Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Kenyan Music Is Dead!

Once a year, The Insyder’s Blog does a report on the state of Kenya’s urban music industry and calls it, “The State of the Ngoma.” This is the State of the Ngoma report for the past year, 2006.

Ladies and gentlemen, the State of the Ngoma is lifeless. Let me rephrase; it’s DEAD! I ain’t Nas, but the bitter truth of the matter is that our urban music industry doesn’t need life support, it needs a mortician. It’s dead and on the way to the cemetery. Unless….

First things first; we have to find out what caused the demise of Kenyan music. The primary suspect has to be the hardcore criminal who always goes unpunished – the pirate. Piracy has shot down the success of Kenyan urban music for decades, and until today, remains a tough nut to crack for law enforcement officers. Perhaps the hungry lions at KRA should be notified that the music industry has the potential to rake in billions of shillings in taxes…this should get them putting pressure on the law enforcement officers to ensure piracy is checked. Piracy may be our number suspect, but I believe there is another primary culprit who should be investigated…

I have strong reason to believe that you, yes, the moron reading this blog, are responsible for the demise of Kenya’s urban music. As far as music fans go, the Kenyan version are the most ungrateful. The bigger and more popular a Kenyan musician is, they more they will scorn him/her. They’d rather spend 1,000 bob to go to the bar and drink themselves silly and not spare even 500/- every three months to buy Kenyan music. And if they do buy Kenyan music, it is the 300 bob bootleg version! When the artist decides to have a concert, they’d rather watch the music video on Xtreeme Music on Citizen TV. The fan in Uganda, Tanzania, Congo, Nigeria and South Africa are the complete opposite – no wonder the music industries in those countries are so doing well.

But don’t make any conclusions yet, there is still another suspect I need to interrogate before making the final arrest. That suspect is a medium like this one. Yes, we the media are key players in the demise of Kenya’s urban music. In an industry that has barely been conceived, we have aborted it with trivial negative publicity. A successful musician (who sells records and packs stadiums) can only serve to sell blogsites, websites, newspapers and magazines. The media has cut down the musician to the extent that the general public thinks he/she has absolutely no entertainment value. The media is a key suspect who may be solely responsible for delivering to us a stillborn music industry.

A sleuth, I may not be, but after looking at the evidence presented to me I am left with no doubt that the cause of Kenya’s music death was self inflicted. That’s right – it’s suicide! Our musicians have killed their own industry. When they’re busy playing the blame game, entrepreneurs - often mistaken as pirates, are busy raking in the big bucks. Listen people, it’s not the government, pirates (entrepreneurs?), the media or the fans who are to blame for the death of Kenya’s music – it’s you, the musician. Why is it that an entrepreneur (pirate?) in River Road can sell at least 50,000 units of Wyre's album and Kevin himself cannot even hit 5,000? Coz the entrepreneur sees an opportunity - there's demand for Kenyan music, but the musicians are not supplying their authentic product to the masses. Enter mista businessman who see's this glaring opportunity, (you see why I refer to pirates as entrepreneurs? - they are fulfilling a demand).

The Kenyan music consumer doesn’t want to spend 800 bob to buy an album, he reserves that kind of mullah for the top international stars. The purchaser of music in Kenya does not want to spend a cent over 300 bob! Sure, a product that retails at 300/- will not look as classy and stylish as Jay Z’s "Kingdom Come", but the musician has to remember that they are not selling to an American audience. What would you rather have; a stylish looking album but no sales or one that doesn't look too classy but is selling by the tens of thousands?

Musicians have to realise that they are in a business and to survive they have to compete with street entrepreneurs. If bulk CD’s and tapes from China and South East Asia now sell for less than 20 bob, machines that print on CD’s and tapes retail at about 15k, and the cost of music production, mastering, distribution and marketing is pretty negligible, then the average cost of 1 album will not be over 100 bob! Musicians have to realise that no one is going to mass produce the music for them without wanting to make a profit for himself/herself. They have to wake up and understand that no one will create a distribution network for them or market their albums for free. Musicians in Kenya have succeed on their own, all other parties will merely support them where they can.

Kenya’s music is dead and only the musician can resurrect it.


C.O said...

I can almost agree with the blog author thou i dont it kindly that i am accused of being an accomplice to the masssacre of kenyan music!!!!!Lemmi explain......lukn @ awa musicians honestly speaking it seems that only the older generation musicians can wakilisha us well yahni pple lyk akina Achieng Abura(secular music speaking)Suzanna Owiyo,Eric Wanaina but to name a few,wen these pple sing and perform you feel the passion and genuine love for their art.A stark contrast to the younger generation whose main agenda is spewing out recycled,nusu-hit wonder poor excuse for music!!!!n since its a free country I shall promptly point out a fitting example in "NISAMBAZIE -STARBORN"I mean do you honestly expect me to buy that kind of music??!!!??I rest ma case!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

C.O said...

It is in this blogger's honest opinion that the so called kenyan artists (sana sana those with uninspired names lyk STARBORN) should refrain from music all together!!!Some of thea stuff is so bad u feel embarassed on thea behalf so,until the standards of music is all together lifted their(yahni artists who cant sing worth a dime...pun intended!!!)stuff casts such a big shadow over the industry,tha gud guys cant shine!!!!!n even if thea tapes n cd's go 4 free,it'll be a cold day in hell nikinunua!!!!!!!!!!