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Untold tales of agony befalling Kenyan celebrated artistes

In 2014, the three collective management organisations (CMOs) licensed by the regulator, Kenya Copyright Board (Kecobo), to collect royalties on behalf of artistes, were collecting about Sh600 million.

This is according to Susanne Gachukia Opembe, a founding member and currently a board director at the Kenya Association of Music Producers (Kamp). The CMOs are the Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK), Kamp and the Performances Rights Society of Kenya (Prisk).

In 2021, the World Bank estimated the Kenyan music business to be worth Sh320 billion. Unfortunately, despite the tremendous growth in the Kenyan music industry, its artistes continue to live in squalor while the stewards of their earnings, in blatant contempt of the law or even basic humanity, continue to live a life of opulence off their labour.

Every year while artistes camp on social media to vent on the pittance royalties received of between Sh1,000 and Sh2,500, the guardians of their hard-earned funds continue to enjoy a jet-set lifestyle, flying premium class, dining at five-star hotels and driving flashy automobiles.

In the last few years, the industry has witnessed some of its one time top artists go bankrupt.

Even though some were known to have lived on the fast lane while at the peak of their careers, when they made millions from performance gigs, proper royalty remuneration continued to escape them.

Colonel Mustapha gets emotional at a press conference held at the Main Switch studios in Nairobi on May 11, 2023. PHOTO| ELIZABETH NGIGI

Colonel Mustafa – Two months ago, a viral video of the musician made the rounds on social media, capturing him working at a construction site in Embakasi, Nairobi. Mustafa would later come out to confirm that indeed that was him, revealing that he had gone broke.

The video became a trending topic as his fans struggled to come to terms with the once-celebrated artiste’s predicament.
The rapper would later claim that his mother’s illness—having been diagnosed with cancer 10 months earlier—was the sole reason for his bankruptcy.

Since bursting into the limelight 15 years ago, Mustafa enjoyed a successful music career as part of the Deux Vultures group credited with mash-up hits such as Katika, Kinyaunyau, Adhiambo and Monalisa.

Producer Magix Enga
Producer Magix Enga

Magix Enga – Controversial or not, the emergence of Njenga Chege, aka Magix Enga, onto the Kenyan music scene changed the waves for a minute. The gifted music producer, writer and singer produced over 50 hits songs for fellow artistes such Otile Brown, Khaligraph Jones and Arrow Bwoy. He had a number of his own hit songs as well.

However, last year, things took a twist when he came out of a sabbatical to concede that all was not well. Enga confessed that he was struggling financially. The once-flamboyant Enga is now a shadow of his former self and the situation is not getting any better.

Abbass Kubaff on stage
Abbass Kubaff on stage

Abbas Kubaff – Veteran hip hop artiste Andrew Kabiru Karuku, popularly known as Abbas Kubaff, recently revealed that he has never made any meaningful income from his music.

The 45-year-old rose as a member of the once time famous rap group K-South before going solo later on. K-South was a trio formed by Abbas, his brother KC and neighbourhood friend Bamboo of the Usilete Compe fame.

Despite being credited as one of the shapers and pioneers of rap music in East Africa, having started his career in 1995, Kubaff says he has never made any meaningful revenues from his craft.

“When it comes to money and art, it’s always a problem. I would never say I earned enough money from the Kenyan music industry to support me. You know very well how the systems in Kenya are, they are skewed. I have only made some cash while touring outside Kenya. I think the most I have made in Kenya from my music is Sh20,000 and it wasn’t money from royalties.”


Visita – Last year, talented super producer, songwriter and singer Nixon Wesonga came out publicly to appeal for help after he was kicked out of his rental home.

The former Grand Pa Record producer confessed to having gone broke to the point where he was left homeless.  At the time, Visita revealed he was being housed in a recording studio by one of his friends after he was kicked out of his apartment over rent arrears.

“When I was kicked out of my house, I had to take our kids back to the village while I tried to fix the situation in Nairobi,” he said.

Visita is credited with over 50 hit songs such as Maswali Ya Polisi, Fukuza Mapepo, Chali Stinji, and Fimbo Inachapa. Even with his dense catalogue, he says he has nothing to show from his music royalties.

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