Kenyan Artistes React to Uhuru's Plan to Give Them Ksh5K Each

  • (Left to Right) Ochungulo Family members NellytheGoon, D'more and Benzema
    (Left to Right) Ochungulo Family members NellytheGoon, D'more and Benzema
    Twitter
  • President Uhuru Kenyatta on Monday, April 6, announced a raft of measures intended to curb the spread of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) and cushion Kenyans from the economic downturn occasioned by the pandemic.

    He notably directed the Ministry of Sports, Culture and Heritage to allocate Ksh100 million from the Sports Fund towards artists, actors and musicians.

    “I direct the Ministry of Sports, Culture and Heritage to avail Ksh100M from the Sports Fund to our artistes, actors and musicians during the period of the Covid-19 pandemic so they may continue to entertain their fellow brothers and sisters through TV, radio and the internet,” he ordered.

    Artists expected to benefit from the allocation are registered members of the three main Collective Management Organizations (CMOs); the Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK), the Kenya Association of Music Producers (KAMP) and the Performers Rights Society of Kenya (PRISK). Collectively, the three CMOs which are mandated to represent artists have a membership of 19,000.

    President Uhuru Kenyatta (Blue & White checked shirt) pictured during his radio interview at State House Nairobi on April 7, 2020.
    President Uhuru Kenyatta (Blue & White checked shirt) pictured during his radio interview at State House Nairobi on April 7, 2020.
    PSCU

    Quick calculations confirm that, if all registered artists are to be paid, then they will get around Ksh5,000 each.

    Kenyans.co.ke reached out to various leading artists to get their thoughts on the anticipated pay-out.

    Benzema aka Alejandro of hit-making group Ochungulo Family stated that the pay-out was an indictment of the failure of the government and CMOs to create a working structure that ensures artistes earn from their music, arguing that in other countries, it was artistes who were donating to the government to support Covid-19 response efforts.

    "I think it just shows how badly off our entertainment industry is and has been for years. Right now, these big artistes are supposed to be the ones giving the government money to fight Covid-19, we're seeing it in other countries. Why not Kenya?

    "We are only finding ourselves in this situation because of the mismanagement over the years of this industry. Artistes in Kenya don't earn from royalties, and now they're stuck at home with no shows, depending on a pay-out from the government. It's not supposed to be like that," he asserted.

    Leading Gengetone producer Hitman Kaht, who is behind numerous smash hits including Wabebe and Olunga, called for artists to get their act together and push for working systems that guarantee them a steady income instead of one-off payouts.

    He observed that, in past years, distribution of royalties by bodies such as MCSK saw all registered artists earn pay-outs of less than Ksh3,000.

    Decrying this, Hitman called for artists to reject the Ksh100 million and demand to have it spent on acquiring world-class airplay monitoring equipment to ensure that distribution of royalties is based on facts and figures.

    "If that money is going through MCSK, we're in trouble. Because MCSK doesn't use any form of statistics when distributing royalties. What we need is for the systems to be overhauled.

    "This story of getting Ksh5,000 today, Ksh5,000 next year isn't helping. In fact, I think as artistes we should reject that Ksh100 million and call for them to buy equipment to monitor how songs are being played so they can pay us accordingly.

    "We should also overhaul the leadership of these bodies like MCSK. If artists can have me as the CEO of MCSK we can start implementing these things immediately," he stated.

    File image of Wabebe producer Hitman Kaht
    File image of Wabebe producer Hitman Kaht
    Twitter

    Fast-rising spoken word artist Willie Oeba, whose recent hard-hitting release Dear Mr President aimed at President Uhuru Kenyatta has been trending, stated that the intervention was a good idea but the funds were nowhere near adequate; reiterating Kaht's calls to fully implement merit-based distribution.

    Oeba also called for radical changes in how CMOs work as he decried corruption within the organisations, stating that they should be merged.

    "The initiative itself is good because artists have really been affected by this thing. For example, there are no shows to perform at because gatherings are banned. So it's a good initiative.

    "But when you hear you're getting just Ksh5,000, it is not that much. In this economy, it is even hard to pay your rent with that.

    "So I  think it is more important to change the systems. You cannot have an artist like Nyashinski getting Ksh5,000, the same as an artist who has released one single in his entire career because they are both registered members. 

    "The problem with the Ksh5,000 is that for many artistes, even their expenses to make the music is much more than that, so these one-off payments of Ksh5,000 don't help much.

    "We should also collapse all these CMOs and have one body representing artistes. When you go to their offices, all you see is big cars bought with artistes' money. These guys collect money from matatus, clubs, hotels, everyone and they're always working. Where does this money go?" he questioned.

    Spoken word artist Willie Oeba pictured during a performance in 2018
    Spoken word artist Willie Oeba pictured during a performance in 2018
    File