What Next? Kenya, Media and the World

Acolyte beat me to it, but this is one topic I have to bring my two cents into…..so here goes nothing.

Pulse went all digital on us and I was one upset reader (and I wasn’t alone). Kenyans abroad reduced to only one topic every Friday. The weekly dose of Kenyan ‘celebs’ and the current growing culture in Kenya taken away from us. Now how are we supposed to catch up with the weekly goss’………oooohhhh SNAP!!! You have to pay to read. To be honest, I preferred it how it was before. Just enough content to keep us coming back for more.

I have touched on this subject briefly on my previous entry. A few comments were made and Acolyte’s sparked a flare in me regarding the subject. This is what he had to say:

I think some of those obstacles you have given can be easily overcome. In the case of instruments and live band. Let me tell you, there are many hungry jobless musicians in Narobi who would gladly play on a per gig basis.
As for expenses I think quality sells itself.If you play well then you will be able to command fees to pay for the band. There are bands in Kenya like those peeps who always sing at Choices (forgot there name) who are doing quite well for themselves.
I think to some extent music in Kenya is less infected with the “you have to know someone” attitude. Yes I do know it may result in less radio play but there are other ways to get your music out there. Let matatus play it, sell cheap tapes, myspace, perform perform perform etc. There are many artistes abroad who make a living and they get minimal radio and video exposure ie Ben Harper.
I also think good videos can be made cheap. It is not the setting that sells the video but ideas. Have you seen the video on MTV of the dudes singing on treadmills? That wasnt too expensive but it won video of the year I think or some other award.
I don’t think a cd pressing plant is neccesary when you can get a comp that has an industrial cd burner attached aka toaster and a printer that can do cds and cd covers. Make the music affordable that way and accessible to the grass roots and as I said earlier artistes need to remember the tape isn’t dead in Africa yet.Quite a few people still have tape players in their cars and at home and tapes are very cheap.
Kenyan musicians can moan and moan but the fact remains that if they don’t adopt like many other Kenyan businesses have they will perish!

With that, I responded rather heavily regarding this issue:

@Acolyte…I was wondering when you would pop your head ’round here. LOL!!!
Yes, the obstacles can be easily overcome, but how many of the artists have actually done it and I mean the mainstream ones you and I abroad know of? Very few. The ones we don’t know of are there, but how can we get to hear their music if they are not out there using the global media tools to promote themselves?
The “you have to know someone” is more out there than most of us would like to admit. Yes, they can get their music to the public by free promo, but don’t forget, most of them want to feed themselves and their families. I think they are just ‘lazy’ and the ones making the money are exploiting that fact. Poxi (RIP) led the way when he was selling his cassettes outside the Harlequin Sports Ground during Safari Sevens when he was starting out, are other following suit or what?
Yes, I also agree with you that videos can be made cheap. I saw that video of the dudes singing on the treadmills and I was hooked from the beginning to the end. THAT IS CALLED CREATIVITY…..which in my opinion, we have a long way to go to reach such a
level. Don’t get me wrong, we have come a long way from the VOK/KBC studio days to watch our artists do their thing and there is plenty room for improvement. I remember when DSTV just launched in Kenya and that was at the same time I think Kalamashaka, etc were starting out. A lady from the company was in Kenya to promote DSTV and in one interview she was asked what can Kenyans do to make their videos be seen on Channel O (something to that effect). She said that they had a certain criteria and the equipment being used at the time were not suitable for broadcast. Apparently, rumour had it that the necessary equipment was there, but locked up in the KBC studios due to ‘lack of funds’ for people to hire them. Besides, you had to know someone with the power to have them released to you.
As for the pressing plant…this is where I beg to differ with you. We do need one. There only so much a software in your computer, a burner and printer can do in a studio. If that is the case, then way go abroad to mass produce your CDs, where as the money for travel, accomodation and other expenses while you out there can be used to purchase the equipment? A ’studio plant’ is good for promo CDs to take to gigs and other events, but what about the shops and online shopping? Don’t tell me that a ’studio plant’ that most probably produces 200+ a day (these are just my estimates, it could be more or less) can compete with a pressing plant that can produce 10,000+ a day at the fraction of the cost? Besides, a pressing plant will create employment and revenue for Kenya and Kenyans alike and it doesnt have to limit it to CDs only. It can be expanded to VCDs, DVDs and the cassettes and video tapes. With the ‘rest’ of the world moving to HD and Blue Ray discs, these machines will now be cheaper and Kenya being a ‘juakali’ nation, spare parts will not run out. Creating more possible jobs. I also asked a well know producer if one is needed in Kenya and the answer was,”Yes, we need one badly.”

Let’s get one thing out of the way. These are my opinions based on my experience as a consumer and as a supporter of my fellow country people.

Of course there are those out there working hard and promoting their music, acting skills, etc., but the question is, as a Kenyan abroad who would like to see more, how do I get hold of these material EASILY???

We have made a few good films as I highlighted in a blog entry sometime back. I would like to watch them, but I would rather pop down the shops and hire out a Nigerian film which is readily available.

I would really like to know your opinions as bloggers (aka global voices).

On that same note, enjoy this trailer I stumbled upon whilst on YouTube.

8 thoughts on “What Next? Kenya, Media and the World”

  1. Now a rejoinder to your rejoinder. I do still maintain that many Kenyan artistes esp the younger folk are not putting their all into their efforts. I mean how is it that musicians who do ethnic music ie Queen Jane, Princess Julie, Kamaru and co can make a living from their music but most genge and kapuka musicians can’t? Marketing that’s why. These musicians know who their target market is and how to sell to them.
    Oh and as regards my earlier comment about a band, I watched a video of LL performing to a crowd and realised that a dj and a turntable with your tracks can work if you are a rap style musician. This is way more spontaneous and makes for a better performance than lip synching.
    I do know that making a broadcast quality video isnt the cheapest thing but there are now a large number of entrepreneurs who offer such services and I hear the fees have fallen because nowadays most media houses and ad firms make their own productions in house and that was their main target so they have to be more succesful. Besides even if KBC has the cameras, do you think they would let people use them for free esp for a private commercial venture like music?
    As for cd production I think you want people to run before they can walk. A plant needs investors and a ready market. A cd toaster is less than $500 and can produce several hundred copies of cds daily. Get a good printer and you can whip out 1,000 plus cds per week. I think 1,000 or so cds is a decent target for starters especially if costs can be kept down. Start local and then go international. When you have sold those few thousands and have a name then you can decide to run abroad. The main thing is an affordable product that can get a grassroots following and then we can move up to pressing plants and such. You also forget that tape isn’t dead. Kenyan artistes need to know that the market isn’t only in Nai but the rest of kenya and not all of them have cd players. That is how river road artists made money. They still know about the power of the tape.
    Anyway I think I have said enough.

  2. Great topic Mocha…Cats have to stop being one track minded, tapes are very viable option back home.

    I’m still of the view you should work on you stage performance till you can do no wrong, the last minute mic checks don’t count either. Not to mention when you decide to do a show make sure that promoter(abroad atleast) has a better sound system, enough mics etc..they are notorious penny pinchers.

  3. @Aco….good points raised. A band is one way to go and that is why when akina Queen Jane, Kamaru, Suzanne Kibukosya and co have gigs, you get to appreciate the concert more. As for having a DJ, that is fine as long as it works. Lip synching happens when you the dj in question instead of using an instrumental track of your song, they use the ones with the vocals. There is plenty of room for improvement, but then time is not on their side.

    As for the KBC cameras, a initiative plan can be implemented. Of course they can’t be used for free, but if they are easily accessible, then…. (but that was then)

    No…I don’t want them to run before they can walk. Masters are made in the studio. Majority of which are in CD format. A plant can be expanded to include audio and video cassettes. Cutting down on costs on a large scale and at the same time targeting the market that can’t afford CD players or DVD machines. With cassettes being obsolete in the ‘developed’ world, the machines used to make them will come in handy and at a lower cost. 1000 CDs made at the studio is fine, what about the market of Kenyans abroad who are always asking for the music. I am sure the demand is there. Question is, can it be met?

    It is true though, most artists don’t market themselves properly, leaving others to do the job for them. Leaves you wondering about their credibility. Fine, get sold by others when people have seen what you have done not the other way around.

  4. @luke…thanks! What are your views though?

    @msaniixl…true about the tape thing.

    As for prepping before a gig, that is one thing I rarely see or hear of. Even DJs here in the UK (most of the ones I have rolled with and know) are always prepping an hour or so before they open the doors. Especially if it a place where you have to set up all the equipment. I find it a bit funny, rushing last minute to get the job done and by the time you realise you might need a cable or two, the shops are close. Had it been done earlier, problem solved I suppose. As for gigs, sound checks are essential. Testing the equipment before a gig so that you dont disappoint the audience with poor quality sound, then you end up blaming the equipment, the organisers, etc. but yourself.

    LOL about them being notorious penny pinchers.

  5. @Mocha…
    Why is the week going so fast?anyway….
    I see both sides of the coin..improving on live performances (band or DJ/track) and enhancing quality of studio recordings and marketing-i think if any kenyan artistes were reading this and any of the other recently blogged posts on the music industry back home, wouldn’t they already have a wealth of good ideas to steal and make their own!

    One thing though-i think, at some point the industry needs to go 24/7-round the clock production, marketing,recording, promoting. i still think they are doing a great job now and they have come so far,but they have a long way to go to catch up and be on par with lets say SA

    But i’m not a musician-i’ll leave that to the guys who know more-i’m just a commentator!!
    (listening to Justin Timberlake “my love”)

  6. @Luke…a man after my own heart.

    Indeed there are two sides of the coin regarding this issue and I hope someone out there is reading this. Whether they steal ideas from our debate here or not, I hope they get the message.

    Up until now, they have done a good job and the results are clear, but more needs to be done in terms of marketing, recording, etc. There is a market out there that is not being taped to its full potential.

    I am making my comments and observations outside the box. I just hope it is taken as creative criticism.
    (Listening to Erykah Badu’s ‘Baduism’ – “On and On”)

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