When Kapuka and Genge gave Kenyan music true identity
By Stephen Adol
| October 11th 2016
Gone are the days when Kenyan contemporary music
rocked and ruled East Africa and even the whole continent of Africa.
A song could be played and one could easily know
that it was from a Kenyan artist, or from a Kenyan production house.
Ogopa Deejayz and Calif Records created
identities for their music that came to be popularly known as 'kapuka' and
'genge' respectively. The major kapuka artists included the likes of Nameless,
Big Pin and The Kleptomaniacs, while genge had Nonini, Jua Cali and Jimwat.
Kenyan music was taking Africa by storm and Big
Pin went ahead to bag a Kora Award, while Eric Wainaina and Suzzana Owiyo were
invited to perform in mega concerts all over the world.
Some Kenyans could not even tell whether
Chameleone, Bebe Cool and Lady Jaydee were our compatriots or not. They were
doing their music the Kenyan way and we were proud of our music.
There was Poxi Presha, Gidigidi-Majimaji,
Ndarlin' P and Mighty King Kong. After them were Lady S, Pilipili, E-Sir, Amani
and Wakimbizi. Then we lost the plot.
Kenyan artists started copying music from other
countries. We had young musicians trying to copy Tanzania's Professa J and
TMK's Chege. We had our boys imitating South Africa's Mafikizolo and Brenda
Fassie. We had our brothers copying West Africa's P-Square and Akon.
The wandering of Kenyan artists in the
wilderness has gone a notch higher for the past three years and they are headed
to the middle of the desert as things stand. As per now, upcoming and even
established artists are imitating as they compare themselves to Tanzania's
Diamond and Ali Kiba, Nigeria's Davido and Yemi Alade, and South Africa's
Instead of our evergreen Sauti Sol trying so
hard to sing the Bongo beat, they can make us more proud if they did a kapuka
song with P-Square. On the other hand, Akothee could make us equally proud if
she did a genge beat with Mafikizolo.
If only the top artists of the late 1990s and
early 2000s could have been in their peak, our beats could have been sweeping
through Africa. Diamond could have imitated Nameless, Davido could have copied
Poxi Presha while Yemi Alade could have tried out Rat-at-at's style.
Those who have tried to stick to the original
Kenyan beat, like Kenrazy and Welle Welle’s Timmy, are few and we take our hats
off for them.
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