Since I ventured into content production, I have never wished for a day when Kenyans will rise up and take up Kenyan local content en masse. Entertainment in the US, UK, India, Mexico, Philippines, Nigeria, South Africa and Tanzania thrive because their people foremost consume what is their own. In 2014 I visited a random night club in Singida Tanzania. Despite the club being the xoxo club that is supposed to play US Hip Hop or Jamaican riddim, 95% of the time the club played the Bongo music genre with a few hits from Kenya, Jamaica and US in that order. In Kenya, unless a club is specialized in a Kenyan local content e.g. Luo Rhumba/Benga, 95% of the time music played will be from US, Jamaica, Tanzania, Nigeria, and Kenya in that order.
The reason the boring Afrocinema and the predictable Mexican Soap operas are in the lips of every Kenyan is because those products are first and foremost accepted in their respective countries (check out the article:Ban the damn Mexican soaps and the boring Naija movies). While I was in Nigeria way back in 2010, I watched several Nigerian TV Stations and other than the news, there was nothing those stations aired outside their beloved Nigerian movies. In Nigeria there are stations specialized in the English Afro-films genre, there are those specialized in Yoruba films, there are those that air only the Igbo films and there are the TV stations that air only the Hausa films. Back in Kenya, there is no TV station specialized in any genre of a Kenyan movie. Citizen TV airs Afrocinema and Mexican soaps. KTN does Mexican soaps, Indian films, Filipino films, and selected Hollywood blockbusters. NTV known for Hollywood movies whereas K24 attempts to air minimal local movies once in a lifetime. I have no idea what the other 50+ new channels air other than talk about Jesus and his miracles – none seems to be specialized in any form of Kenyan Local Content.
On the music front the radio stations have come along way to give local music close to the 60% of the airtime except for a few radio stations like Nation FM, Capital FM, Two FM and others that have stuck to the American hip hop and RnB, the music industry is yet to reach where it is supposed to be.
If our TV Stations and Radio Stations do not promote Kenyan local content, there is no way Kenyans will discover those contents to thereafter help promote the artists. When artists are not promoted financially, they on the other hand cannot get the funds needed to improve on the quality of content they churn out. When they do not improve the quality of content, Kenyans who have been exposed to high quality content will continue to shun the Kenyan local content as a result of the continued poor content. For example, in the twitter hashtag #60percentlocalmusic, Zachariah Nyongani tweeted:
— Zachariah Ngonyani (@zechtz) May 12, 2016
History should help us appreciate the importance of accepting local content, however poor they maybe. Just take your time and watch the first episode of Churchill Live, or better still take a look at a few episodes of red corner and redykyulass that featured Nyambane and crew. Compare the quality of content (their lines of jokes) and the quality of production of those ancient shows to today’s Churchill Show and tell me the difference. The reason Churchill Show is world class by today’s standards is because Kenyans appreciated Churchill Live right from the start. Go ahead and compare the Genge and Kapuka music that was produced in the mid 90s to early 2000s. Compare those hit songs with what artists like Sauti Sol, Madtraxx and the others produce today and notice the difference.
Personally I have tried to encourage Kenyans to develop a love for what’s theirs; to buy and watch local movies, buy and listen to local music, and for the local media channels to promote what’s Kenyan, but one year later there is no much change (check out the article: Five ways to promote local content in Kenya). If you want to know that Kenyans do not appreciate what’s theirs, just have a look at the performance of content uploaded on YouTube. When a crappy content from Tanzania can achieve over 100K views within months, highly rated high quality content by a famous Kenyan like Churchill will hardly reach 50K views even after six months of being on YouTube. Since there are many Kenyans online compared to Tanzanians, I normally reason that most of the people who view Tanzanian and Ugandan YouTube channels are Kenyans – Kenyans who prefer to spend over shs 2000 to attend a Tanzanian music show but will never part with shs 200 to buy good quality local music on DVD.
If there is any one important reason that should make you as a Kenyan change your mindset about consuming local content, it is the employment opportunity the entertainment industry promises to offer. For example, according to New York Times, Nollywood alone already employs over one million Nigerians in direct employment. Combined with the music and art sectors, analysts have estimated that the Kenyan entertainment industry can provide over 2 million Kenyans with direct employment, and this is a very huge number.
Today, the formal sector employs some 2.4 million Kenyans, whereas the informal sector provides jobs to some 11.6 million Kenyans. According to unemployment statistics, there are about 6 million employable youths without jobs, most of whom are likely to have diverse talents in the arts, music and the movie industries. If the entertainment industry were to pick up and absorb the 2 million Kenyans, then within no time unemployment could drop from the current 40% to below 25% – and that drop in unemployment could accelerate economic growth to be above the two digits magical figures.
The purpose of this article therefore is to urge you as a Kenyan to start developing love for what’s Kenyan, even if it appears as crap right now. I solemnly urge you to watch those YouTube videos by Kenyans, subscribe to the channels, and keep on buying, watching, and listening to what is uniquely Kenyan. The content maybe crap for now, but with time, as the artists continue to net in revenues, the quality of content will improve both in form and medium of delivery.
I urge our mainstream media houses to stop shunning Kenyan local content and give the local artists and producers airtime. I urge them to work closely with the producers and help them develop content of reasonable quality that can be watched widely in Kenya and outside the borders.
I finally urge the government to fast track the enforcement of the 60% Kenyan local content rule so that Kenyan artists do not have to suffer. Importantly, I urge the government to put in place mechanisms that can ensure that the artists do get what is rightfully theirs – to shield the artists from hyenas hell-bent in eating the artists’ sweat to poverty. Scandals like those that have surrounded Skiza tunes and the Music Copyright Society of Kenya should never surface again.