A few years ago, Music dominated the entertainment industry in Kenya and everyone seemed to want a piece of cake in the Music industry. But what we knew as the dominant sector in the entertainment industry has lost its glory and comedians are now the kings of entertainment industry in Kenya.
Times indeed have changed and indeed, things do change, and that is clearly evident when it comes to the entertainment industry.
Currently it is no longer a secret that Kenyan comedians are making more money than their counterparts in the music industry. And now comedy is a multi million industry in Kenya.
Comedians are currently reaching more audience and gaining a following rapidly and Kenyans seems to have fallen in love with their comic content.
Genesis Of Kenyan Comedy
When national broadcaster Voice of Kenya (VOK) now Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) started shows such as Vioja Mahakamani and Vitimbi in the 80s, natural actors including Benson Wanjau aka Mzee Ojwang, Sammy Muya alias Masanduku arap Simiti, Charles Kimani Kangara aka Masaku and Joseph Anyonga alias Othoron’gon’go (all deceased) brought something different to our screens. Their humourous wit while giving entertainment was unrivalled. They were geniuses at what they did but more so they set a centre stage for what we know now as a successful comedy industry .
This generation of veteran comedians literally carried the industry on their shoulders for three decades, until new and much younger talent blossomed towards the turn of millennium.
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Cheap and affordable smartphones gave comedians and aspiring comedians the very important tool to record their short and funny skits.
Kenya being a front runner in internet penetration in the region, this meant that their ideas and content could be shared across platform and reach a massive audience. All over a sudden, Kenyan and Kenyans gave birth spontaneously to what would be and is now great comedians who are supper successful.
Now what only one needs is a smartphone with a good camera to start off. Comedians on the initial stages do not need a huge budget to announce their presence. They have that rare opportunity and ability of producing content on a weekly basis or twice or thrice in a week unlike their counterparts in the Music sector.
The Struggling Music Industry
On the other hand, despite Kenyan music re-discovering prominence on the airwaves after many years, few artists are reaping the benefits.
Challenges that have long-dominated the industry persist despite publicized efforts to undertake reforms. To add salt on the wound, Musicians have to share the audience with comedians yet they no longer have the ability to meet their demands.
Before a Kenyan musician releases that single hit, it is a whole journey of preparation recording and video production. Before the song is out, months have passed and the cost involved is unbelievable.
Am sure you have seen artists who have admitted spending hundreds of thousands or even millions on a song. But whether or not the song will sale is always a gamble for the musician.
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Oblivious to the behind-the-scenes struggles, fans are supporting Kenyan music more than ever. This is evidenced by the popularity of new Kenyan artists on streaming and social platforms such as Youtube and TikTok.
The reality of the matter is that, for many Kenyan artists, music is not a sustainable income-generating venture. Many are driven entirely by their passion.
Several artists have also sounded an alarm over questionable agreements artists sign with multi-channel networks and record labels based in the country, with the deals termed exploitative. Not forgetting the Royalty program from the MSCK which has always remained a bitter pill to swallow.
Popular artists have come out severally to call for change, but the change they are calling for seems to a mirage.
Diversity in the industry and lessons learned
With this situation at hand, artists such as Mwana Mtule have derived ways to travel on both lanes. While he is not in studio recording Music, he shoots funny skits to keep him a float.
Am sure you have also watched Smart Joker who produces great local songs but his love for comedy has always carried the day.
Coronavirus Pandemic dealt the last nail on musicians coffin in Kenya. While a number of comedians suffered during this Covid-19 pandemic, Kenyan Musicians were nearly strangled to death. Live performances and shows they used to highly depend on were gone.
The pandemic was a blessing in disguise for some many comedians such as Flaqo, Jalango and the latest Bridget Bema and the list is endless.
It is high time everyone who wants a piece of the cake in the entertainment industry to critically think before setting foot in it. While diversifying in both Comedy and music can be suicidal for some, passion should always be the biggest driving force.
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