It is so good to have you back here again. There’s so much to say about the industry and even before you get to read about that, thank you. Thank you for listening, supporting and sharing Out The Booth Podcast with all your friends and followers. Your feedback means a lot to the show. For that I appreciate you so much more.
2020 has been a whole twist. Starting out we were all hopeful and psyched to get our feet in the waters and float. And then Corona. The music industry was hit hard as now it wasn’t about free shows, the show was no more. And just when we thought we’d seen the last of certain artists, social media slid in. In no time we are right back to it. Having braved lockdown, quarantine and suspended accounts. We are now back to actual industry matters.
On the previous newsletter, we looked at how Gengetone had risen to shake up tables in the industry. Making collaborations with gospel artists and raising questions on whether we had finally lost our reverence for religion. This has changed as to whether we should even be making prayers in sheng. Aah, the ignorance. Personally, this conversation proved how disconnected a lot of ‘surbaban’ and ‘urban’ Kenyans are. Not forgetting our pious opinion makers.
If that didn’t startle enough. In a recent radio interview, the host asked the guest artists whether they felt English had given them an edge over their peers. Not skill, not good production, management or promotion, language. To serve some context, the host is a rapper and radio host who raps in English and works for a station that promotes this music more. Everyone at the studio and, I the listener, were blown back. I’m certain no one expected this kind of a question from this particular host. It was, to be precise, ironic.
So lets look at language, music and numbers.
For Kenyan artists the debate on whether to make music in English or Sheng has never known an end. There was a time when even making music in Sheng would have your music at the bottom of the pile when it came to radio. A notion that has puzzled a lot of musicians. Since, unlike those in the media houses, they understood what moved their audience. It wasn’t until they found out that you don’t need mainstream audience to make a living out of this craft they had passionately honed. Again, thank social media and add the internet to that.
If anything, the age of streaming media has proved that good product, in our case music, sells itself. Despite how much rotation one musician might be getting on radio, there’s a number of others doing the same or more numbers online. A peek into their music reveals commercial appeal is not the objective, if anything comminity comes first.
The issue with language is making music that you are comfortable expressing yourself in first. Next is making music that is true to its form. If your music is meant to move the crowd, let it move them. If it’s meant to speak to them, let them hear every word. Is it meant to be viral? Get people to talk about it. Are you for the organic approach? You better get it on all the right platforms. Run your game and hope for the best.
The idea is that there is an audience for everyone. However, questioning whether a musician can use their own language or another to express their ideas is not the way to go. Make a point of being informed before you make a critique or share an opinion. Hey, you’re reading this after all, that’s one step to it. Now get more.
Eugene, host @otbpodke