Music In Africa to co-host panel discussion on Kenya’s music policy

Music In Africa in collaboration with the Goethe-Institut Nairobi will bring together Kenyan music industry stakeholders to discuss the country’s music policy on Wednesday 29 June at 6pm.

Kenya artists protesting. Photo: www.msupa.com
Kenya artists protesting. Photo: www.msupa.com

Titled 'Music Policy in Kenya', the discussion will focus particularly on the current state of affairs in music copyrights management, royalty collection and the sensitive issue of local versus foreign content on Kenyan radio and TV.

These topics are critical to the East African nation’s music industry, as Music In Africa has reported over the past few months. You may remember that at the beginning of 2015 the country's Ministry of Sports, Arts and Culture released a new music policy draft, on which work first began back in 2006. Although a dedicated committee had been mandated to streamline the Kenyan music industry, review the legal and institutional framework and recommend implementation plans through the formulation of a robust national music policy, the end result was met with widespread criticism

One of the challenges to the policy is that while it proposes a local content quota of 60%, there seems to be confusion around what exactly qualifies as "Kenyan content". In addition, critics have complained that the policy does not provide clarity on key frameworks for copyrights management and fails to address the needs of music consumers in the country. As a result, the planned launch of the policy has not taken place and there is still confusion as to what is going to happen next. Throughout 2015, Kenyan artists also took to the streets to protest against the dominance of foreign content on local airwaves.

The panel

The discussion will explore the challenges, opportunities and possible solutions related to the policy. It will feature four experienced panellists and a moderator. The panellists’ talks will be followed by a Q&A session and discussions.

One of the panellists will be Perry Alando, the founder of Talent Management Agency, who came out strongly against the proposed laws, particularly the proposed Music Trust Fund that would 'fix’ gate fees for all event organizers. Alando has worked as an artist and manager and staged concerts for performers such as Tangerine Fusion and Jabali Afrika. He also teamed up with The Media Machine to put together concerts that featured “River Road megastars” such as Faustin Munishi, Mary Atieno, Mary Wambui, Shari Martin, the Kassangas and Faith Kithele.

Also on the panel will be Merit Simiyu Wambati, operations manager and acting CEO of the Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK). Wambati joined MCSK in October 2008 and was instrumental in the formation of their human resources department, which involved restructuring the team, designing and implementing the strategic plan and helping achieve international certification. Wambati is currently part of the technical team formed by Kenya's three Collective Management Organisations to develop a joint tariff and has also been involved in the recent royalties pay out for artists owed by Safaricom's Skiza Tunes platform.

Maureen Kunga from the band Elani will speak on the subject from an artist's perspective. Maureen holds a law degree from the University of Nairobi. Alongside her bandmates Wambui Ngugi and Bryan Chweya, they been outspoken in their criticism of the MCSK regarding royalty payouts for radio airplay.

Also representing musicians on the panel will be John Katana of Them Mushrooms, who is also the acting secretary-general of the Kenya Musicians Union. In October 2015 he was re-appointed as the Director of the Kenya Copyright Board. With over 25 years of music industry experience, John is an accomplished musician, arranger, bandleader and producer who has worked with the likes of Esther Wahome, Kenge-Kenge, Shimelis Ararso (Ethiopia), Shaibu Ole Monduli (Tanzania), Tshaka Mayanja and Sammy Kasule (Uganda). 

The panel will be moderated by popular media personality Anyiko Owoko. She is a host and assistant producer of the TV show Grapevine, the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation’s longest-running entertainment magazine show. She is also Sauti Sol's publicist. 

The event will also feature a short performance by Kenyan artist Winyo, whose musical style draws from traditional Luo melodies, Afro-jazz and Benga, fused into an authentically Kenyan acoustic sound complemented by intelligent, witty lyrics.

The first of two important music industry discussions scheduled to take place at the Goethe-Institut in Kenya this year, the event seeks to facilitate knowledge sharing and exchange within the industry. Music In Africa is an initiative by the Goethe-Institut together with the Siemens Stiftung and partners from across Africa.

The discussion will start at 6:00pm. It is free and open to everyone. For any inquiries email Beth Achitsa at editor.ea@musicinafrica.net.

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