Following an unearthing Zoom webinar held recently, the Metta Nairobi Creative Ambition: Sound was an ideal window into the current status of Kenya’s music industry.

IFPI’s Sub-Sahara Regional Director Angela Ndambuki was a keynote speaker and panellist, and was joined by Bien of Sauti Sol, likewise Studio Sawa founder Lee Kanyottu, and MCSK Director Johnny Katana. Interestingly, all panellists in positions of power are all artists or were at a point in time with significant contributions to Kenya’s music domain. 

Can Kenya’s music be exported?

“It’s (Kenyan music) up to international standards. It’s evident through streaming apps like Boomplay, iTunes, and YouTube views are in the millions. From Sanaipei to Nadia’s and newer artists, there are good sounds. It’s just a matter of time that people are able to realize that Kenya has something to offer.” The Sub-Sahara Africa IFPI boss said. Her insight is that of a person in charge of an organisation that governs the entire World Music Recording Industry. They compile an annual World Music Report that studies every legal music industry.

“Also, the investments; Universal Music signing Sauti Sol, Sony Music wants to set up shop in Nairobi so you can see (there is evidence music in Kenya is international). Music is business. With structures, we can see this more international standard music that can actually be exported and consumed. Nigeria, South Africa and Tanzania through Diamond with YouTube hitting the billion mark. So there is potential in Kenya. It’s a matter of supporting the music through the structures and the government getting involved with money going to the right people and investments. This can springboard Kenya.” She added.

Bien noted that there is beautiful diversity in Kenya but this should be a strength and not a weakness. He urged the unison of an industry where resources and personnel can be pooled closer together to produce Kenya’s optimum potential performance in music and arts. He backed Angela saying Korea is a great example with K-pop becoming a global phenomenon because of support of government policies of directly allocating 1% GDP intentionally into the music and arts sectors to boost the artists. He was happy that it was encouraging to see artists in positions to influence change.

Katana who is one of the coastal ambassadors through Them Mushrooms stated that countries such as Tanzania have been subject to intentional leadership from President Nyerere in safeguarding culture and heritage through strict laws that preserve their culture such as Swahili language.

This has been employed in schools, the music industry, and every avenue of society. He emphasized the quotas of how much local music is played in Kenya as per the law, currently standing at 40% is not helping localism. TZ stands at 80%, Nigeria at 90% and the disparity edge gives our African counterparts an advantage to push their culture outside of their boundaries. “We have no confidence in our own music, how do we expect to sell it to other people?” The MCSK head advised.

“Each country in Africa has a flagship sound and this helps them export their culture easily because many followers are behind it and support it. Identity is important. Congo has Lingala, TZ has Bongo, South Africa has Kwaito, and what about Kenya’s Benga and Chakacha?” he said, before they went on to a debate about Gengetone’s viability.

Angela concluded the importance of investing money, infrastructure, and education is undervalued. To export culture, the Kenyan music industry requires a lot of it to thrive outside of Kenya, the former Tatuu singer mentioned. “It takes money to market outside. A lot of SA music has gone worldwide because big record labels establish themselves in SA and Nigeria. TZ as well, Diamond got signed and he blew up. Kenya needs investors whether local or not with capacity to put structures in place. There’s a way to market it. It’s not just anyone that can do it. People have to learn. Structures built. If it’s locals getting experience in terms of production and such, you will see a difference in a year or two.” Angela

Media Compliance

The news that radio broadcasters hardly comply in paying artist royalties according to MCSK boss Katana was a major discovery. According to a survey by PwC, the Entertainment and Media Outlook 2018-2022: An Africa perspective, radio broadcast advertising was valued at Ksh9 billion.

Overall Media Rate card ads were valued at Ksh67 billion. CMO’s allegedly invoiced 33.9 million, but only got 3.9 m while comparatively in SA, SAMPRO collected Ksh502 billion. SAMPRO in SA, the country’s recognized royalty collector, collected Ksh302 million from broadcasters. In contrast to a more developed country, Kenya’s CMO’s are actually fulfilling their mandate in collecting artist tax from broadcasters.



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