Maybe it’s me but the beginning of the year is the trickiest time to predict what artists have lined up. From January to late February, especially in the Kenyan music industry, things are quite quiet and unsettled. With the occasional hit from the popular names and almost nothing from the budding acts, it’s easy to say that the music is dying. However, it doesn’t. From the inside looking out, you might feel like the artists have lost their footing and are banking on the past year’s success. However, from the outside looking in, you find fans are still hungry and, this hunger has pushed or pulled them towards a certain artist.
In the past week, social media has been filled with comments on how good, bad or confusing Amapiano is, to some extent, it seems like this genre is the new trend that everyone is on. Of course, that could be credited to the events occurring in recent times where events have been all about these artists. However, this is like reading the comments after posting your content. You only box yourself in. The funniest bit is artists have also hopped on this trend, saying how we are not appreciative of our own but very quick to celebrate outside artists.
This time, I disagree. This time I will play devil’s advocate.
If there is a void, it shall be filled.
Over the years, Kenyans have proved that one artist can not take over their music tastes. If anything, that artist needs to either collaborate with others in their genre or crossover to keep their attention. This can also be said about music genres. From Kwaito to Reggaeton to House to Amapiano, as Kenyans, we have enjoyed and praised every single one of these genres. And, as the audience danced along, artists stood at the sidelines and lamented on how they have been ignored. But how can we ignore them when it is they who we come back to each time.
The thing is, artists in Kenyan acts are always looking for a formula. A way out of the boxes they have put themselves in. It’s not only our musicians but every single creative look for that way out. However, when you are stuck looking for hits you may lose yourself and keep hopping from one trend to another never paying mind to what makes you unique and how you could blend that with what is already there. Another thing is, adaptive growth in the music scene is not a common occurrence. If you think about it, most musicians will stick to what has made them popular until the fans tire of it then they can move on to other ventures, convert to gospel music or start their brands.
Why this happens is hard to tell. In my observation the one artist who’s been able to adapt over the years is Mejja. Coming from Genge to Gengetone while keeping his comedic storytelling alive has made him quite a memorable act in today’s industry. I’m not saying there aren’t others who have the same growth but he’s the first that comes to mind. Wakadinli is also in here with their recent move to incorporate drill in their latest releases.
If I were to attribute this situation to anything, I’d have to quote Tetu Shani’s tweet where he described our music industry conditioning a lot of Kenyans to view music as entertainment rather than a way to express themselves. That’s why a lot of artists are seasonal. They come in, place a mark all over the scene then slowly fizz away only to re-emerge with troubles or scandals.
The struggling artist
Another sad occurrence in our industry is how we seem to have romanticised the idea of struggling. This does not apply to musicians and creatives only but in every industry. It makes me wonder, shouldn’t the idea of creating opportunities for future generations lead to ease of entry and less bureaucracy in the systems. Instead, what we get is those who led the way holding on to what they had because what they are putting out isn’t getting as much attention. All this time newer acts do not know better and instead repeat the errs of their priors. I am sure you have heard of the Wilkins – Trio Mio drama.
I am not saying there is nothing good that comes out of the struggle. It teaches resilience, shows you what works, it grinds you up to test how bad you want this and after you go through all this, you pop up with a clear direction as to where you are heading. What I am saying is, we need to find better ways to inform and educate musicians on what to do once they join the music scene. Which deals to sign and what to look out for. Maybe then we can stop saying that the music scene only works when you are well to do, financially.
Let’s hop into some news.
- PUT2SLEEP RELEASE ROAD TO RICHES
On the 15th of January, Tanzanian producer duo Put2Sleep released their 2nd project Road to Riches. The duo term the mixtape as a deep dive into East Africa`s on-the-rise hip-hop scene.
Much like last year’s Bonge La Speech, this project features artists from both Kenya and Tanzania giving you a smooth blend of Swahili rap and Kenyan Shrap along with HipHop. Featured artists on this project include Brian Simba, Kanno, Jovie Jovv, Sensei and Fredrick Mulla. This tape also comes with a distribution deal with Bob Marley founded Tuff Gong studios. According to the duo, they felt that this was the only label that accurately understands African music therefore would do them right when it comes to spreading the reach of their music. You can listen to the whole project here.
- MUSIC CHARTS 254
For a long time now, tracking plays of Kenyan music on radio and streaming sites has been an unsolved issue. This has led to many believing that even awards are as biased as those in charge of music at the various stations. However, Music Charts 254 have created a system that enables them to rank songs based on radio plays and numbers from streaming sites. These include Deezer, Apple Music, Boomplay, YouTube and Audiomack. A well-received effort based on social media response. So if you are interested in knowing who is trending in the music industry, check out their page for lists released every Friday.
- OTB PODCAST SURVEY
As you read this, there has only been a single episode of the podcast released this year. The reason is some changes are being made and also a consolidation of a few personal matters. However, your opinion matters a lot to the show. That is why I ask you to take this 2-minute survey and help improve on the show. Your response lets the producers know what you would like to hear more of and what additions you want to happen. Click here to take the survey, it takes less than 2 minutes.