The creative sector in rural Kenya remains disadvantaged at all fronts. Many players are still unaware of their rights, hence the need for concerted efforts to bring them at par with their urban counterparts.
Before Covid-19 struck, Kamurar Masai was doing music for the passion of it. He would pop in studios around Bomet and Narok, record a song and let it be. Some would get airplay in local stations, but majority did not. His style of music was mainly the fast benga beats, mostly associated with Kalenjin singers. But in the course of his singing, something suddenly changed.
In an event, he attended a couple of years ago, the locals demanded he performs for them a traditional folklore music, something Kamurar as a Masai warrior had experience on. Someone recorded a video of the same and with that, he got his breakthrough and rose to fame and this marked the change in his style of music. Although he has been performing at international events, it is only recently that he set up a social media presence for his work of art. He has no clue on a number of important issues such as royalties or contracts with producers.
In an interview with Spice, he says this is something he regrets and wants to change.
He admits to know more artistes in the region who, just like him, are clueless about such matters, which are of utmost importance to people in the creative industry. He is part of a group of creatives who have joined hands in an effort to change the state of things in the county, which has huge growth potential for entertainment and arts.
Awakening for change
“We are going to change the status quo because, as creatives, there is an awakening amongst us to change. Most of us know the potential of this place having experienced what Nairobi and other big dogs in the entertainment scenes have to offer,” says showbiz promoter David Muthengi aka Davido Official.
He adds, “When it comes to events, we have been hosting top artistes in the country and beyond, as we have a huge presence of corporates in this county. However, while we are at it, we also need to change the local artistes in terms of their branding and exposure to certain matters including their copyrights, and expose them to opportunities such as collaborations. That is why it is important for us as creatives to come together to chart the way forward.”
Recently, tens of artists from different disciplines came together to brainstorm and network during an event dubbed Narok Creative Hangout. Poet, artivist and published author Maison Ole Nkurrunah says the occasion was necessitated by the fact that although arts and culture is a devolved function, there is need for more awareness on how the arts landscape has and continues to evolve.
“For years, we have been complaining about lack of support from our leaders and governments, but we also did not know how these systems work. For example, given the number of learning institutions in this county, we have quite a huge number of young creatives whom we have been interacting with and majority have been complaining about the same story —lack of support,” says Maison.
The young author says the group has been engaging with the relevant authorities including the county government to help change the narrative and avoid being caught flatfooted, and adapt to current trends.
“An example would be the recent unbundling of the creative economy and the arts in Executive Order 2/2023 by President William Ruto. In the county setup, we have been pushing for the County Youth Policy with the administration and the process is taking shape. However, we need to make groundwork by working on certain structures,” he adds.
The policy is based on three pillars of youth, society and culture and is intended to put in place programmes and actions to strengthen social cohesion through cultural diversity.
“We intend to encourage artistic and cultural expression by the youth, through support of arts and cultural festivals, competitions and other activities that promote cultural heritage, identities and national pride. We are also aiming at promoting respect for various cultural, religious and political differences and identities and instill the spirit of tolerance and unity in diversity among the youth,” says Narok County Government youth director Erick Tarakwei.
Building stronger policies
Artiste and media personality Kimintah Call admits while the policy is a step towards the right directions, there is need for concerted efforts to build a stronger policy.
“We need creatives to be trained on various issues touching from their artistic needs such as professional fabrics such as contracts, split sheets, and copyright. This should be done while also delving into matters such as policy making processes and establishing of partnerships within different systems and exposing ourselves to opportunities such as fellowship programmes, which are perceived to be a reserve for “Nairobi based” creatives,” says Kimintah, who also runs the social enterprise Maafleva, which recently setup shop in Narok town having shifted from Nairobi.
Filmmaker Lenny Mpoke, who runs film studios in Nairobi and Narok, admits the incongruity of both cannot be compared. The capital city, he says, has more business opportunities, but the latter has immense potential.
“Taking part in this undertaking is important for me as a local and a filmmaker. When I joined the film industry as a student, one of the things I wanted to change was the quality of music videos by our local artistes. Later, I came to realise that we have up and-coming filmmakers who are in a position I was years back, but they are not exposed to what the big cities offer, including opportunities for learning, workshops and access to information on how they can get film grants and other exigencies,” he points out.
Lenny adds, “We have the Masai Mara, which has been producing content for wildlife documentary makers and we need to see them employ more local professionals such as camera men, directors and producers, while also offering opportunities for the film students.”
Whenever he finds time, Lenny engages student filmmakers, majority who are from Masai Mara University, and is not alone in mentoring other creatives from the institution.
Gerryl Sikanchai is a second-year student pursuing a Bachelor of Commerce in university. He is a painter, sculptor and has been curating and producing online content for fellow creatives. His choice has been teaching other creatives on the block chain industry and forex trading.
“When we talk about financial independence, it is important for those in the arts industry to quickly find their feet and financial independence. For us Gen Z, there is big interest in the crypto and online trading world and I have been part of it. What I noticed is that fellow creatives want to kuomoka haraka or simply get out of the hood by any means possible and that is why you will see some engaging in online fraud to fund their high lifestyles. This has led to some believing in this hustle and end up being conned. On my free time, I try to do online content with an aim to impact the creative industry and I believe, starting here in Narok is an important step,” Gerryl, who is also known by his moniker Madking, tells Maafleva Media.
The gender divide
At the same time, affirmative actions are needed if the creatives are to succeed, in a region where traditional and cultural impediments are a factor, especially for the girl child, a fact well known to Sheila Yenko, an activist and young politician.
“We know we have huge potential in this county to grow, but we also have some bottlenecks, which are a hindrance to us achieving our full potential. The gender imbalance and lack of equity when it comes to our female creatives needs to be addressed and on this particular matter, there is need for political goodwill to effect these changes. By engaging the current administration, we intend to create an interface where the support from both the county and national governments to address our issues as young creatives from Narok County,” she says.
Content creator and podcaster Naini Kararei has this to say in conclusion: “Being a content creator is not easy, especially when you’re an up-and-coming one. There is need for support from mentorship, acquisition of equipment (which are expensive) and thus, for one to get support from government and other institutions, we need to be organised as the creative community.”