Event review:Kenya Music Week ‘Ongea :The Eastern Africa Music Summit’


The Kenya Music Week dubbed the Ongea the Eaastern Africa Summit took place from Thursday 28th January to Sunday 31st January at the Sarit Centre. You know how the best laid plans are bound to fail? That is exactly what happened to me. I had planned to attend at least 2 days of this wonderful event but alas the odds were against me. Friday had me sitting in a salon and then traffic for close to 2 hours ..(sigh).

Saturday almost did not happen and it was just a spill over of events that almost had me not making it. I walked into a session that was focusing on copyright and all other issues pertaining to the matter. The session was moderated by June Gachui who is one of the few Intellectual Property lawyers we have in Kenya. This is one of those sessions that could possibly have not been so interesting so let me take a stab at it and attempt to keep you awake.

CMOs(Collective Management Organizations) are the people who are meant to collect money from media houses, public places that play music, matatus and buses you name it. As long as it’s an institution that can make money from your music they are the people to collect it. After the Elani saga with MCSK, it seems more people are now paying attention to the organisation’s mandate…but without failing to understand some fundamental aspects.

Did you know that media houses are not paying their dues? Yup, the CMOs are given a cheque without being shown where the money came from. This ideally should be tracked using log books that the media houses don’t submit. Other institutions such as hotels also do not see why they should pay for playing artist’s music saying that they already pay alot of money for everything else. I did not hear them mention how they track revenue from say  internet downloads of songs.

Now when it comes to rights, they are tied directly to licences. Now pay attention-There is the broadcast media licence which I highlighted above. They collect money from media houses.

The webcasting licence  is meant to be for any streaming service that plays your music. I highly doubt they even look at this as a revenue stream. (I can tell you some sites they should definitely check out to claim their money ).

Blank media licence is now the one that made no sense to me.  Apparently importers of items such as flash disks and blank Cds are meant to pay a certain percentage of the money they make to the CMOs because obviously CDs and flash disks will no doubt be used to play music. I sincerely do not know what to say to this one.

The synchronization licence is whereby a media house can use your music in an advert.You as an artist are meant to receive a cut for your song being used in an ad. (Psst,did you know that everytime an ad runs you should be paid. So if it plays 5 times a day times 28 days in a month imagine how much it pays. Too bad that’s  not how it’s done here.)

Then comes the contentious issue of the distribution calendar. All these licences above have their own distribution calendars so yes you are going to have to wait a while for your cash. For example did you know that the MCSK pay out period ends in June? So if you released your song in May you will get money from May to June. If you do not push for airplay…you will definitely get peanuts.

One thing that the panel said was that their responsibility was just to collect the dues from the number of times music played, it is the artist’s responsibility to make sure they get their music played. It was also advised that instead of artists trying to do everything themselves they should look into having a music publisher and manager handle the business angle of things. To answer the question of piracy KECOBO(Kenya Copyright Board) has developed an anti piracy gadget that is 4 shs only. If you put this device on a CD your music cannot be duplicated elsewhere. When the KECOBO people do their rounds and they find your music being played without this device yet you had previously innformed them of your decision to install this gadget then they will take action against these individuals. (Well, I was giving the KECOBO guy because we as THE BAR had a rather unpleasant experience with them.) Oh before I forget,you know how you think because you perform a song you think you own it…hold your horses. The singer to the person who played that triangle in your band should sign a document saying what each person did and then have an Intellectual Property Lawyer draft an agreement. That way you can agree on how to split the profits amongst yourselves. Lawyers are important.

Then came my favourite session. Financing and Investment in the Music business. The moderator was Buddha Blaze and let me say his energy was just right for this session. So wondering how to track how many times your music has been played? Install Mziki Trak an app that officially launches in June. It was created by Frank Ogondi of Flag 42, a software engineer who has worked in the music industry and understands the struggle of artistes. No more getting shortchanged.

Seven Mosha who is Ali Kiba’s manager and director of music and talent at Rockstar 4000 spoke at length about how as an artist you should be able to invest in yourself and be marketable as an artist. Groom yourself, go for voice lessons, learn an instrument whatever it takes to make you stand out oh and most importantly grow your influence through numbers. More on that later.

Savara Mudigi of Sauti Sol Entertainment spoke of his role as producer, personally as an artist and even gave us a brief history of how he used to do the books for Sauti Sol when they were starting out. He gave us all reality checks on what it really took for them as a group to make it.

Alex Magu the numbers guy is behind Credit Sawa an initiative that seeks to introduce Alternative Finance and help artists get their books in order and also lend them money to help them move forward in their careers.

Eric Kiribati the head of I-Scan media spoke of his role as the other half of Jomino records and how he noticed that the talent needed professional management in order for the business to make sense. He spoke on the importance of going to school because it  actually  helps you broaden your horizons think beyond just the now.

Trust me if you were an artist and you did not come,you missed out.

On to the performances:

Could I just say that the lights and sound were cool but that they went overboard at some point. If you are epileptic the lights would have killed you. If you are hard of hearing the sound there would have made you deaf. Kenyans have we just discovered the smoke machine juzi ama? Lord have mercy.

I watched Third Hand Music do their thing. I see you already have groupies, screaming girls  are always fun to watch. There was a coastal band that had me dancing out of step though they were really good. Sali Oyugi was clearly bringing the house down ,I came in just as she was finishing up(girl was playing the xylophone,so cool). Then there was the hip hop gospel that was mostly composed of killer beats but little spiritual content. Bigman Sam,  I will never forget you because you blinded us to the fact that your voice was gone by having a DOPE hype man,  cool dancers, beats so loud my heart skipped several beats and dancers to boot. Oh it was also ‘gospel’. Wait! I almost forgot to mention the younger version of Ukoo Flani Mau Mau that were high on some substances…3o minutes,close to 7 songs and none of them were performed to completion.

They looked more like a gang of thieves than musicians. Unfortunately boys you lived up to the stereotype of people from Dandora and I was so disappointed. They give hip hop a bad name. There was a little girl there playing the bass guitar ( so precious,even had Suzanna Owiyo congratulate her). There was also a girl there who sang her heart out and reminded me of Queen Ifrica. As my sister said”I would sign her if she left those guys behind.” My sentiments exactly. I could not wait until 9:30pm to see Sauti Sol perform so I had to leave.

Overall this was such a cool event I can hardly wait for the next one. The volunteers mostly looked overwhelmed and moving forward I guess event organisers have to find a way of making sure that your volunteers  aren’t so tired that they are snapping at the people they are meant to be serving. Overall Ongea!Eastern Africa Music Summit  was a really good summit that should take place more often.


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