Kenya’s leading boy band Sauti Sol has accused the government of stealing an idea it mooted over a year ago. The project, Studio Mashinani, is a series of digital studios to be put up in all the 47 counties in the country to provide accessible recording studios and self-employment opportunities for young artists.
Last week, Studio Mashinani was launched by the cabinet secretary in the Information and Technology Ministry, Joe Mucheru. Mucheru said that in addition to the five ready studios in Mombasa, Machakos, Nairobi and Kisumu, the programme would also be rolled out in all counties.
“The studios will be dedicated to critical content creation for use by the various media houses, which are required to carry 40% local content,” Sammy Itemere, the permanent secretary for broadcasting and telecommunications, said.
Sauti Sol member Bien-Aime Baraza reacted to last week’s launch, claiming the band has been sidelined despite the initiative being the brainchild of its members. He also protested that the launch was headlined by Jamaican artists Luciano, Richie Spice and Etana.
“On 29 December 2015 I had the honour to meet with his excellency the president in State House Mombasa," he wrote on social media. "Myself and my Sauti Sol brothers shared a proposal called Studio Mashinani. It was an extensive project involving music studios, community radio, ICT centres and libraries in the spirit of community service.
“We were instructed to give the proposal to Bruce Odhiambo who was at the time chairperson of the Youth Fund. We teamed up with Raphael Obonyo and Cedric Kadenyi to tighten the whole proposal with budgets and standard operating systems for the project. The proposal was sent to the relevant parties.
“Only to wake up today and see the project being launched countrywide by a Jamaican artist! Not even a Kenyan! I am not in any way implying that the president has a hand in this because this may just be one of those that he delegated. I feel so robbed. I plan to make everything public soon.”
After the revelation, the hashtag #IntellectualPropertyMustBeRespected quickly went viral, with the online community decrying the government’s actions.
“It was supposed to be a collaborative effort between the government and industry players to raise the standard of music in this country,” music producer Cedric Kadenyi, popularly known as Cedo, told online platform Mpasho. Cedo was part of the team that developed the proposal. “If you’re going to implement the idea, let it be an all-inclusive initiative," he said. "Talk to us, the stakeholders. I wouldn’t mind if this was being launched by Kenyan artists. Secondly, it was our idea, we worked hard on it. It’s not right for anyone’s idea to be taken without crediting them.”
The government is yet to respond to the claims. Though invited, Sauti Sol snubbed the launch event.