A few years ago, Kenyan music undoubtedly led the pack in the East African region. Yes, people did listen to Ugandan and Bongo Music, but with artists such as Redsan, Longombaz, E- Sir and Necessary Noize, the country had one hell of a vibrant and unshaken music industry. Flash- forward to 2016 and Tanzania has taken over in ways that make it almost impossible for other countries in the region to catch up.
Have you seen the quality of music videos being put out there by Bongo artists?…. Just in case you haven’t noticed, most Tanzanian music videos are shot by A- List African music directors among them Justin Campos, Nicky, Mike Ogike (aka God Father) and Meji Alabi. Their demand for quality shot up so fast that at one point, most (if not all) Tanzanian artists were shooting their videos in South Africa and even having their audios done there which in turn birthed a new Tanza/ S.A sound.
In a recent interview on Ebru TV, Shetta (also known as Baba Kyla) revealed that Tanzanians only know of a few Kenyan artists, such as Sauti Sol, Jaguar and Prezzo. He went ahead to explain that in Tanzania, there is literally an artist in almost every house hold, leaving very little room for the accommodation of foreign music. Hence, the competition is very stiff among Tanzanian artists, forcing them to bring their A- Game, lest they be rendered worthless in the industry. This has called for quality videos, investing in one’s brand as an artist and generally putting out good music, which are such important elements that play a major role in shaping their music.
Let’s face it; Tanzanians do know how to appreciate their own artists. Getting one million plus views on YouTube is such a common thing for Tanzanian artists that you may want to reconsider your entire music career if you are not hitting the six figure mark. The turn- out of their locals during their performances are insane (it’s typically what happens in a Kenyan concert featuring a Nigerian artist- and not just any artist, an A- list WizKid type of artist)
Artists of the Swahili Speaking nation without a doubt know the value of investing in their brands, an aspect that is unfortunately not taken with the seriousness that it deserves in other parts of the region. Considering artists such as Diamond, Ali Kiba, Vanessa Mdee and Lady Jay Dee, you would understand how they have slowly created such great interest in their art beyond the East African Region. Talk of Diamond’s appointment as the official brand ambassador for DSTV and Ali Kiba’s recent signing with Sony Music Label, it is clear that well renowned brands trust them enough to have them represent their image within and outside the region.
During an interview on NTV’s the Trend, Vanessa Mdee attributed the success of Tanzania’s music to its structure that she revealed to be more disciplined with an entire lifestyle and culture in place, which guides artists.
Every other country in the region may have the right talent for their music industry but we can do with a few lessons from Tanzania, that will help elevate us as a continent to greater heights.
What other elements do you think have contributed to the success of Bongo music?