Dear up-and-coming Kenyan act, nobody hates you

Coastal based rapper,Rapkeed

Kenyan music is the cornerstone of the African music exchange.

It is often the source of new dance, melodic innovation and validation for musical practitioners unsure of their sound, or looking for the one tested route to African audiences.

Nigeria may lead the hype, and South Africa may boast of model infrastructure, but Kenya is where everybody draws artistic juice from—the real music Mecca. What then is the problem with the upcoming Kenyan act? Why is he so angered by 'the Kenyan system'?

Generally, it's frustrating to practise music journalism in Kenya: as you're not reporting politics, you're considered second rate in a second rate profession. Maybe it’s founded: the writing could be a lot better, and the tabloid nonsense can be toned down to check the growing and troubling influence of Instagram stars, etc. Also, artists think that by granting you interviews, they're doing you a favour—which is why there's scanty wholesome content about them.

One day, when their hype has died down altogether, they'll bite their lower lips while moving from station to station, informing a generation too occupied by the new wave to care that he once ruled radio.

But it is the upcoming artist who frustrates me the most. He, with an unpronounceable stage name, two demos, no bio, no real social media presence or competence, no real team or game plan, or appreciable awareness about the terrain he wants to enter, is inundated in excessive hate about the industry he intends to be part of. To him, the industry, which has existed since before Tanzanian chakacha music, has conspired against him specifically. You hear it in his music; an inexplicable sense of entitlement and resentment at the status quo. Also, he has a curious envy toward colleagues he "started with" but who have hit the mainstream earlier.

He may have a point, this zealous rising star. But it is also true that the music industry has become very democratic since the advent of social media and music sharing portals like SoundCloud, Spotify, Tidal, iTunes and YouTube, effectively making the artist the master of his own destiny.

Our upcoming artist feels absolutely no need to establish essential contact with players who can actually help his art flourish. Why should he? The system is constructed specifically to keep him out, remember? And when he releases music, somehow, he expects that it will be reported on automatically, without him making active effort to push it to bloggers and journalists, never mind that even mainstream artists do so. Yet, when the song fails, it's the system.

Newsflash: the system is your oyster, dear upcoming artist—it has always been and will always be. Harness it. Accept that it is fraught with obstacles that need to be scaled, but know that it also holds opportunities that can help you realize your dream. Relax, nobody hates you.

Be open-minded enough to embrace the possibilities that the system presents. Believe it or not, Diamond Platnumz was once an underground act, as was Sautisol. Understudy the greats. Read John Collins, Francis Doku, Arnold Asamoah–Baidoo and others. Listen to the dreaded Mantey, and the magnificent Richie Mensah. Truly master the art of navigating the system, and then maybe you won't hate it so much.


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Amazing Kenyans.

'; (function() { var dsq = document.createElement('script'); dsq.type = 'text/javascript'; dsq.async = true; dsq.src = '//' + disqus_shortname + ''; (document.getElementsByTagName('head')[0] || document.getElementsByTagName('body')[0]).appendChild(dsq); })();