Naija Chocolate looking to flavour Kenyan music

Chocolate City, one of the biggest entertainment companies in Nigeria touches down in Kenya next month amid plans to venture into the region, and top on their agenda will be scouting for fresh unique musical talent.

The six-year-old company, which has signed up and nurtured Nigerian superstars like MI, Ice Prince, Jesse Jagz, Brymo and Asa to name a few, says the move into East Africa is spawned from their success in the music scene back home and prompted by prospective talent in Kenya.

“The entertainment industry in Nigeria is growing at a very fast pace and is becoming one of the country’s major exports,” read a statement.

“The Chocolate City group has seen the potential in the entertainment industry in Kenya and would like to nurture and grow various talents and push them to international heights.”

Chocolate City Group is three-pronged, comprising Chocolate City Music, Chocolate City Media and Chocolate City Distribution.

It boasts an online fan-base of close to 2 million people, and counting, and with their entry into the region this fan-base can only grow. Their entry into East Africa is primarily commercial and company executives are confident of achieving reasonable success in the first quarter of 2012.

“We’re looking for talent. Gifted musicians with undeniable raw talent, and who are not afraid to work hard,” says Mohammed Kawosha, the Label Executive at Chocolate City.

Kawosha was part of the Nigerian entourage that accompanied M.I. to the MTV Africa Music Awards that was held at Kasarani in 2009, and shortly after Chocolate City started looking at the possibility and viability of dabbling in the Kenyan market.

The Nigerian music industry has been growing dramatically, and their uptake on most international entertainment outlets is testament to their expertise and talent. Just recently, at the Channel O Music Awards, Nigeria was second only to South Africa in the number of awards scooped. Kenya did not get even one, but Chocolate City doesn’t think its a talent issue.

“Audiences across Africa enjoy the style and type of music from Kenya, hence the need to promote Kenyan music by discovering talents and growing them into limelight… Chocolate City is committed to African integration as a means of globalizing our business and also driving cross-cultures in terms of music and arts seeking to be a true and proud African brand,” Kawosha pointed out.

Local music industry players feel that Chocolate City’s entry into the Kenyan market will be good for the sector.

Capital FM’s DJ Andre says there is a lot to learn from the West African music giants.

“From everything in terms of music production, packaging and even interaction with music lovers, we can really learn from them. It’s good that they have noticed local talent. I think it can also help promote local artists with good sound who are not big by local standards, but have a wider appeal. It would also be nice to eventually have an exchange program. But definitely, we have a lot to learn.”

A band member of the music group Elani tells Capital Lifestyle that other than Penya, Chocolate City might well be the only other record label in the country.

“Most production companies in Kenya do not invest in their artists. As an artist, one is expected to pay producers per song and the producers then take a cut from the proceeds and yet you’ve done most of the work. Most of them don’t even have any artistic input in the songs a musician is recording,” Wambui Ngugi noted.

“It’s long overdue,” she adds, “We need companies that can bank on our potential, be professional about it and help us promote our music. Supermarket stores want to sell our CDs for Sh3,000 and who would buy that? We end up selling our CDs ourselves at about Sh500 and that’s not very profitable.”

Maureen, Wambui and Bryan of Elani. Pic by Magic Lens
Her band-mate Maureen Kunga, when asked for comment, simply said: “Let them come. They are very welcome…”

The latest in their list of achievements is that Chocolate City has made it to the top ten finalists – out of 3,300 applicants – for the African entrepreneurship awards, which will be held in Nairobi on December 8.

It is the first entertainment company in Africa to be nominated for the prestigious award.

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