This is probably the easiest blog post that I have ever had to set up. All I have done is put forward the views of one of my ardent fan of my blog, *(Newton)! I realise I must have provoked his emotions following my post on the Strange Ways of the Music World. I am putting these thoughts unedited, with the belief that many more people can get a chance to read this and maybe together we can champion ways of coming up with an EAST AFRICAN music brand. Which, if you ask me, it is NON-EXISTENT.
I am looking at Newton as one Kenyan speaking on behalf on many Kenyans. The best advice anyone could ever get from a mother is probably: “ You may not have answers to everything, but at least have an opinion”. I have learnt to live by this mantra. There is every reason I like Newton. The two of us I guess, are not experts in music but at least we have an opinion. His tag line has always been “Think about it Patience”. I have no clue where he is and where he comes from but one thing is evident, he is a Kenyan. In his reply to my blog we had a long conversation as below.
“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 surrounded by anything and all foreign. So it doesn´t 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 a truly authentic Kenyan or East African music? l will 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….Think about it Patience!”
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 of our music gets air play in the diaspora and we are then blamed for not doing so much to export our own music. Think about it!!
“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 months 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 ain´t 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. ..think about it…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, it´s only that they are home sick, and so will miss anything that is homely! Think of it Patience!!!!”
Ha ha ha aha Newton, I see! So these Kenyans are homesick and it´s 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 to the world. Africa is it´s culture, it´s music, it´s people and this is what makes people in the diaspora long for what they can truly identify with. Think about it Newton!
“He he he he he! You see, hahaha…but you just don´t agree…well Patience, you say that Africa is it´s culture, it´s music, it´s 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 truly African experience, truly authentic undiluted 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 ain´t only in music….but in retrospect, you can´t blame Africans…other than the colour of our skin…we share very little culture among ourselves 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. “
Newton, I totally agree with you! I agree we are not monolithic, but still that does not form the basis of us as East Africans not having a brand. When South Africa and West Africa is a renowned brand, what happened to East Africa? Think about it Newton!
“I am glad I stumbled upon your blog, so I get chance to let steam off my chest….actually I agree with you, there is a problem with E.A…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 don´t have any? Patiently think about that Patience!”
Newton, I am happy that you came across my blog. No, 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! Think about it!
East Africa Brand
“So Patience, I guess if East Africa has no distinct brand of its own, then surely East Africans in diaspora cannot be missing anything! Why? because there is nothing to miss….which brings me back to my assertion that our diasporans will miss anything that’s homely but not our brand, which as you say is non-existent. The moral of this is that you cannot miss anything thats non-existent. 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 foreigner 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!!!!!”
I totally agree. However, my point is, we have music, for example from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. This 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 truly non-existent, at least I can back up that with evidence from various sources. However, we have what is originally Kenyan, Ugandan and even Tanzanian. We appreciate this, though to a little degree when we are home, because many of us 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!!
“Not to overstate our past, I can truly attest that we had a truly 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 truly had our superstars who could command and instill pride in our brand…and that is the reason, (my granny 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 shouldn´t really complain too much that we have nothing, even if we truly have nothing at the moment!!! That was a brand, Patience, when comes another? I don´t know.
The TZs are still going strong, while we Kenyans commiserate and veil our looks and hide our countenance in ourselves while bemoaning the good old days! We seemed to be standing a great deal on our two feet back then than we are today, in spite 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……”
Something a miss
Newton, 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 there 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 truly a miss somewhere. Think about it Newton!
“Since I am not a musician I may not know with certainty whats ails this industry and I will not try to appear sympathsing with our contemporary musicians for failing 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-existent. I beg to rest my case on this matter!!haha….But you can still think of it!!!!”
Newton, I see you have finally decided to rest your case on this matter! The truth is, in my opinion,* 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. And I will be the happiest woman on earth!!!! That day is coming and is fast approaching, I am very patient and optimistic!!
Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent. Victor Hugo