By Nicholas Olambo
The first episode of the continued wrangles between Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) since the return of the royalty collection body is out. Angry rapper Khalighraph Jones came out bashing the body that is known for collecting more and paying peanuts as royalties earned from the artists’ works. Jones is one of the top ranking artistes in Kenya today with excellent display of rhyme and flow ability but according to MCSK, the rapper’s price tag is a meager 2500 shillings.
Government can not weigh in because it doesn’t bother them and the few lucky artists who are in parliament are also mute. Many artistes took to social media to share their small pay, Fena Gitu, Kayvo Kforce and more. This is not the first time MCSK is headlining with small pay stories. It’s in their tradition because our artistes have no platform to speak in one voice so they resort to social media.
The only places they may belong together are in such bodies as MCSK, CMOs, KAMP or PRISK and those are the same organizations stealing from them. Not long ago, when upcoming musicians would gather and protest about the poor pay and play, the then established artistes in such bodies like DNG would dismiss them as strangers in industry or guys with poor quality music. Artists have betrayed their colleagues and the argument with MCSK has been long and winding till it ended in court.
MCSK was kicked out but you know the bitch that is karma, it came back through another court order. It’s hard to know who should earn more than who especially in an open market like our industry that is full of foreign shit. Naija and bongo enjoy massive airplay in Kenya. MCSK is responsible for collecting royalties on behalf of the artists all over the world, it can’t be 2500 shillings. This is an ailing industry promoting foreign content, not long ago Tanzanian artiste Rose Muhando would earn millions while Kenyan artists would baby cry over their small thousands.
An industry that has no awards, shows or events where artistes can converge, interact, feel appreciated and challenge each other to work harder and grow is not an industry. That industry is small even in the eyes of its own people because the players have made it so. The last time I checked the biggest event was ‘Naija Night’ in Nairobi. It would be in Carnivore or some deserving venue when the lifeless ‘Kenya Night’ would be in Asmara Lounge or in some pothole in Juja Road.
What a shame! Kenyan presenters cum promoters like William Tuva are in the pockets of foreign artistes. They are paid to play, he plays more bongo music than Kenyan music in his show, even how he handles interviews with our artists and bongo is different. Bongo or Naija artistes are treated as gods. There is no show across our media that plays more of Kenyan content than foreign content when it’s our industry that birthed bongo and Uganda.
Guys like Maina Kageni blame it on poor quality and content. I don’t know when he became a sound engineer and the guy to decide on quality or content, music is expression of self and some are in dialects we don’t understand. Many ‘dirty songs’ from outside play in our media, some are even banned in their countries of origin but in Kenya they are the hit songs. So the disconnect in the industry is huge and it’s the gap that MCSK capitalizes on to reap off our artistes peanuts.
It’s my hope that the emerging ‘Genge tone’ ( the nipele na ryengs ) takes over and clears all the foreign shit flooding our industry. We can’t have an industry employing and paying foreigners better than its owners. That’s absurd. Our artistes are paid small as curtain raisers for artistes from outside when they should both perform as individual artistes in the same event here and earn decent pays.
All the industry players must learn to respect our brothers and sisters in creative arts. The more we treat our artistes small the smaller MCSK and promoters will pay them. Artistes on the other hand must learn to be with the people. We have artistes who can’t comment on issues affecting the people because they don’t want to miss performance in political rallies but they want the people feel their pain when they are paid small money. They can’t comment on bad governance or other socially affecting issues as hunger.
In some countries artistes are more like activists, they champion opinions that are in favor of the people. Right now with all the influence a couple of them might have not a single one of them can speak their mind out or for wanjiku about the raging debate on referendum. They are minding their business that is paying small. Veteran singers like Nameless can’t speak for the younger ones, they are part shut because they are part of the bodies that milk younger artistes dry.