The pioneers, it seems, are fighting hard to remain relevant in an industry that seems inert and too bottlenecked to allow them inch their way onto the next level. When the lights beam the stage at Walter Sisulu Square, in Kliptown Soweto, South Africa tomorrow night, with sanguinity, hundreds of local music fans will join millions across Africa in cheering the Kenyan music celebrities battling it out in this year's 10th annual Channel O Africa Music Awards.
With their music videos You Guy, Money Lover, Stella Stella Stella, Mtoto, Oya and Hit 'Em Up having been nominated in the awards that have proved elusive to Kenyan singers over the years, P-Unit, Sauti Sol, STL, Victoria Kimani and Xtatic, respectively, will be facing an acid test as they sit at the high table with the other continent’s music giants.
Over the last ten years, top Kenyan artistes have made the South African trip only to turn out spectators with the battle getting narrowed into a West African-versus-South African showdown; the two regions that are arguably Africa’s music bedrock.
It is only loyal to believe that even at the least, one of the eight nominations Kenya has been awarded will win a gong, but by far, it would to be a far fetched dream for anyone to imagine Kenya will steal the show from the two regional arch-rivals whose supporters had no other business — over the last two months — but to massively vote and drum up support for their own while locally fans remained in slumber giving little hoot about their very own nominees.
Lets not whine about Pulsers’ poor voting patterns and the inability of our stars to stir passion among them to vote — for that is not where the issue is.
It is the fatigue of an industry whose growth seems to have stalled with little breathing space being allowed to the many talented stars now suffocating in an arena where pioneers seem to give them no room even as they themselves remain clueless what to do to enhance their static music careers.
In Nigeria, celebrated artistes such as P Square (who will be honoured during tomorrow’s Channel O Music Video Awards) and D’banj have upped their game beyond the continental sphere creating space for their fellow new artistes to grow through homegrown and regional concerts they used to host a few years ago. They have also created mentorship networks for upcoming artistes through their revered stables and further helped package them to ensure continuity. Some of them have even signed their very own and created a management team around them to ensure professionalism with their singing prowess now attracting international attention.
Ironically, P Square started their music career in 2003— many years after some of the known Kenyan celebs who are still looking for shows in ‘market places’ and backstreet county clubs— had established their names.
While our Class of 2000 celebrity is still looking for ‘fix my house rent’ shows in Narok, Voi, Wote and other ‘village towns’, their Nigerian and South African counterparts are minting mega money in Europe and other Western states having upped their game to global levels.
In fact, having reached what seems as their peak and failed to rebrand to jump to the next level, most of the artistes who used to rake in big cash through concerts barely five years ago are finding themselves struggling to get a concert for as little as Sh30, 000 (which they would grab without hesitation, now).