2019 was the party year and I am sure many of us can attest to that. This was the year Kenyans were introduced to a new music genre Gengetone and we instantly fell in love with it even when many of us did not understand what was being said. We loved the hype.
In every club, the deejay had to play an hour plus of nothing but Gengetone Music due to the crowds public demand. In the last quarter of 2019, all event organizers incorporated Gengetone artistes and the tickets were always sold out.
With the love of this new wave came the love for Kenyan music which created the hashtag, #playkemusic. It was pushed by Joe Muchiri and many Kenyan artistes who felt they have finally been accepted back home.
Management companies and record labels wanted to sign these artistes because there was potential to bring in money. They came in with amazing offers to win these artistes who were new to the world of fame and money and so they needed help maneuvering the entertainment scene.
Then 2020 came and the music was still a bit hyped in January but by March, the hype was no more things changed and to make it worse, COVID-19 hit so no events and no turn up club nights. Actually no social gatherings. Music especially Gengetone suffered because there was little to no circulation of the music.
Today, there is very little of Gengetone being heard. So is it dead?
Speaking to Dankez, manager at Black Market Records, who have signed the top Gengetone artistes, he believes the genre is not dead.
“Play Kenyan music was started as a serious revolution and push from some of Gengetone artists like Sailors Gang and Boondocks Gang who spearheaded the play Kenyan music on all radio and TV stations which as is evident has brought about some changes in the Kenyan music industry. Even on main stream not just Gengetone where Kenyans started listening and loving music made in Kenya by Kenyans and where all (artists, producers ,directors) started becoming bigger and started earning their living as a result of that.
Sadly now because of COVID-19, things have been slow and that doesn't spare Gengetone. From royalties to revenue earnings and shows to support their day to day activities which includes engaging with their fans and doing more music videos hence lowering growth. However, Gengetone is under evolution where we are having some new vibe as times changes in their songs where video and the lyrical part of it have changed to incorporate everyone in the society. Gengetone is here to stay and it's just undergoing some positive evolution to make sure everyone enjoys the new wave in the current generation and generations come.”
Miracle Baby who is part of Sailors Gang also thinks Gengetone is not dead it is just gradually growing.
“Gengetone is an art similar to all other arts and thus growth is gradual. We believe we grow every day. And a simple word for where it is right now is "On Top". Our Hype was brought about by our day to day shows and after COVID-19 came the hype had to slow since it paused our lives. Also considering the Economy of Kenya, it has also gone down due to the pandemic and so have we.”
Sagana, who is Rico Gang’s manager is also for the notion that people should be patient and wait to see these artistes grow the genre and maintain it.
“Well according to my opinion, right now I would say Gengetone is diversifying because the artists are trying to sing different styles. So dying is out of the equation. They are trying new styles and they are excelling in them. About comments from people, I would advise them to stay calm and wait for great projects set to be released by the Gengetone artists. They have surprises and it will be a shock to many.”
Odi Wa Muranga from Boondocks Gang is one of the major examples when it comes to diversifying the Gengetone sound. He released a song, Diana that is a sweet love song in Kikuyu. We can actually call it the RnB. The lyrics are not nasty compared to what we are used to when it comes to Gengetone.
“Gengetone as for me I would say the wave is not dying down. It’s because the artistes have become too many and the upcoming are many so the content has been corrupted.
The upcoming are coming up with dirty lyrics and all, though I am not defending our music because we also do it but it is just how you deliver. So it is not dying down but I do agree the hype has gone down a bit. though I can confidently say, the best will remain strong in this genre of Gengetone and they will be very few.
Now as Boondocks we are trying to do a new style of music, like trap, reggae. We are trying to diversify even my next single, Diana is very different. So we are trying to kill that monotony.”
As mentioned earlier, these artistes depended on corporates and events to earn their bread. But now that the wave has gone down a bit, Gloria who is the CEO of Clientele PR thinks otherwise. She admits the genre has lost touch. Consumers have a different taste now.
“In my own opinion Gengetone has lost its touch this is because the consumers taste has changed and with the way the Kenyan fans are they are excited at the beginning and then lose the psyche when something new comes”
Adding that these artistes need to go back to the drawing board and either re-invent themselves or look at how they can keep up the momentum
So as from what people are saying is the wave dead?
“It is hard to judge or talk on behalf of them but in my own behalf it is not dead per se, it's just going through developmental stages and the artistes should not give up but adapt to the change.”
Speaking on brands and corporates wanting to work with Gengetone artistes, Gloria from Clientele PR says that,
“The reason most promoters were attracted to them is because of the fact that they had an influence on the youth and teens but in terms of pushing brands no. Brands are intentional so for that time it worked for this time it can't work coz who would want to listen to them when they have other things on their mind. Maybe some still want to use them but for top brands I think their perception has changed as everyone is trying to adapt to the new normal.”
As we speak many artistes have gone back to producing and releasing music even with the pandemic. The latest Gengetone addition that got everyone talking is ‘Mbogi Genje’ that came up with music and the lyrics caught so many Kenyan’s attention. Why because they cannot understand what is being said but it brought a smile on many people’s faces during these tough times.
It has been six months of no social gatherings which means a lot of those in the entertainment industry are struggling to make ends meet. They depended on events and appearances to make money.
We have seen so many artistes and deejays come out to say they are tired of the ’30 days’ cycle by the president yet there is no strategy in place to help them make ends meet.
What do you think? Is Gengetone dead or evolving?