The Story of Gengetone.
After Ghipuka music, sub-genre of genge music, released their last hit songs in the late 2000s, Kenyan music was heading to a dead zone. This time genge music needed another form of evolution to fit the new generation that could no longer consume anything other than western music or reggae.
The local Kenyan music industry was completely out of talent. Content mediocrity was all over the place with most artists lacking longevity in their music.
Sauti Sol boy band was what Kenyans held on to since it was on the verge of losing its identity in music. That is why I respect the consistency of sauti sol. Maybe gengetone artists should school themselves about the art of music entertainment from this boy band.
But am sure the rampant ego and hood mentality surrounding gengetone will not allow artists in the genre to admit to the fact that they need to be schooled.
The only Kenyan music that was being played everywhere was gospel music which was gaining traction at the time. Every artist who was eager to bring attention to their music had to blend in gospel lyrics or team up with a gospel artist just to get recognition.
This led to the rise of gospel acts like Bahati, Gloria Muliro, Willy Paul,who recently went back to deal with the devil in the name of gengetone, just to mention a few. Some secular artists like the reformed Size 8 had to get saved and accept Jesus Christ in order to be recognized as a gospel artist. The situation was hectic. It was either you produce content that reflects Christianity or you don’t eat, period!
The Kenyan entertainment was in a crisis to find local sounds that can potentially compete with bongo flava and the Ugandan dancehall tunes that were taking over the airwaves.
Few months later, afro beats came in to the rescue of Kenyans who were eager for the hype they were used to, but the Kenyan music was on the verge of getting into the dead zone with no hopes of ever coming back.
Every event whether its indoors or outdoors or even a public one was having afro beats tunes in their playlists. The media houses were the ones on the forefront leading the pact in reinforcing the consumption of afro beat sounds. At this point, The Kansoul and P-Unit were the only musical group who kept genge music alive by making club hits that were majorly getting the airplay and street anthems.
Afro beat artists were filling stadiums and clubs with Kenyans purchasing the expensive tickets to see their favorite west African artists.
With their level of determination and aggressiveness, afro beat artists profited a lot from the Kenyan fans even though they didn’t always deliver the kind of performance they always displayed in their music.
It was just a matter of time before Kenyans relized that they were just being sold a hype that didn’t match the performance delivered. Most of the afro beat artist misbehaved as usual, delivering crappy performances even though they were the headliners.
Several Kenyan artists including rapper Khaligraph Jones called out the media and the event organizers for supporting such low standards and conning Kenyans their money instead of investing in local talents that were doing their best to deliver a phenomenal live performance on stage.
Local artists teamed up to form and popularize the famous hash tag, #playkemusic, which led the media to change their preference of music and support local talent. Kenyan artists from all over the world rose to the occasion and supported the movement.
During the peak of the ‘play ke music’ movement, gengetone music was barely on its feet. Ethic entertainment musical group were the first ones to jump into the ship with their first hit song Lamba Lolo which took over the airwaves by storm. This launched them as godfathers of gengetone.
With its raw messaging and street slangs, the critics were not able to censor it yet. Other musical groups and independent artists came in too and flooded the industry with a lot of content that supported Gengetone tunes and turned it into a thing.
All of the Gengetone artists are young and fresh out of the box, meaning that this music genre is here for the long haul. Kenyans are now dancing and singing to the Kenyan tunes, including Gengetone, which is now recognized all over Africa and in the Caribbean, thanks to the international dancehall artist Konshens who made a hit song ‘Pandana’ with Ethic Entertainment.
To this date there are new artists and musical groups producing fresh good music that has Gengetone sound. Kenyan music industry is back on its feet with a lot of local quality content that is already packaged for export.
International music platforms are recognizing this sound and are jumping in too to support these young youth in realizing their dreams. Even though gengetone is going through some growth challenges; it is still among the movements that fights unemployment in the streets and slums all over Kenya by developing, nurturing and recognizing talent.
So personally all I ask you guys is to support the gengetone talents because that is the only thing the streets have right now to support themselves. Don’t give up on these artists; they need your support for growth and evolution.
With all due respect, I believe in consuming ‘made in Kenya’ products, and that is what gengetone is.