This post is long overdue. As many of you are aware Sauti Sol was Kenya’s representative at the 2014 MTV Africa Music Awards (MAMAs). It was easily the most colorful event of its kind in the continent. Man! Doesn’t MTV know how to throw a party! I was of course star-truck half the time. I mean who am I kidding? I got the chance to sit next to Tiwa Savage (my future baby mama) for the whole 2hrs 26minute-long ceremony. When she won her award she shook my hand by reflex and I felt like a flock of birds jumped out my ass. Not quite sure if she felt the same though! But she seemed calm and collected for a woman sitting next to a star-struck Bienaime breathing heavily down her neck. That for me was the award. I left the anxiety of the actual thing to the rest of my boys.
On a more serious note, I have never felt so outnumbered in my life. The scramble and partition of Africa had began and I didn’t quite feel like The Great Britain. A general sense of underdog was in my mind but that was expected. Shocking, however, was there’s a lot about East Africa known out there. Many artists talked to me about Nishike; also asking about Camp Mulla and Fundamendoz and much more. So how come industry players in these regions know so much about us, our potential and talents but not their countries’ citizens. I have come to the sad conclusion that Kenya is just one of their musical colonies; and as any colonial masters, at MAMAs, they were up to beat everything happening in their conquered territories.
Having studied Journalism, I recall a unit called International Mass Media. The main focus of that particular class was the Americanization of the world, and how MTV and Hollywood are by far the biggest exports of that great nation. Well for as long as I can remember South Africa and Nigeria have been our sole dealers for the drug that is African content’s entertainment. So the situation is just like how missionaries preached a religion that seemed superior to ours; it has paved way for what is now the colonization of our airwaves.
S.A music has always been big from the days of Lucky Dube, Brenda Fassie, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Mandoza and a younger Mafikizolo, just to name a few. Channel O made us all subscribe to the culture and feel-good aura that was Kwaito music, fashion and dance. On TV we all appreciated Egoli Place of Gold and still subscribe to other S.A programs like Jacob’s Cross, Isindigo and Generations. And now – well, the continental ripple that is Mzanzi music.
Then came the Nigerians; who in the beginning had an influx of low quality movies fill our TV stations. We all despised them in the beginning. But let’s face it at some point we gave it a chance and look where they are now. No, look at where we are. We all have a Naija side to us when we talk and want to be seen as funny haha!!!! Their music came as a parallel force to the movies. When 2face dropped African Queen and P Square came on to the scene, it was the beginning of the Naijarization of Africa. Now they set the standard, they decide what’s cool, what’s in and what’s African.
With Naija and S.A—the two superpowers collaborating, now more than ever the result is an explosive takeover of our airwaves. After travelling to both S.A and Nigeria I realize they have one thing in common. They both have industries and structures that date back at least 20 years. So as Kenyans on twitter went HAM on Sauti Sol for not winning against Mafikizolo, please note that when Mafikizolo sang Ndiahamba Mnawe or Meet you at the river, Sauti Sol was in standard four listening to HardStone (1997).
Second and most important, these guys are gatekeepers of their territory. Rarely do you find a song from another part of the continent being given massive airplay in their media. Unless of course it’s a breakout monster hit like Flavor’s Ashawo or Mafikizolo’s khona. I was shocked to realize very few people in SA are familiar with P Squares catalogue; and vice versa the bulk of Nigerians heard Mafikizolo for the first time after they collaborated with Mr. MayD. This means that at any given time their local scene pops and stands out from the rest. Only in Kenya will you find a station that dedicates shows to the best Naija/Mzanzi music. In Nigeria I doubt there is any, and certainly not in SA. When a people are consumed so much by their product it becomes contagious and spills over to the rest of the continent.
If Kenyan media and society at large makes the conscious decision to shut out influences from other cultures for as little as a month, we would see a huge difference. A few years back I remember it was cool to say out loud you listen to local music. It ruled all charts and countdowns; Necessary Noise for example had their own songs dethroning each other on the charts. How cool was that? Remember when bumping a local CD in your car was deemed sexy? Now all of a sudden many of us have become too cool for it. As artists I believe we need to pull up our socks by making power moves and hits on behalf of our region. We can point fingers all we want and say radio and DJs don’t play enough local music, and then they say our songs are shit; or we can shut the door and put our house in order. It would be so much cooler to have five or more nominees at the MAMAs next year. This would definitely guarantee us a win. At the end of the day we all need each other to survive and build lasting legacies that will benefit generations of entertainers to come.
Love Bien Aime,
Dedix: To Tiwa Savage: We Kamu – Nonini
Mtoto mzuri- Nonini
Fire – Size 8 (whichever one, before or after Salvation)
Turn around/ geuka – Madtraxx
Sinzia – Nameless
Missing my baiby– Amani