Music awards have conspicuously been missing in the Kenyan music entertainment industry for quite some time now. The disappearance of what was once the measure of a musician's success has taken with it something vital from the industry. Gone are the days when being nominated for an award was a major highlight in an artist's career. Forgotten are the days when musicians would battle out against each other and work hard to get the best male or female artist of the year award.
But, where exactly did the rain start beating the Kenyan music industry in terms of the vitality of the music awards?
In the early 2000s, the Kenyan music industry was flooded with several award galas including; Chaguo la Teeniez, Extreme Awards, Kisima Awards, and Groove Awards among others. The presence of the awards meant that artists under different genres pushed each other to extremes in order to be crowned victorious. A good example is Willy Paul and Bahati whose rivalry kept the gospel music industry alive. However, the award galas started fading off; with most sponsors pulling out due to several reasons that include negative publicity by artists who felt there was bias in nominations and determination of winners.
Contribution of Music awards to the growth of the industry
Music awards motivated musicians to work hard and compete to be the best in the industry. They were not only the measurement of an artist's success but also a source of professional joy and pride. A good example is the Groove awards where winners walked away with amazing prizes that transformed their careers. In 2015, Bahati was crowned Groove awards male artist of the year, and ever since, his star has been shining bright. The same applies to Mercy Masika who bagged several top awards with her ‘Mwema’ hit. After ‘Mwema’s success, Mercy went ahead to release other great songs that include; ‘Shule Yako’ and ‘Nikupendeze’ among others. Bahati and Mercy Masika’s stories are examples of the positive impact awards can have on an artists and the music industry at large.
How music awards molded some of the biggest names in the industry
If you are a loyal fan of the Kenyan music industry, then you would remember how back in the day artists competed and appreciated awards. For instance, in the early 2000s, Prezzo once pulled up for Chagua la Teeniez awards in a chopper. Being relatively new in the industry back then, he used the opportunity to build a name for himself. After the stunt, Prezzo went viral across the country; the youth loved him with all his songs becoming instant hits. Other artists who also rode on awards to become music giants include; Jua Cali, Daddy Owen, Nonini, Juliani, Amani, Avril, Size 8, and Wahu, among others. Through the awards, bands such as M.O.G, P-Unit, Kelele Takatifu, BMF, and Sauti Sol also got a chance at the spotlight. Being crowned the bigwigs in the male artist of the year was their ultimate goal and this shined spotlight on them.
The disappearance of the awards and the negative impact it is had in the industry
Over the past few years, music awards have gradually disappeared in the country. While corona is partly to blame, the trend had started showing way before the virus hit Kenya. The disappearance of awards has affected the industry negatively; there is reduced motivation, lack of positive competition, the quality of some songs is not like it would have been before. The industry has also to some extent become dull as the awards created pomp and excitement.
What is the situation in East Africa?
Comparing Kenyans to other countries in the East African region (Uganda and Tanzania) it is safe to say that we are lagging behind. A similar situation was witnessed in Tanzania a while back, but stakeholders including top musicians like Harmonize and the government intervened and ensured local awards make a comeback to the industry.
The government through the ministry of Culture, Arts, and Sports officially re-introduced the awards. At the moment, there is heated competition among local Bongo artists as each is striving to get nominated under one or more categories. This in turn means music quality and consistency go up and eventually, Bongo music will rank among the top genres in the continent once again.
In Uganda, the music industry is booming with awards being a major highlight in the industry. Recently there were The Chaguo La Teeniez awards which featured both established artists and upcoming. In addition to Chaguo la Teeniez, there is also Galaxy FM awards and MTN awards among others.
In conclusion, the music industry like many other sectors can only work well if there is adequate motivation to drive the key stakeholders. This is the role that is played by local awards. Stakeholders in the Kenyan music industry, therefore, need to sit down and work on a strategy of bringing back the music awards.