By Geoffrey Korio and Mkala Mwangesha
On a chilly Tuesday morning, the Pulse crew sets off to the Calif Records studios in Greenfield Estate, Nairobi, on a fact finding mission.
We pitch camp outside the home of genge and as the morning wears out, there is no sign of business at the once busy studio.
Finally, one of the stable’s assistant producer Pararo shows up. He is uncomfortable with our presence. After a little chat, he informs us that the studio has taken a one-week sabbatical to give artistes time to rest. That we find strange. We try to reach out to the stable’s executive director, Clemo, who informs us that he is “out of town”.
About three weeks ago, three of the stable’s artistes Kendi, Vanika and Q-tasi quit as allegations of poor management spiralled.
Symptoms that all was not well at Calif emerged last year as two of its die-hards, Size 8 and Choku (the latter formerly of the Calif Angels) announced their departure. At the time, Calif closed its doors at its traditional Calif Estate before establishing base at Greenfield, in the outskirts of the city. Then dropped the shocker bombshell, Calif was said to be closing down.
After 12 years in business, a time during which it gave birth to some of the biggest artistes in the land, including Nonini, Jua Cali, Pili pili, Choku, Mejja and Jimw@t among others, in house squabbles, mistrust and poor artiste management and failure to read the signs of the times are said to be the genesis of the current crisis threatening to bring Calif Records down to its knees.
Besides, cut throat competition from the stable’s old rivals and new stables that have brought with them more versatile sounds credited on new age music technology as well as sprouting fusion genres — now popular among masses — seems to have posed major handles at the genge household, the original home of the colloquial streetwise sheng rhymes. However, the Calif boss and his trusted old guard Paul Nunda aka Jua Cali, as well as the stable’s manager, Thomas Mahondo, seem to be in denial.
“Those (singers) who have left are simply lazy people. The label does not work with lazy people,” Jua Cali told Pulse, sentiments that were echoed by Clemo.
“There is no crisis at all, everything is being blown out of proportion. People have been moving out of Calif since the days of Nonini. Artistes moving out doesn’t amount to a crisis,” Thomas adds.
“Some artistes got ‘better’ offers elsewhere and I wish them all the best,” Clemo remarked, playing down claims that his genge gem was losing its glory.
Size 8’s windfall
When Size 8 left Calif last year after recording her Shamba Boy single, all had not been well and it would appear that her singing potential was not being well tapped last year’s credits are anything to go by. At Jomino Studio — which is also experiencing its own management squabbles — Size 8 recorded her hit single Fire, credited for her current run way music success.