As the first half of the year comes to a close, Pulse runs a count on how 2020 has unravelled so far, and looks at what has been uplifting amid the gloom and what has been just plain deplorable.
Mutahi Kagwe’s bag of linguistic treats
With catchy and philosophical quotes like, ‘If we treat this disease normally, it will treat us abnormally’ and ‘You can gerrit, I can gerrit, anybody can gerrit’ - phrases that were turned into song - Health CS Mutahi Kagwe has brought some laughter and cheekiness to a very gloomy period.
The man, whose son is gaining traction as an upcoming rapper, has been furnishing Kenyans with quotable quotes, and his stare has become rich fodder for memes.
Sauti Sol’s global moves
January started with the band signing a deal with Africa’s affiliate of the Universal Music Group, Universal Music Africa. February came with the release of Suzanna, a hot jam with a hotter video, and that Valentine’s eve performance at Trace Live, where details emerged that their forthcoming album, Midnight Train, would drop.
The album has not disappointed, the songs and featured artistes are eclectic. The group keeps charting the way while making bold moves, making it possible for more young people to dream big.
Live music setting the right tones
One of the biggest revelations of the lockdown has been the role of live music in entertaining scores of people stuck at home in the evening. Now petering out, the first two months after lockdown were decorated with energetic live music streamed via electronic gadgets, as artistes and deejays tried to lift our spirits.
Nyashinski, Arrow Bwoy, Khaligraph Jones, Mercy Masika, Shamsi, Eunice Njeri, Octopizzo, Kidum, Jua Cali, Fena, Decimal and many others have graced our screens, some with memorable performances.
Albums, albums, albums
The news this week is that Willy Paul is working on his album, Songs of Solomon, and in one WhatsApp group, he was reaching out to his fellow artistes for advice on the album’s mixing and mastering.
Otile Brown dropped his Just In Love early this month, with Nyashinski’s Lucky You and Sauti Sol’s Midnight Train dropping earlier. Great songs have been presented in well-organised and well-packaged CDs, distributed and available in different formats for fans to consume at their own pace.
Open conversations about the industry
An apology, and an attempt to explain the circumstances surrounding the role of two filming houses in trying to help Kenyan creatives, was shared this week in response to racism complaints made by young Kenyans trying to act, direct or shoot films. The conversations opened old wounds, but also gave us insight into how hard it is to make films and TV programmes in this country, with some of accusations aimed at fellow Kenyans, and people in positions of power in the film industry’s hierarchy who loot talents’ stipends, while running unprofessional outfits.
Interventions on royalties
The government has finally made an attempt to set things right in the music industry by coming up with a central database to ensure royalties flow directly into the creatives’ pockets. Still in the initial stages, there has been some level of enthusiasm from the artistes, who have been swindled for years.
The plan involves cutting out middlemen by having all creatives register their work on one database from which collected monies will be redistributed through three main collective management organisations.
Media houses pulling the plug
With the effects of corona being felt across all industries, leading media houses have cut salaries or laid-off workers.
This week, some media staff were sent home via a text message.
“I was not at work today (Monday) because we had not agreed on a lot of things and terms, and even as we speak, my HR had me on hold still discussing terms of employment. Unfortunately, we didn’t agree. So just like today, I won’t be at work tomorrow or any other day,” popular media personality Jalang’o explained on social media earlier this week, capturing the mood.
Showbiz at a standstill
The entertainment industry has not been spared the wrath of the economic downturn that has come with the pandemic. Artistes, deejays, MCs and hypemen have been relegated to Instagram posts, with only a few getting sponsorships to do live gigs. It has been an incredible time, with plans suspended at the moment and everyone trying to figure out a way to survive.
According to Bars, Hotels and Liquor Traders Association of Kenya Chairman Simon Mwangi, the 54,000 members have lost Sh1 billion in the last three months.
“The situation is of grave concern and we are urging the government to reopen the bars whose owners have been reduced to paupers,” he said, a statement that would open revenue streams for many.
Pulsers misbehaving for a drink
It’s been a cat-and-mouse game between authorities and Pulsers who keep finding new ways to have a sip, and disregard social distancing rules and curfew hours.
This has been a sore point in the fight to keep the pandemic at bay, with each weekend bringing with it reports of mature, right-thinking Kenyans putting their health at risk.
Ethic’s lack of ethics
Controversial gengetone group Ethic kept their infamy going with the release of Soko, a song that led to another apology and the group promising to do better.
However, they’d apologised before for a similar transgression. The group, other than irking Kenyans, has been in an all-out war with Ezekiel Mutua, the CEO of the Kenya Film Classification Board.
Ken Walibora’s day dims, Papa Dennis departs
The literary world was sent into shock when prolific author, social commentator and media man Ken Walibora died in early April. The celebrated Swahili icon was eulogised by the high and mighty, as the Directorate of Criminal Investigations worked to piece together what could have led to the writer and playwright’s alleged stabbing and accident in Muthurwa area.
The showbiz industry lost gospel artiste Papa Dennis, also under mysterious circumstances. The award-winning artiste, whose star had dimmed, had been abandoned by his friends, with some speculating that he was depressed.
Twist veteran John Nzenze passed on, while benga music lost Jimmy Wayuni to a road accident and Abenny Jachiga to sickness. Razz Msupa, a female rapper who appeared on King Kaka’s Ligi Soo remix, also succumbed after a short illness.
Dj Evolve’s nightmare
DJ Evolve is finally home, six months after he was shot at point-blank range at B-Club. Felix Orinda, as his ID states, has undergone multiple procedures, and can’t speak or walk on his own.
His situation a glaring indication of the impunity and inequality faced by many in this country.
In footage that was shared and re-shared, the deejay can be seen being carried out of the club like a sack by two people. And just like that, a young man’s blossoming career was cut short.
Covid-19 stops the music
It was all fun and games until March 12 when Kenya recorded its first coronavirus case – the announcement was made to the nation the following day. And from then on, the public health and safety regulations kept getting stiffer and more confining, as the State worked to contain the spread of the virus. With a curfew imposed, and social distancing regulations introduced, it meant an end to activities that Pulsers participated in on impulse, like clubbing, drinking in groups, and attending gigs, live or otherwise.
This also meant a loss of revenues for artistes, clubs and bar owners, event organisers and hundreds of support staff who make the party life thrive.