Since 2014, I’ve been coming to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania to and fro, severally for work. Great thing my brother now lives and works in Tanzania so this really gave me reason to call Tanzania my second home. My first stint with Tanzania however was back then in capacity of Sauti Sol’s Publicist. It was while flying out of Tanzania after our first concert that I first shed a tear at the thought of going back home to Kenya. I was saddened at the thought of how many Kenyans tend to misunderstand the power of art and artistes.
While here, I really got to see how much the industry and their fans respect artistes and art in general. I got to see how companies, corporates and big brands invest in using artistes to push their own brands and wondered ‘why isn’t that the case in Kenya?’ Long before Sauti Sol were considered as stars in Kenya, Tanzania had already embraced them with open arms. I vividly remember the hot afternoon of 2014 when we landed in Tanzania. Before that some DJs and promoters happened to have got my contact and so they had previously Whatsapped me to ask what day and time we would be arriving. I just told them not knowing why they had asked. Little did I know that these were super fans who then contacted other Sauti Sol super fans and for the first time, we arrived at the airport to find hundreds of people waiting for us waving hand written placards. This was a moment of realization that it’s possible to expand beyond borders. This is where my love and friendship with Tanzania really began.
Then came meeting my late friend Bikira Wa Kisukuma around the same time. Bikira used to work at E FM. He was my entry point into this market. He literally introduced to me so many cool and instrumental media people like Sky at Dizzim formerly of Bongo 5 and the likes of Adella from E FM. The list is countless. It was very sad for me when I heard that Bikira had passed away but at the same time it was very beautiful to see how the whole industry came together to celebrate his life. I will always remember him.
Tanzania and Nigeria are the two countries I’ve been to in Africa so far that made me realize that there’s so much potential, opportunities and areas of cultural exchange for the entertainment industry. Basically, I knew back then and still know now that if I ever miss work to do in Kenya then I could easily relocate and do what I love to do in these countries. Their media are generally so hungry and eager to innovate and do more for arts and culture, unlike Kenya’s that is crowded by politics and just random things. So I began to look for opportunities to work with artistes in these regions, actively to promote their brands, careers and music across East Africa. Being the Publicist of Coke Studio Africa really helped make me ready for venture into different markets as a Publicist and an emerging media entrepreneur while at the same time giving me an opportunity to meet and network with various artistes.
Bongo music scene is winning. For the past two years or so I’ve been keenly following on the growth and that of the steady growth of Bongo artistes. Every time I am here, I am made aware of all the work pending for us PR people and Kenyan artistes, so much for Kenyan local content. For one, Tanzanian radio stations play so much of their local content here. How can we get our industry to do the same in Kenya? Please let me not hear anyone saying or writing anywhere that Kenyan music or content isn’t good or that there aren’t good songs from Kenya…. We must bury those false cheap statements ASAP. Bongo’s industry is accommodating of new acts, in that radios play good music – period. You don’t have to be a mainstream artiste or big name to get rotation on radio. It’s hard to point out between upcoming and established artistes just judging from Tanzanian radio play. This should be a lesson to all Kenyans, media and audience alike, to support good and quality music – period. Stop bashing artistes for no reason. Media people, more of you also need to give a chance to new sounds and music acts as long as their music is of good standards. In this day and era, some Kenyan presenters still say stuff like: “I can’t host that artistes because he is not big.” Stop that nonsense.
Keep it here for Part 2, 3 & 4 of my Tales from Tanzania: Bongo For The Win, coming soon!