The gap is widening [Photo: Shutterstock]

Collective Management Organisations (CMOs) have been making a lot of noise over the Sh100 million for artistes that President Uhuru Kenyatta announced last month to help them deal with the effects of Covid-19.

Application for the funds - for artistes not in the know (so they can go apply online) - ends today.

CS of Sports, Culture and Heritage Amina Mohamed announced the launch of the initiative at the Kenya National Theatre, opposite the Kenya Cultural Centre that is also a major player in the ‘Together at Home’ grants project.

For musicians, the project is called ‘Pay for Play’ and it is under the aegis of the Permanent Presidential Music Commission (PPMC), which is headed by the very versatile Donald Otoyo.

But the CMOs were not comfortable being left out of the loop and wrote letters, called a press conference on Lenana Road and generally made jarring grumblings quite out of tune with the soprano of the Kenya Film Commission. And the alto of the Department of Culture, the tenor of the National Museums of Kenya ... and most definitely the bass of the PPMC, which is receiving the cash and decides who gets what.

MCSK (Music Copyright Society of Kenya), PRiSK (Performers’ Rights Society of Kenya) and Kamp (Kenya Association of Music Producers) are the triumvirates at the forefront of demanding the Covid-19 cash.

As the official CMOs, they argue, it is their duty to collect all monies for over 20,000 members’ (Pulse has established that all three have closer to 8,000 members), and distribute it.

In other words, taking out the visual artists, illustrators, sculpture artists, archivists, thespians, spoken word performers and poets, this triad thinks they ought to have been given around Sh30 million to hand out.

Frasha (Francis Khamisi), who even with all his insider status in the music industry has been forced to fall back on his little clinic in Parklands in these ‘no show’ times, sees a sinister motive in the CMOs insistence on wanting to be the bodies to distribute musicians’ corona cash.

“First of all, they want to overstep their mandate. Kazi yao ni kuokota na ku-distribute royalties za musicians (Their job is to collect and distribute royalties),” he argues.

“It is none of their business to manage artistes, or (purport to) cushion musicians during pandemics like this Covid-19 crisis.”

No pun intended, but Frasha thinks they also have a bad record even doing what’s within their purview.

Dr Otoyo agrees, giving Pulse the example of a “house agent who collects rent from all the tenants in an apartment block, but then gives the landlady the lesser amount, and keeps the larger amount as his management fee”.

It will be remembered that last August – which now seems like a lifetime ago – some of Kenya’s biggest musicians like King Kaka and Khaligraph Jones posted the Sh2,500 they each received on M-Pesa as their annual royalties from MCSK, finding the sums a small, but not funny, joke.

Big Ted, the experienced events’ guy at State House, told Pulse how the Sh100 million is just an angel fund for artistes intended for this period, yes, but hopefully with works created that will outlast the pandemic.

“As Amb Amina advised,” Big Ted says, “present your proposals, collect what you’ll get, but create art that will not just be relevant beyond corona, but also launch your name at a national level.”

Big Ted then quotes the common saying about teaching a man/musician to fish.

As for the CMOs’ kind offer to collect Covid-19 cash on behalf of the artistes, it’s a big ‘Thanks, guys, but no thanks’.