Kenyan music scene is comprised of different genres. They include: gospel, kapuka, genge, ghetto hip-hop, rock, benga,spoken word and many others. One of the notable genres that has gained prominence is gospel music that has gradually gained broad acceptance and continues to receive massive airplay across various media platforms.
One of the most critical conversations that has been going is if Kenyans appreciate their own music. The answer is an absolute NO!
While we have so much to offer in terms of music, our artistes have continued to become a major hindrance to this unity call. The lack of unity and the presence of dozens of record labels each pushing its own style or genre in a bid to outdo one another on who has the latest genre.
Even though most of the Kenyans do prefer foreign music, we do have some of the greatest artistes of our time whom we can enjoy listening to their songs. The musicians continue to prove to us that truly there is hope in the Kenyan music scene. The well-coordinated collaborations as well as the high quality of productions continue to put Kenya ahead of its peers in the region.
As a nation, creativity is not something that is encouraged or nurtured from a tender age. And this has seeped in all areas where you’ll look over someone else’s shoulder to see what they’re doing and try to mimic. Talk of ‘Nameless and Redsan’who sound Jamaican. The problem is, they leave it at that instead of sampling various sounds we have from all the tribes we have
Someone once said that music speaks in emotions. And that is how an audience will connect with a song whose lyrics they don’t understand. How many Kenyan songs can we honestly say have that kind of connection with people?
We play Nigerian music than our own, we believe in other people more than we believe in ourselves. Our music cds are collecting dust on our shelves while others havve never received any airplay because of exorbitant cover prices.
At times kenyan music scene lacks the authenticity and uniqueness of our identity. This is because most of our artistes want to be matched and to compete with international artistes without putting in much efforts to match the standards set by the artistes they deem as their “role models”.
Very few Kenyan artistes understand or apply the phrase “Standing on the shoulders of giants” something which South African and Nigerian artists have executed to such fine detail that we place them on the same pedestal as their mentors.
The one thing that is common about music coming from West Africa is that it is heavily influenced by the 70s Afrobeat, a sound that was created and defined by the legendary Fela Anikulapo Kuti. The new generation of West African artistes have not invented any new beat. Instead, they picked the Afrobeat, fused it with sounds of hip hop, dancehall to come up with a beat that is still rich yet trendy to the excitement of their fans unlike the kenyan music scene
The only effort made to fuse Kenyan older music with new beats is from JB Maina & Wyre’s sampling of ‘Tiga Kumute‘ and Just a Band’s sampling of ‘Dunia Ina Mambo’ by The Mighty Cavaliers, a song that was produced in 1976.
In a recent discussion with well-known Kenyan Music producer Bruce Odhiambo on the Capital FM Jazz show, Bruce re-iterated this sentiment of the current generation of Kenyan musicians failing to appreciate or even learn from Kenyan Music Pioneers such as Hodi Boys, The Might Cavaliers, The African Heritage Band and many others. Bruce opined that the gap and lack of conversation between the older and new generation of artistes in Kenya is what is ailing our music which lacks authenticity or a well-defined Kenyan sound.
Perhaps the best example to how a young artists owes his success to a music great is the song ‘Jaiye Jaiye’ in which WizKid collaborated with Fela Kuti’s son- Femi to pay homage to the King of Afro Beat.
It is perhaps only the South African music industry as well as arts in general that receive a lot of government support. However, despite lack of government support for Nigerians, they have still been able to beat the odds of frequent power outages, fuel shortage, political instabilities (Boko Haram) as well as other civil unrests to become one of Africa’s biggest entertainers not just in music but in film as well.
The numbers do help too. Nigerian Producers like Don Jazzy, D-Tunes, Maleek Berry, Legendary Beats are responsible for some of the biggest hits from artists such as Tiwa Savage, Flavor, P-Square, Davido to name but a few.
Collaborations have also been a huge contributing factor to cross market appeal and enabling African artistes reach beyond Africa. P-Square’s collabo with Akon, Rick Ross and lately with T.I as well as Davido’s collaboration with Mafikizolo just to mention a few, have had such a powerful effect in spreading the music from one artiste’s existing fan base to a new one that there are clubs in various part of Europe and the US grooving to these infectious beats which make foreign music worth listening to every time.
To sum it up, it is safe to say that colonization of the mind is a disease that is killing Kenyan fans. Kenyans suffer from inferiority complex thus seeing foreigners as superior and therefore artistes without support from his or her homeland soon die a slow natural death and sent to artistic oblivion.
Our Kenyan music scene is not really bad off but we have a long way to go as most Kenyans do prefer foreign music to local music. The bad blood between Kenyan Artistes and DJs because they are not being patriotic should not be there at all. It’s very simple, make good music and the rest will fall in place effortlessly.