Dance in the middle where people can see,” said producer Tim Rimbui.
That was among the messages that emerged when the present and future of Kenya’s music scene melded at a July 22 all-day gathering of artistes, students, and academics at Daystar University’s Valley Road campus.
A variety of generations and genres converged in the university auditorium where seasoned performers told the students that music can be lucrative. But they – the students – would need to work hard, build networks, understand the business even as a creative, and stand out.
Japheth Kassanga and Pete Odera shared a stage, representing the traditional and contemporary gospel musicians. Kassanga’s career dates back to the 1970s when he began to perform. It would then grow to him hosting the television show Sing and Shine in the late 1980s/early 1990s, opening a shop to sell music, setting up a recording studio, and participating in government-led forums on copyright protection.
Odera started in the 1980s, setting out as a songwriter and developing a career in contemporary Christian music. He regaled the audience with stories of then being considered rebellious for getting an earring, and performing Christian lyrics to genres such as reggae. Odera, who is now also a pastor at Waterbrook Church, challenged the students to use their art to be prophetic voices within their generation.
In the next panel discussion, Ernest Wambari ( DJ Jack), Karimi Rimbui (lawyer and musician), June Gachui (performing artist and legal consultant), and Tim Rimbui (producer) talked about the relevance of school for music professionals, earning money and taking care of intellectual work.
“Copyright is the heart and soul of turning what we do into shillings and cents,” said Tim. “Over and above your ability to do that [make money] is, have people in your squad who believe in your ability to do that.”
Prof. Jean Kidula, a visiting scholar from the University of Georgia, presented the proposed curriculum for discussion. The day ended with producer Saint P and saxophonist Chris Bittok sharing their life experiences as musicians.
“Progress is not measured by time, it’s measured by results,” said Saint P, who urged the students to take advantage of their education to more efficiently learn the things that he has had to learn over 15 years of being in the music industry.
Saint P also gave them some advice, “If you want to make yourself big, make yourself scarce.”
This article was written by Wambui Wamunyu
A lecturer at Daystar University