|Victoria Kimani is signed on to Chocolate City Label|
By Kevin Oguoko
With everyone hailing them as ‘Africa’s Lost Boyz’, thanks to their hard-core hip-hop lyrics, Kenya’s pioneer rap group Kalamashaka, attained international glory back in the early 2000s.
With hits like Tafsiri Hii (1997), Ni Wakati (2001), Kilio Cha Haki (2004) and Dandora Burning (2006), the Kenyan exports broke new music ground in Nigeria, Sweden and Netherlands. Their street-smart demeanour and their lyrics centred on crime, tribalism, politics and Africa’s conflicts, gave them a wide and strong following across Africa. Their tours across Africa and Europe attracted masses. One of their concerts in Nigeria attracted 150,000 fans, a record number to be admired by any group.
Soon, they inspired the birth of many other big groups like Mashifta, Necessary Noize, Gidi Gidi Maji Maji and a horde of other celebrities who put Kenya on the continental picture as the leading entertainment hub after South Africa.
But with time, the Bongo influx was here, sweeping across East Africa like bush fire, not to mention the West Africa influenced Lingala craze. As we ushered in the new millennium, the now-popular Kenyan Kapuka beat was being mastered by an upcoming Nigerian music industry as their producers plotted a conquest. Leading this onslaught from the West was P Square, headlining the new breed of Nigerian musicians into an East Africa take over. It was a whole choreographed move involving West African artistes, promoters, producers, video directors as well as film directors who not only used their larger-than-life presence to break through into Kenya, but also their catchy pidgin English dialect as a distinct identity to cut a niche above their competition.
The new showbiz order threw our artistes into a spin. Local artistes changed their focus from keeping the Kenyan music identity beat as they fell in the hands on ‘celebrated’ Nigerian audio and video producers. To Nairobi, Nigerian entertainment stables trooped in to make a strong base complete with the take over of all the major events from comedy, music and fashion. Now, we have top cream Kenyan musicians signing to Nigerian stables, and these singers are singing their song, away from the dying Kenyan tune.
It is a significant showbiz development in the country and not necessarily a good one. We could be losing our base.
Staking their claim as the frontrunner in the game, about two months ago, Nigeria’s Chocolate City Music, an urban record label founded in 2005, set its East Africa base in Nairobi.
Having signed fast-rising Kenyan singer Victoria Kimani and a number of other entertainers, the newcomers included their own artistes Ice Prince, MI and Davido in the takeover recipe, making them big names in Kenya during and after the launch.
Big groups and names like Camp Mulla, Madtraxx and Atemi were already getting into recording deals with subsidiary Chocolate City partners working under the Mtech umbrella, yet another Nigerian fronted entertainment outfit.
The irony is, while some of these West African showbiz outfits setting base here are being adored as the in thing bringing in their chain of entertainment cartels, the country’s top artistes like P Square and D’banj as well as WizKid, don’t seem to give them the same space as they have been busy signing with international stables like Akon’s Konvict Muzik label and Sony Music.
As our artistes and the entire entertainment industry was letting Nigerian showbiz players take the driving seat in local entertainment, the likes of P Square had moved on ahead of our singers, fixing mega deals with big international labels like Universal Music South Africa.