How do you live your life?
I’m a Christian. A born-again Christian. My life is guided by that.
Even the music business part...you do produce gospel music by different artistes and some of these artistes have been accused of preaching water and smoking weed. Don’t you think that reflects on you?
First, music is music. What makes it secular or gospel is content. If I talk as a music businessman, I’ll tell you that the gospel artistes have got it right. If I talk as a born-again Christian, I’ll tell you there are things about what they do and how they conduct themselves that I don’t agree with.
What guides your life, especially career wise?
I don’t believe in working for people. I worked for five years or so in different studios, saved up enough money and then bought my own recording equipment. I kind of like to be in charge of my life.
Your family; about them...
Do we have to go there? Look, my father was a musician. I knew as a child that music is what I wanted to do. I have a wife (not telling you her name) and a son (not telling you his name). My son is 13 years old. And he is a musician too. He actually recorded his first song at the age of three/ four years. He is now 13.
Do you get to do things with your son?
A lot. I taught him how to handle recording equipment because I never wanted him to get into my office and break down my equipment. Turns out he had a penchant for music. Today when I am alone, he helps me record. And he is not too amused that I’m slow at video games because we do play.
Music and social responsibility; do you worry about the lyrics that the artistes you produce for write?
I’m involved in what artistes are saying. I do refuse to record any music that has questionable content.
What you are saying is questionable business-wise. You are in the business of making money out of the music business after all...
I’m known for turning artistes down. Look, I’m a father and my son has to go to school - so you may argue that I need the money. But what if I got the money and then he refuses to go to school because of the influence of music that I produced?
What worries you most when you look at the music scene in Kenya today?
I worry about listening to the younger artistes. Their role models have not shown them the benefits of being authentic or that of being true to themselves.
They are extremely talented but they seem not to know how to be themselves. I worry that their careers may not take the right direction.
Now, about your son. How do you approach parenting?
Parenting to me is about my son having a well-rounded/ grounded life. I consider different things; I teach my son about God.
I share with him about choices. I also teach him to be an independent thinker - I really would want him to be a job creator rather than be an employee. And we are friends. I’m easy, tough but relaxed. Not like my father was.
What is your achievement this far?
I have produced more than 80 albums.
In 2003/4 World Bank conducted a survey on music business in Kenya. You were part of the team involved. Why did World Bank decide to conduct a survey on this particular area?
In all fields, there is always need for information. Data. It helps in planning, helps when investors want to understand the market, helps the stakeholders understand and make proper moves.
Back then, it was nearly impossible to find data on music business in Kenya. The World Bank stepped in to gather that data.
How bad was the lack of data on music business in Kenya before that survey?
The industry was chaotic. Musicians were on their own, the producers on their own. There was no proper royalty collection mechanism and the information available was scattered all over.
It must have been bad...
It was terrible. The chaos in the industry meant that the creators didn’t get their due. And things shouldn’t run in that manner. I assume that survey came up with an approximate worth of the Kenyan music industry as at 2003/4.
How much was the industry worth?
We found that the industry was worth about Sh4 billion a year. Although this was not the only thing we found out. We also realized the industry was massively lacking in infrastructure.
What level had you reached in the music industry to warrant your participation in this survey and what role exactly did you play?
I was a producer already. In fact, I had been in the industry for five years. My participation was more as a music industry entrepreneur.
How much is the industry worth today, one decade after your survey?
We’ve not had any recent surveys to show us the exact worth of the industry, but, in 2008, a study was done that showed that the industry had grown to Sh11 billion per year.
I won’t be shocked if right now we have an industry worth over Sh15 billion a year. People in the industry are making money.
The same thing is with infrastructure. Right now, Kenya comes only second to South Africa in terms of music infrastructure. Ghana comes third.
What has changed...?
Digitalisation has helped in opening up new avenues for doing music business; music downloads and ring back tones.
Today we also have the right and functional royalty collection management organisations like PRISK and MCSK.
As a producer you are in the right position to talk about the quality of Kenyan music, especially contemporary urban music.
We have come a long way. What we need to ask first is; how do we measure quality? Is it about our technical ability?
Technically, a lot of producers are doing a great job, and we have the right equipment too. Is it about authenticity? There is a problem here. Our artists follow waves.
They don’t want to develop a Kenyan sound. Is it about skills? We have musical skills and talent that can compete internationally.
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