Strange ways of the Music World!!

Artists on stage!

Music Festivals

It´s another great week that I get a chance again to attend the Oslo World Music Festival. This comes immediately after the successful completion of the WOMEX in Copenhagen, Denmark. I arrived back to Kristiansand yesterday (Sunday) and spent my whole afternoon in bed. My body feels sick and tired but again, I had to wake up and pack ready for another week of sleepless nights in Oslo.

Every experience brings with it different adventures and opens my mind to different perspectives in life. At WOMEX, I had a chance to interact with various people, with me I have so many business cards, the task now is to  be able to sort them out and remember how and why I got the cards in the first place. All in all, it was a great avenue for networking and attending a conference dubbed “ Women of the World Networking meeting” was such a fundamental experience for me. This brought together women from all circles with the objective of sharing ideas on how to improve the lives of women on the global arena.

Speaker Deborah Cohen

“We can all be part of the great change we wish to see in this world, the task is to identify when to take charge. I knew for a while I was unemployable and I wanted to take charge, so I decided its time and since then I have taken charge,” Said Deborah Cohen who challenged fellow women to raise to positions of power and be counted.

My greatest experience was to interact with musicians from different parts of the world and to learn different genres of music within World Music. It is unfortunate that this is still a very new concept in East Africa and therefore, there were only a handful to represent East Africa. Kenya boosts of having an International  World Music Winner of the year 2011, George Mutinda yet very few Kenyans have a clue on what World  Music is all about.

George Mutinda in Kenya

“I am an International brand, but even with the award in my name, many Kenyans do not know me, they do not know my music and I have a challenge now to make a name here in Kenya.” Said Mutinda during my interview with him in Kenya in July.

Talking to other Kenyan musicians who have now planned to promote World Music in Kenya, they confess that it is going to take a while until this type of music gets some airtime in Kenya. “It is a new concept, but as musicians, we are going to take it upon ourselves to market and publicize World Music in Kenya. We are a young democracy, we just started the other day, not many of us appreciate music and culture as part of us, but were are soon getting there and we will be there,” said Joseph Hellon a Kenyan Jazz Alto-saxophonist, who is now concentrating on World Music.

Joseph Hellon (left) & Abby Nyiza

Strange ways of the world. We in East Africa, in most cases, we are guilty of playing music from the West and playing less of our own, what we can call local production from East Africa. And I will be right to say in Nairobi it is even worse. Ask the current generation of the youth to mention 3 of their favourite artists, the top two will be international names. “It is sad, this trend where you tune in to different radio stations in Nairobi and if you close your eyes you imagine you are in New York, it must stop and soon it will” said Abby Nyiza a long serving musician and producer at Abby Productions in Nairobi, Kenya.

“Our children are growing up thinking they are R. Kelly´s cousins, yet they cannot even identify to any Kenyan music, we are taking charge and changing the trends. Kenya is you and me, and we have to change this system,” added Abby.

Artists at the Radio Studio!

The truth is East Africa has for a long time lagged behind in exporting its music to the World. Take for example West Africa and South Africa, these are well established brands and have continued to make a huge name even in the European countries.

“In many cases, people confuse me to be coming from West Africa, I am not sure whether it is my style of singing or my voice. I always have to emphasize that I come from Kenya in East Africa and still there are those who doubt it” said Susanna Owiyo, a prominent Kenyan female musician with an International recognition.

In my research early this spring, based on increasing the content of East Africa music played in the European countries, a number of musicians, producers and East African Promoters were quick to agree that we still do not have an East African Brand.

With Anthony Mathu in Germany

“East Africa Brand? I am hearing it from you. There is nothing like that yet, we hope it will be there one day, if only our artists upgraded their game,” remarked Anthony Mathu, a musician and E.A music promoter based in Germany.

Then, here I was at WOMEX. I met this group, MDUNGU, a group of 8 Europeans based in Amsterdam and  playing African Music.  H ah ahahaha, isn´t if funny? So I ask why did they choose on African music?

“Africa is very special, it has great potential and very special instruments. It started more as a learning process, somehow all music roots back to Africa, it not only makes you feel good, but it has an emotional layer to it.” Said Benuar one of the members of the MDUNGU crew.

As I said earlier, strange ways of the world, while those in Africa are getting their inspiration from International artists and in a way imitating those from the West, there are quite a number of International musicians that are doing African music, even though living abroad. Of course as a result of globalization, anything  is possible. I am eager to see what happens to this kind of fusion.

Members of MDUNGU!

“We are not worried about what Africans think about our music, we plan to one day do a tour in Africa and see what Africans think about this bunch of Europeans playing African music. If they think we are crap, good, at least we have feedback!” Added Benuar.

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”Robert Louis Stevenson

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14 thoughts on “Strange ways of the Music World!!

  1. funny how we kenyans, feel about our local music, when we are at home(kenya) and when we are away. we get so nostalgic and melancholy when sorrounded by anything and all foreign. so it doesnt matter whether the content of the local music is nothing but a generic version of the American style-come to think about it Patience, Why the lack of atruely authentic kenyan or east african music?al ask you a question, between, listening to an american musician and listening to a kenyan musician-who is trying to copy the style of an american musician, which is more taxing? why listen to the fake when you can get the original style behind it….

    1. Oh yes Newton. I will definitely love to listen to the original style, but the problem is very less of our original music is played in the diaspora. The truth is, we have many more people living in the diaspora and I am sure they will also want to listen to their own, but what happens? Less and less and we blamed for not doing so much to export our own music. Think about it!! Patience

  2. there you go “our original music” ….what constitute original Patience?…just because it is sang by a kenyan, does that constitute kenyan authenticity? a few years ago, a kenyan, STL, based in Norway participated in the euro-vision song contest for norway, now for whatever reason, in heaven or hell, would such composition be called kenyan flavour by kenyans in diaspora? i think it aint about failing to export our music, listen patience, the language of the world of music is universal, whether sang in swahili, english or korean! we export substance over form-quality over quantity. ..tafsiri hayo mwenzangu…you would forgive our diaspora kenyans for longing for the kenyan music whenever they are listening to foreign music, but the truth is that it is not the music they are missing, its only that they are home sick, and so will miss anything that is homely!think of it Patience!!!!

    1. Ha ha ha aha Newtone, I see! So these Kenyans are homesick and its not music that they miss, lol!! I would like to see it from your point of view, but no. I agree with you the language of music is universal, yes, but the truth is East Africa has lagged behind in exporting its music. Africa is its culture, its music, its people and this is what makes people in the diaspora long for what they can trully identify with. Think about it Newtone!

  3. he he he he he! you see, hahaha…but you just dont agree…well patience, you say that Africa is its culture, its music, its people….well said…but ask yourself, why the sense of disappointment among african-americans, afro-carribeans, who try to connect with their roots in africa, and in the process come to our continent, looking for a truely african experience, atruely authentic undilluted african flavor!!! even president obama in his DREAMS FROM MY FATHER shares the sad experience…our flame is getting dim..the conclusion is that africans are loosing their african touch. it aint only in music….but in retrospect, you cant blame africans…other than the colour of our skin…we share very little culture among ourself as a continent…we are not monolithic like the Celts, irish, english, or saxons, or the vikings…so patience, am sure you know the english, celts or their irish cousins can never have one common culture…what of our hundreds of tribes? if we were to export all of these cultures, where will we pack all of them?…..think about that Patience Nyange

    1. Newtone, I am loving this discussion. I totally agree with you! We are in the same line and you know for sure that Africa is its culture, its music, its people! I agree wee are not monolithic, but still that does not form the basis of us as East African not having a brand. When South Africa and West Africa is a renowned brand, what happened to East Africa? Think about it Newtone!

  4. i am glad i tumbled upon your bog, i so i get chance to let steam off my chest….actually i agree with you, there is a problem with EA…in fact a famous sudanese artist is on record saying..east africa is a literal desert…when it comes to musical composition am lost. so Patience, is it that we have our own brand, as east africans, and we fail to export and market it on a global perspective OR that we dont have any? patiently think about that Patience!

    1. Newtone, I am happy that you came across my blog because I guess I can enlighten you to a given extend. Yes, we do not have an East African brand just like you read, I did ask various musicians but they were all in agreement, we do not have a brand, I wonder how long it will take until we have one! Thank you Newtone for your feedback! Patience

  5. so Patience, i guess if East Africa has no distinct brand of its own, then surely East Africans in diaspora can not be missing anything! why? because there is nothing to miss….which brings me back to my assertion that our diasporans will miss anything thats homely but not our brand, which as you say is non-existant. the moral of this is that you cannot miss anything thats non-existant. i think the problem may be our low appreciation of the little brand we have on our home soil. when the owners cannot embrace what they own, which foregner will do it for them? even diaspora east africans will be hard pressed to identify with this brand, given that they never had time for it when they, if ever, were on home soil…think of that Patience!!!!!

    1. Newtone, I have actually taken time to think about this. I agree with you when you say “my assertion that our diasporans will miss anything thats homely but not our brand, which as you say is non-existant. the moral of this is that you cannot miss anything thats non-existant”. I totally agree. However, my point is, we have music, for example from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. These is music that we grew up listening to and when we are away, this is the same kind of music we miss! East Africa as brand is trully non-existant, at least I can back up that with proof from variuos sources, but we have what is originally Kenyan, Ugandan and even Tanzanian. We appreciate this, though to a little degree when we are home, because we listen to music from our radios, which rarely play much of our own, and so we are more exposed to music from abroad. When this trend changes, then one day we will have East Africa as a brand. Think about that Newtone!!

  6. Not to overstate our past, i can truely attest that we had a truely global brand worthy coming home to…Patience, we’ve had our glory days…if you listen to musical compositions of the 60s to Early 80s, even though we never saw them, you can tell that we truely had our superstars who could command and intill pride in our brand…and that is the reason, (my grandy told me) for the various collabos and renditions of our classics by the kind of Mariam Makeba ( RIP) and Harry Belanfonte, etc…We had our days, when we had our brand, so i guess we shouldnt really complain too much that we have nothing, even if we truely have nothing at the moment!!! that was a brand, Patience, when comes another? i dont know. the TZs are still going strong, while we kenyans commiserate and veil our looks and hide our countenance in our selves while bemoaning the good old days! we seemed to be standing a great deal on our two feet back then than we are today, inspite of everything,. i wonder why? but as they say Patience, it is better to have loved and lost than not to have loved at all. Think of that Patience……

    1. Newtone, our past is very important, I agree! But why do we still have to dwell and cling on it yet we have the present to adore and a future to look forward to? What happened after the 60s and 80s, did musicians stop being born in Kenya? No, we have very renowned musicians, but why don´t we have a brand? We must admit that there has been and is still a problem somewhere. If we can look back and identify ourselves with a given brand, and now we do not have the same, something is trully a miss somewhere. Think about it Newtone!

  7. since i am not a musician i may not know with certainity whats ails this industry and i will not try to appear sympathising with our contemporary musicians for failling to produce a brand worthy exporting, so Patience, as for me, the oldies will still do while you, you continue looking for this elusive local brand, which in your own words is non-existant. i beg to rest my case on this matter!!haha….But you can still think of it!!!!

    1. Newtone, I see you have finally decided to rest your case on this matter! The truth is, according to me, we as East Africans, we have great potential and we have great talents, only that we have chosen to lag behind intentionally and let the rest overtake us. One day we will have an East African brand. I will be the happiest woman on earth!!!! That day is coming and is fast approaching, I am very patient and optimistic!! Patience

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