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Eric Omondi is right. Kenyan artists need to up their game

Comedian Eric Omondi courted controversy at the weekend by suggesting Kenyan musicians are not good enough to compete on the international stage.

And while these comments appear controversial, the overall feeling is they are not far from the truth.

And here is why.

1. A spot check by Nairobi News suggests 8 out of 10 public service vehicles, commonly referred to as matatus, plus personal cars in Nairobi, will likely play Western, Nigerian, Ugandan, and even Congolese music as compared to Kenyan stuff. The same can be observed from bars and entertainment points.

“We play the music that our customers (read passengers) would want us to listen to,” a conductor confirmed.

2. Also, it is almost a given that African artists such as Tanzanians Diamond Platnumz, Ali Kiba, and Zuchu, and Ugandan Jose Chameleone will likely command a bigger following in any urban show in Kenya as compared to most Kenyan artists.

These artists also demand in excess of a six-million dollar sum as an appearance fee, a figure local promoters would struggle to spend on Kenyan artists.

3. The influx of foreign artists in Nairobi is another case in point of how local artists are struggling to entertain what should be their stronghold. Barely a month after President Uhuru Kenyatta lifted the curfew and opened up the economy Nigerian singers Omah Lay and Ruger have toured Nairobi and performed at a sold-out crowd. Jamaican artist Etana was also in the country a few days ago and even met Nairobi Acting Governor, Ann Kananu.

In a related development, Jamaican dancehall artiste Konshens is gearing up for a performance in Nairobi and Mombasa. Meanwhile, I’m not so certain what Kenyan musicians have been up to..

4. Even though there are suggestions some artists have been faking their lifestyle, most foreign-based artists including Platnumz and Ali Kiba appear to be making more from the industry. Platnumz for example is known to fly in a private jet for some of his tours and has invested in real estate in Kenya, Tanzania, and even South Africa. He also has interests in other businesses including media and betting. The Waah hitmaker has also gone out of his way to do collabos with Kenyans, Nigerians, Congolese, and even American musicians while using his social media following to build his brand and do business.

5. A random sample in the streets of Nairobi also suggests Eric Omondi is right. Most Kenyans tend to know more about foreign artists as compared to the locals. Some Kenyans claim the music industry in Kenya is being betrayed by the Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK), which runs the works of artists, limits the artists’ creativity and isn’t as supportive of their art, unlike those in other thriving countries like Nigeria and South Africa.