that music is generational as record label help shape an artiste. “So far, we have had a revolution of five different generations.

The first was the era of Ted Josiah in the early 90s, then came the second wave of urban sound. The third wave came with Jomino and the likes of King Kaka, Camp Mulla and the rise of Sauti Sol. The fourth and fifth generation came with the current vibe of Khaligraph Jones, Wangeci, Ethic, and the likes.

That can easily tell you how music has evolved and how various record labels have played a big role,” Musyoka says. He adds that each sound can only last for eight to 12 years as artistes adjust to a different sound.

No musician, he says, can last until the end and that’s why the likes of Ngoma Festival are capitalising on the nostalgia of that era, which is good.

However, some artistes such as KRG The Don, who is a  dancehall artiste and also director and CEO of Fast Cash Records, argues that artistes back then used to rely on producers who were not professionals and that’s why a song could be recorded and released after a year of back-and-forth with the record label.

“As an owner of a record label, producers and artistes now have the freedom of discussing the best kind of sound that can go well with the lyrics, which did not happen back in the days as producers were bullies.

You would go with your lyrics, but you’d beforced to work with what they feel is the best suit for them and not for the song.”

The gospel industry has also experienced its own face of music as various artistes have now upped their sound to trendy and catchy. “Gospel music back then was pioneered by the likes of Angela Chibalonza, Makoma, various choirs and many more.

Now we are seeing artistes embracing the Afrobeat style and realising an incredible and catchy song,” intimates Jacky B, who is one of Kenya’s leading gospel producers.

He adds that currently, Kenya is producing the biggest sound in the gospel scene as many are trying to replica that sound.

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