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The Kenyan Contemporary Music Scene As a purveyor of local urban contemporary music, I am left dumbstruck by the inability of our Kenyan industry to grow by leaps and bounds vis-à-vis our East African counterparts let alone Nigerian's, Ghanaian's and South Africa's industry. So the question that begs an answer is; where did we go wrong? What could be the problem? You can therefore Ask Me Anything regarding contemporary Kenyan music in comparison to other African Nations.

KigohMusique
Nov 10, 2017

While other African music industries are experiencing perpetual growth, the Kenyan music scene is obliterated with miniature growth. This situation can be attributed to a myriad of possibilities and reasons, spanning from poor artistry, management among others, all of which I will discuss in my AMA.

We are weak developers of talent in all fields. For instance, let us look at Kenyan football; how many fans go to watch Kenyan football matches? We all know the answer to that; very few. The primary reason why football fans do not go to the stadiums is that the quality of football displayed is deemed to be of a lower quality compared to the European Leagues. As we all know, this argument is substantive and factual. However, is it logical to compare our 20-year-old clubs to centenarians in Europe? Another issue is the fact that all our football clubs are formed by corporate entities meaning that if the plight of the clubs is interlinked with that of these firms. Our music is actually facing the same plight.

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Nov 12, 11:30AM EST0

As a purveyor of local urban contemporary music, I am left dumbstruck by the inability of our Kenyan industry to grow by leaps and bounds vis-à-vis our East African counterparts let alone Nigerian's, Ghanaian's and South Africa's industry. So the question that begs an answer is; where did we go wrong? What could be the problem?

We are weak developers of talent in all fields. For instance, let us look at Kenyan football; how many fans go to watch Kenyan football matches? We all know the answer to that; very few. The primary reason why football fans do not go to the stadiums is that the quality of football displayed is deemed to be of a lower quality compared to the European Leagues. As we all know, this argument is substantive and factual. However, is it logical to compare our 20-year-old clubs to centenarians in Europe? Another issue is the fact that all our football clubs are formed by corporate entities meaning that if the plight of the clubs is interlinked with that of these firms. 

The issues in Kenyan music cannot be exhausted by a single post. As a matter of fact, not many people attend music shows for a myriad of reasons. One of the reasons is that our ‘celebrities’ are not 'celebrity' enough. Every person in the world expects to witness the growth of an artiste. In fact, for new artistes in the US, their Youtube comments are composed of many fans writing; “I was here before 10k views” or whatever number of views, meaning that they are proud of these artistes. On the other hand, Kenyan artistes barely even make 300k views as fans do not see the need to watch their videos branding them as poor quality lacking clarity, creativity, and concepts. These are, however, not baseless accusations, as they hold water in comparison to other African music industries. It is illogical to have 5000 Youtube views and expect to fill up a stadium in Nairobi. Similarly, it is also naïve to have expectations of having your 6000 views video on heavy rotation; not unless you are in bed with the media, a purported legend in the ‘music game’ clocking milestone mileage without anything to show for it or Akothee!

I hold the belief that a music career should have a ubiquitous influence across the board over time regardless of how it begins. It is therefore sad to witness a Kenyan artiste that has been in the industry for almost two decades and cannot account for anything that they have done for the industry. It is selfish, egotistical and introverted not to have anything related to uplifting new artists, to say the least! You better come up with a podcast, if you are genuinely clueless about what to do to the industry. Look at Banky W, he signed Skales and Wizkid to EME in 2009 and probably without him, the latter’s ride to success would be a different story. Tell me about any noteworthy music label in the country-None Whatsoever!

Kenyan labels got you releasing a single song every year while you have signed a 5-year contract with a release clause of money you will never make in your life as an artiste. Let me ask you a simple question when was Dufla signed to Grandpa Records, Anyone? I know, it’s 2013 and how many songs d0es the A-List Kenyan artiste have on his YouTube Channel? Oops sorry! On Grandpa Government’s channel, he has four hit songs of which one is a remix of the other, so let’s just say 3. Three songs in 5 years and the nigg** is making ‘big bucks,' funny, right? I do not think so! It is only a few months ago that Ugandan Dancehall Maestro Bebe Cool lambasted Kenyan artistes as lazy a sentiment they did not take lightly vehemently defending themselves. Their defense story sounded much like clutter, a broken record or a perforated dustbin seeking to be filled with water. In fact, just like that perforated bin, their arguments and counter-accusations did not hold water!

I would also wish to absolve Kenyan fans of any blame since the Customer is King! Nope! I cannot exonerate the fans since the only reason they are referred to as customers is for their love of freebies. They want free music albums, free concert tickets, free uber rides, free beer in the event and a free girl to take home! Kenya isn't the kingdom of free; FreeDOM. I do not understand why one would in their free mind devoid of any drugs attend a show that charges $100 for an international celebrity but would not chuck $20 to fill up a gig in an arena where a Kenyan Artiste is playing/performing. Somebody correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that Steph Kapella can be our TyDollaSign, Naiboi can be our Davido, Brian Nadra can be our Wizkid. Kipsang can be our Maleek Berry, I can be your Ycee/Nasty C, Phy can be our Chidinma, Qwety can be our RunTown, ArrowBoy can be our Mr. Eazi, Boutross/Barak Jacuzzi can be our Migos! However, we are so absorbed towards Nameless, Wahu, Juacali, Nonini, Wyre, Rabbit/ Kaka Sungura, Harry Kimani and Avril. Not that they are not remarkable artists, but they should already have diversified their music ventures! It’s funny that Avril is signed to Kaka Empire while she blew up in late 2007 almost the same period King Kaka came up, really speaks much about work ethics of the former.

In regards to management, the industry is looking up as there are professional and ethically responsible people in the game such as Buddha Blaze- who is a veteran in the game and his portfolio precedes his name. New acts in the management scene are also doing good work such as Mitch Malako-a former schoolmate in the university- among others. Generally, the industry is looking up but we should understand that we are all stakeholders in this multi-billion dollar potential industry. If we make this work, we will all have jobs! Let event organizers maintain professionalism in their craft instead of manhandling artistes backstage, poor sound or even failure to pay artists their dues.

Let’s all work in unison so that ten years from now we can have a hub of talent where new artists are seamlessly incorporated into the industry without them having to hustle as we are doing! Meanwhile, corporates should also understand that majority of the CSR they do could be done by Entertainers if they supported them better. It would not hurt anyone to see current new artistes driving Bentleys, offsetting medical bills to Kenyans of poor-backgrounds and filling up stadiums in their events. THAT IS THE MUSIC INDUSTRY I WANT!

Last edited @ Nov 10, 7:14PM EST.
Nov 10, 7:14PM EST0

Artists are expected to accept criticism, should critics be expected to accept it as well?

Nov 10, 3:02AM EST0

Yes! Artistes should actually accept criticism since it comes from people who really care about their art. 

Nov 10, 8:46AM EST0

If a composer can write one or two or more great works of music why cannot all of his or her works be great?

Nov 10, 2:21AM EST0

musical creativity commences from writing.  If a composer writes a great piece of work, there is a high probability that their music will actually become a hit song. However, it is inconceiveable that an artiste will have hit songs over like a decade of performances. This situation can be attributed to the fact that if for instance, I want to write a song about drugs and I have never had such an experience it might be difficult to succinctly satisfy the listeners' needs. Thus, it is advisable for an artiste to seek the professional services of a song-writer for all their works to be great. In general, great music requires teamwork!

Nov 10, 8:50AM EST0

Should a composer speak with the voice of his or her own time?

Nov 10, 2:10AM EST0

Hi Nicz. Not really, because a composer needs to address the issues of the whole society. A performer should therefore, be in a position to take care of everyone meaning they have to speak the voice of other people

Last edited @ Nov 10, 8:57AM EST.
Nov 10, 8:53AM EST0

Is the symphony orchestra still relevant or is it just a museum?

Nov 9, 7:30PM EST0

Hi Joseph, I really do not know much about the symphony orchestra since it is not a mainstream type of art in Kenya. In fact, I think it is only done in gala nights, basically it is for the elite and ordinary folks would not relate.

Nov 10, 8:56AM EST0

Do you have an album?

Nov 9, 5:30PM EST0

Hi Frank, I am not currently working on an album since the music dynamics in Kenya are quite different. The Kenyan fans do not purchase albums but are more into gigs. It is not really a good look and thus with time I am seeking to change that by creating a unique fanbase. You can however, check me out on instagram: Kigoh_Musique

Nov 10, 8:55AM EST0

What kind of audience do you wish to appeal to?

Nov 9, 4:31PM EST0

My target audience is the age between 17-35. Basically, I target that group because I am in that age bracket and also because my music is a blend of 2000s and millenial music. I do rap music but I am not a mumble rapper since I have a message to pass. However, I am also aware of the importance of great hooks and awesome beats thus most of my commercial music is danceable club music. 

Nov 10, 9:01AM EST0

When is an audience big enough to satisfy a composer or a musician?

Nov 9, 12:16PM EST0

it can never be big enough nor small enough since it depends on the composer. I have been in shows with 10-20 revellers and it was lit while you could have a crowd of 500 that is not lit, since it is a wrong crowd. Basically, if you are in a crowd that you are in-sync with, you are good to go.

Nov 10, 9:04AM EST0

What exactly is contemporary music?

Nov 9, 12:04PM EST0

Contemporary music is simply urban music.

Nov 10, 9:04AM EST0

If there’s already so much good music to listen to what’s the point of more composers writing more music?

Nov 9, 10:24AM EST0

music is food to the soul and thus, regardless of the number of composers, everyone will come up with a different style to spread the same message. It is like food, as much as you eat today, you will still need more tomorrow. It's that simple. I listen to Chris Brown and when I listen to Trey Songz, its different! same situation.

Nov 10, 9:07AM EST0

Should composers try to reflect in their music the truth of their natures and the visions of their dreams whether or not this music appeals to a wide audience?

Nov 9, 10:20AM EST0

Ivy thanks for your question. This is an important question that every artiste has to grapple with in the course of making a decision regarding their career. For a hiphop artiste for instance, one has to decide whether to remain loyal to your vision and nature (underground) or be dynamic (Commercial). For my music, I think a blend of both makes a beautiful cocktail of fresh music.

Nov 10, 6:57PM EST0

Can harmony be non-linear?

Nov 9, 10:19AM EST0

I think it can be as long as it is still musical

Nov 10, 7:15PM EST0

What do you want to achieve in the music business?

Nov 9, 9:13AM EST0

Favor from both God and Man, Fans, Fame, and Fortune. The four achievements will enable me to do a lot for myself, the community and my family. 

Nov 10, 7:17PM EST0

Is the symphony an antiquated idea or is it, like the novel in literature, still a viable long form of music?

Nov 9, 3:01AM EST0

I would not love to water down symphony but I think in the current establishment, they do not command a huge following as they used to.

Nov 10, 6:57PM EST0

But they are still a viable form of music, though to the elite, I presume.

Nov 10, 7:17PM EST0

Was Cage’s “4:33” a good piece of music?

Nov 8, 10:25PM EST0

I really do not know it since am from Kenya, Africa. However, since I don't want to pass off as ignorant, I will check it out and give you a confident reply. Thanks Tawnymae!

Nov 10, 6:59PM EST0

How are you going to promote your music?

Nov 8, 9:28PM EST0

I am looking at online channels such as itunes, pandora, cdbaby, YouTube among others for a global audience. Moreover, I will  channel my music to terrestrial radio and tv stations to acquire East African fans and in the long run African fans. 

Nov 10, 7:01PM EST0

Should a modern composer be judged against only the very best works of the past?

Nov 8, 6:45PM EST0

Human beings are naturally judgemental and thus it is the obligation of a modern composer to ensure that he gets better with age rather than age getting the best of him. Capich'e? Thanks Luckey! Really Appreciate.

Nov 10, 7:02PM EST0

Should a composer, if confronted with a choice, write for the musicians who will play a piece or write for the audience who will hear it?

Nov 8, 6:17PM EST0

a balance of both is better. In order to ensure that those playing enjoy the music as much as the crowd/revellers/ fans do John.

Nov 10, 7:03PM EST0

Why are advances in science and technology not paralleled by advances in music theory and compositional technique?

Nov 8, 2:44PM EST0

Sometimes technology is detrimental to music. Don't you think live shows sound better than dj shows with playback music? Technology should be applied in music production, mixing and mastering or even in R&D for better instruments and software.

Nov 10, 7:05PM EST0

When a visual artist can sell a one-of-a-kind work for hundreds of thousands of dollars and anyone on the internet can have a composer’s work for nothing, how is a composer going to survive?

Nov 8, 2:38PM EST0

Personal values, character and morals from fans should play out in such a situation. In fact, fans should ask themselves the very question you have asked me. If you love your artiste, regardless of the fact that you can access their music for free online, there is a certain feeling of pride whenever you purchase their music. If majority of people do so, then it would not matter whether their music is free online.

Nov 10, 7:07PM EST0

Why does the contemporary musical establishment remain so conservative when all other fields of the arts embrace new ideas?

Nov 8, 2:20PM EST0

I think contemporary music has been associated with particular elements and when a musician does away with these elements their genre changes to something else. Meaning that, contemporary music is not conservative in all situations. However, some contemporary music is conservative since that's what consumers want. In fact, to beat the monotony, it is advisable to always play with a band in concerts regardless of whether one used digital recording for the song.

Nov 10, 7:10PM EST0

Can the orchestra be replaced by increasingly sophisticated computer-sampling programs and recording techniques, at least as far as recordings are concerned?

Nov 8, 12:45PM EST0

I do not really think so because the orchestra should maintain its natural live music identity.

Nov 10, 7:11PM EST0

If Bach were alive today would he be writing in the baroque style?

Nov 8, 12:19PM EST0

I honestly do not know who Bach is Tamara. I am open to enlightment though. In the meantime, lemme google him/her.

Nov 10, 6:53PM EST0

Please tell me more about Barch Tamara. I honestly don't have an idea of the person ?

Nov 10, 7:12PM EST0

Can there be truly objective criteria for judging music?

Nov 8, 12:04PM EST0

I think it is all dependent on the listener. It would be fraudulent and unfair if a fan of rock was to judge hiphop because he/she is not aware of the criteria on which to make the judgment. Therefore, if one is to judge a certain piece of music, they should be fans of that type of music.

Nov 10, 6:53PM EST0

How long have you been creating music?

Nov 8, 12:02PM EST0

I have commenced professional music in 2017 but I started writing in 2008.

Nov 10, 7:13PM EST0
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