The arts in Kenya, maybe Africa, is not an easy industry. Save for our education system and socialization constantly demeaning the arts, even those who have broken through and are in the better part of this space will tell you it is still a hustle.
So I have quietly and carefully observed the #PlayKeMusic debate and I must say, all parties have very valid points. We have three entities, the artists, the media personality and the audience. In the entire debate we need to acknowledge that all of us have played a negative role when it comes to consuming our own content.
It all begins with the audience. What we consume is heavily what media personalities have to churn continuously. It works exactly like that DJ- dance floor relationship at a club. If the people want to dance to Yemi Alade, you will not play them Size 8 as dope as they both are. Kenyans would better start listening to Kenyan music because the media have to serve what the masses want. So we need to analyse and understand what makes Nigerian, Tanzanian and South African so attractive to Kenyans compared to Kenyan music.
On that note, the media has not done their best in trying to push Kenyan content. I understand their view that Kenyan music has not made it to the standards of other international acts. I’ve also heard that our content is trash, I admit it is; but you can literally hand pick the trash content. There are so many Kenyan artists with such great music who have never even gotten a whiff of airplay. Saying Kenyan music lacks content is if you ask me quite unfair. You have not given airtime to the great content makers who coincidentally happen to be Kenyan. I did not want to say it out loud but even the artists you are playing from other countries do not exactly have content so… I understand you try and must resonate with the masses; but then again as the media, you are the agenda setters. If you really hype any song, the masses follow because believe it or not, you shape a lot of opinions.
Now the heaviest of all jobs goes to our beloved Kenyan Artists. Ya’ll doing a great job and we see it but can we sit down for a minute and address some of the bad manners you portray at times. First of all you need to understand that your music is a career and better yet a corporate business, treat it as such. Every time you want to put out a new track, treat the release as a job interview and your audience the panel. Look at who you are competing against. If you are thinking international, you need to understand, your competition is the guy who Kenyans want the DJ to play instead of you.
In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King ‘If a man is called to be a street sweeper. He should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted , or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all hosts of heaven and earth pause to say; Here lives a great sweeper who did his job well.‘
Approach your music with so much passion that you are sure, if you were to drop dead right now, you will leave behind a legacy never to be matched. If you put your heart in to it, trust me, we will feel it. Grind like this is all that puts food on your table and a coat on your back. In just a single song having never met Diamond Platnumz, I can see his zeal for keeping the dream alive, I can feel his yearning to make millions out of anything he touches.
Not just artists, Kenyans as a whole have a tendency to let fame and wealth get to their heads. You become so full of yourself you completely forget that you exist in a planet with people. Can artists please learn to be advised, to be corrected and even to be CREATED for…OMG! You have no idea how many times I have wondered why artists are not open to having writers. You might be a dope performer but a little handicapped as a composer, allow yourself to work with a team. Your candle does not shine any less brighter if you use it to light another candle.
…with the same breathe give and it will come back to you. When you are at a higher position, try your best to bring up a struggling artist. You even learn more and better when you teach and guide more.Remember how far humility goes is in a distance we cannot see. You might be the most talented human the world has ever seen but sit down and learn form others and keep an open mind. You cannot do everything on your own.
So you might ask who am I to advise artists on what to do? Try it and if it does not work, leave a comment right below. I’m on to my favourite yet most clueless people; upcomimg artists. You are talented and the heavens have bowed to it, but that alone gets you only as far as Instagram. There are common mistakes I see most do and so I choose t adress them here:
Create a Brand: You are starting off, it’s a simple as making sure you are decided on a name/stage name. As mentioned above, this is strictly business. It could be your way of expressing your personality but keep it within decent tags please; ‘Ule Msee Mzii’ and the likes is just outright lame, get creative. You need to understand that this branding should be consistent, it even includes the genre you are pursuing. Whatever you decided now is for better for worse.
Visibility: Have you met amazingly good artists but never knew how or where to reach them. Isn’t the world of technology just beautiful? Make sure you have social media accounts that are well updated. Include a clear Bio, a good professional high resolution photo, contact information and your music activities. Keep the pages active and if you are naturally not a social media person just get someone to occasionally update it for you.
Quality Control: I know you want to hit as soon as possible, you do not have the money yet. Take your time and have a good production team. No one is perfect, so train and practice intensely. I tend to think most of the greatest musicians sound as good live as they do on record and to achieve that, it must involve extremely intense practice.
Identify your audience: It is almost impossible to target everyone, so if you identify who appreciates your style it’s easy to mechanize a marketing and income generating strategy. Once you have an audience, they will appreciate you no mayter how not much of ahit the song is. They will buy a ticket to that concert and they will show up.
Be Humble: Trust me in my career I have seen more proud upcoming artists that event the established ones. If you meet new people, introduce yourself, don’t expect them to know you. Oliver Mtukudzi just passed on I realized there are people who did not know that Legend of a man. Just treat people as you’d like them to treat you.
If I am reminded of anything else I need to give you a heads up on; I will definitely come through. You know me*wink* As for now share this with someone in the arts and let them know it goes a long way.