Remember days when you had to wait for 'sundowner', 'beat of the week' on television or 'top 10 at 10' radio countdowns in the quest to know what new music was hitting the streets?
Those were the days when you would be lucky to hear a new song twice in a day, so internalising the tunes was almost unheard of. As a matter of fact the only music you heard was what the presenter and producers wanted you to. They were kings of the music industry.
If a presenter’s favourites were Daudi Kabaka, Les Wanyika and Mbilia Bell, the audience would soon find themselves gravitating to it. Upcoming artistes had difficult times making it to mainstream media and even worse experiences trying to mimic their favourite artistes unless they recorded the tunes from radio to cassette.
Let us not even start with those exercise books that were uniquely preserved as lyric books! The ones that everyone in class had booked so they could cram the lyrics and that number It was a crime to rip out a page from those lyric books and were never to be lost. Dreadfully so, we survived!
Out to fill a gap, newspapers also identified a niche and started sharing out lyrics to certain songs, the Sunday papers had identified a niche and considering the internet was a luxury back in the day, a determined editor took it upon themselves to share lyrics to popular tunes with their readers. Oh! Bless those editors!
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These beautiful humans saved several musical careers, boosted confidence and encouraged a new breed of creatives who could confidently master the lyrics and sing word for word whenever the songs came on radio.
And those people that kept exercise books full of lyrics? Finally, they had cutouts to save them from the cramming and gruesome hassle of imagining what the different lyrics were, then writing them down word for word, only for the lyrics book to get lost somewhere among their friends.
Entertainment sessions in schools and clubs were a playback of the good old tunes that were often stored in the old cassettes or the compact disks that relegated listeners to 8 or 12 songs. By the end of the term, students had already internalized these tunes due to repetitive listening.
Lest we forget, local musicians had to impressively win the masses in phenomenal ways. Getting fans to sing your songs meant that you had massive airplay on local radio or needed to bag down a lot of music gigs then travel from town to town performing them. It was the only way to get your music to the people.
“Back then, during the era when ‘Mega rider’ was a hit, you had to be impressive, so good that the radio presenters could not ignore you, that way, you would luckily get the chance to be on radio. Television was a whole new ball game because videos had to be spectacular.” Singer Nameless says.
In regards to music distribution, a musician always had to carry around copies of their music just in case they came across potential fans or a media personality that could buy or promote their music. Music royalties were unheard of! Music downloads was a mirage and it was basically tough times to be a musician.
Fast forward and so much has changed. Even if an artiste needed to walk around with their music, they can confidently save it on their phone memory and better yet, have them on music platforms like Songa by Safaricom where interested parties can conveniently make downloads. In regards to making money from their music, artistes have more avenues to cash in on their crafts.
“An artiste in today’s music industry has so many options at their disposal. With platforms like SKIZA, one can be able to make money from all the callback tunes so with loveable music, your SKIZA revenue keeps you winning in the industry. Then there is the new platform Songa, where fans have access to a huge library of music, they can pay for the downloads and keep artistes reaping from their creativity, but if all else fails, just upload it on YouTube!” Nameless adds.
As with all levels of creativity, artistes hope to get compensation and based on Nameless’ argument it is clear to see that as the technological trends change, so do the fans’ consumption habits. Most people are often on their phone with an array of applications to keep them busy.
For this reason, applications that make life easier and more entertaining for the consumer are often applauded. An application like Songa is conveniently able to bring the music to the consumers and in the quest to “buy Kenya, build Kenya” consumers are able to buy the music, allowing the artistes to reap from their creativity.
Gone are the days when you had to text your favorite song to the local deejay through short-codes and if you were fortunate enough he would play your music during the show. Most times, fans were relegated to hearing their favorite music on a lucky streak but today, all you need to do is get online, find your favorite song, download it and promote the artiste.
“It’s definitely a good time to be an artiste! Today I am able to share my uplifting music with fans across Kenya and the rest of Africa thanks to Songa. With the systems put in place, I have a weight lifted from my everyday life as an artiste because once I remit my song onto the platform, the sale, distribution and downloads can happen without me having to monitor every step” Mercy Masika mentioned.
Having seen Mercy start her musical career at a tender age, then take a hiatus from music, it is good to hear her speak about the musical evolution in Kenya. Back then she religiously aimed at selling her music among worshippers in the churches she attended because music sales channels were not as diverse. Even when she had great musical compositions out, more Kenyans were inclined towards international gospel music as it was more accessible when compared to local music.
“Back in the day, people were inclined to international praise and worship, but today, I can confidently affirm that the homegrown applications which promote local music are doing impressively well to promote local artistes. Today, fans who love my music can use it as their SKIZA tunes and those who want to buy and promote my music can download it on Songa.” Mercy Masika added.
Gone are the days when students had to send dedications on local magazines like Insyder and their baes had to wait till holiday time to catch the songs on local radio. Today, you can download musical dedications and send it to your loved ones through WhatsApp, Bluetooth and on a good day, you could buy it directly to their phones. Not only does this allow them to have music on their phone, they are at the discretion of using it as their ringtone too!
“New artistes and fans should be excited about the current digital milestones while staying excited for what the future holds. If one can simply log onto to songa and find an array of African music, albums, and basically African content, we are doing well!” Mercy adds.
One of the early Songa adopters is Sauti Sol who released their latest track, Short and Sweet featuring Nyashinski, exclusively on the platform.
That aside, the number of people with call back tunes in this country is phenomenal! Many are the time when you call someone and all of a sudden Willy Paul’s jigi jigi is blasting in your ear.
“When Nyashinki’s first song came out, I kept hearing it on radio and people’s call back tunes. The number of Kenyans that had it on their phone was phenomenal! Let’s just say I mastered the lyrics off people’s ringtones before I even got the chance to look it up on Youtube” Mary, a converted Nyashinski fan admits.
In no time, this turns out to be a fully-fledged tutorial as on looking friends learn about the app and just how much they can promote their favorite local musicians, apparently with an android phone and on the Safaricom network, one is able to access an array of over 2 million tracks across different genres.