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Artiste vs political charade

By Jackson Onyango
Friday, April 30th, 2021
Dr Reign Mwendwa.
In summary

Recently, a section of artistes were up in arms over the government-imposed lockdown as a measure to stop the spread of the Covid-19. Some took to their social media platforms to air their grievances, summoning and urging the country’s top leadership to ‘unlock’ the economy because the creative sector is on its knees. Jackson Onyango dives into the matter to see how it played out.

A few days ago, Deputy President William Ruto summoned a meeting at his Karen residence with a sizeable number of entertainers to discuss ways the government could create solutions for the crumbling arts sector.

The meeting, which was held on Saturday, was attended by among others Khaligraph Jones, Nadia Mukami, Arrow Boy, Kristoff, Nonini, deejays Joe Mfalme and Pierra Makena and comedians Jalang’o and DJ Shitti.

The entertainers had requested for a forum in which they could air their grievances to the government including drawing a roadmap spelling out how the country would be reopened, an economic fund for the creative sector to aid the industry, and a campaign where artists could be contracted to sensitise the importance of the Health ministry protocols in trying to flatten the curve of the global Covid-19 pandemic.

The outcries by the creative have been imminent since last year when the government started implementing the measures to help curb the spread of coronavirus.

But it was after Khaligraph’s social media posts a week ago that finally stirred the pot and received massive support from a huge pool of creatives and the public as well.

“Hustler, najua we utasoma hii. Mahustler wanaumia kwa ground, watu wanalala njaa, nyumba zinafungwa.

If you help us in this situation, I will campaign for you for free in the coming elections. Kindly help unlock our country (sic),” posted Khaligraph on a post on Instagram alongside an image of DP Ruto.

DP William Ruto with Khaligraph Jones.

A number of famous celebrities picked up the dialogue and kept it alive, with musicians such as Tracy Wanjiru, Masauti and Otile Brown churning out responses worth noting.

“But why campaign for free? He’s vying next year, kama hawezi kusimama na wananchi sahii, it’s on us to decide if we think he deserves that seat or not.

Let’s open our eyes this time round or do another 10 years of msoto. This are the leaders to put pressure on, tuwache kuwabembeleza (sic),” remarked Otile, and seemingly defeated by the situation, Tracy responded, “They don’t care”.

Khaligraph further roped in ODM leader Raila Odinga stating that he used to be a voice for the people, suggesting if he could bail out the creatives, he (Khali) would willingly use his own platform to campaign for his presidential bid.

“As much as it was a strong gesture for the DP to allocate time to the issue, one would have expected a round-table meeting at the DP’s office at the very least.

The meeting carried out in the sun, in a casual manner was somewhat unexpected considering the stature of the Deputy President.

He could have at least welcomed them in an official manner, and treated the guests with some honour,” a concerned industry player told Spice.

He added, “On the other hand, artistes could have been represented by a delegation of intellectuals who could articulate their issues, and not just artistes alone looking like they had gone on a ‘high school’ field trip.

Octopizzo.

The unity was very cute, but artistes should have formed a body to speak on their behalf and ease communication between the ruling arm of the government, and the artistes themselves.”

Unimpressed 

However, not all artistes were impressed by the proceedings, with rappers Octopizzo and King Kaka taking to their social media platforms to suggest that their peers lacked coherence and awareness of the situation on the ground to go parading themselves for handouts in the way that they did.

“Nyi wenyewe ndio mnapiga nduru Unlock The Country, na wasee wana die. Huku mtaa Kibich tumezika mashosh ka 50, na wasee wanawika. Wasee wanadie.

Country ikifunguliwa wasee wadie, weh utawarudisha?” posted an indignant Octopizzo.

In solidarity, King Kaka who hinted at snubbing the invite to the circus stood with Octopizzo blasting his colleagues.

And as artistes seized the moment to take photos for the gram and have glorious PR moments, this took the sincerity of the meeting away, and made them look like a bluff, rather than people who really required help.

In response, DP Ruto, who has once before been accused of laundering his image using popular celebrities such as comedian Oga Obinna and singer Anto Neosoul in the ‘wheelbarrow launch’ last year, went on to respond to the critics in typical professional-political fashion, rather than a humanistic compassionate way, of a person who understood their plight.

The decision to invite the artistes to his residence was a calculated move to score political goals.

“We appreciate the proposal by artistes to assist in confronting the pandemic.

We welcome their offer to reinforce the campaign on the observance of Covid-19 protocols and vaccination drive once it’s rolled out fully,” said DP Ruto, adding that he would forward the artistes’ proposals to the National Emergency Response Committee on Coronavirus for action.

It is no secret the main source of income for creatives, especially musicians, is from entry fees at the door, better known as performance fees.

DJ Pierra Makena.

Royalty collection systems in Kenya have never been transparent and are run with impunity with their leaders’ actions never punished by law.

Musicians want to be able to tour the country and collect  their money after shows, corporate endorsements, film scores, feature monies, which have ultimately dried up.

Musicians have also been accused of being selfish, after they were reminded the arts is not a one-discipline affair; chefs, event organisers, photographers, stage designers, deejays, poets and caterers, are but some of the people within the industry being ignored and left out of the whole conversation.

Leading by example

Dr Reign Mwendwa, a medical practitioner, wants to see more responsibility and concern being taken in dealing with this pandemic, as much as he is aware that artistes are suffering economic depression.

“As healthcare workers, we have all been traumatised in this pandemic. We have lost our patients, colleagues, family and friends. It is known as moral injury.

Mental health issues in healthcare workers are on the rise,” he tells Spice, reiterating from a medical standpoint that Kenyans need to observe health protocols as individuals, and prioritise much more pertinent issues such as ensuring quality healthcare in the country, rather than the creative sector being used as a scapegoat.

As Dr Reign raises a valid point in flattening the curve and reducing the infection rate, it’s also important to note that our so-called political leaders ‘lead by example’.

Otile Brown.

For instance, celebrity politician and Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho hosted one of the most toxic parties during the pandemic last year.

He harmlessly organised a bash in September 2020 in the name of supporting the entertainment industry, when the virus curve was slowly dropping.

But the party ended up attracting tens of thousands of fun-deprived revellers.

All the Covid-19 protocols were thrown out of the window, yet the governor is always the first to call out incompetence and poor leadership.

It’s a high time showbiz celebrities also convert their huge followings into serious numbers and go to the ballot.

The likes of Jaguar, Prezzo, McDonald Mariga and more have vied for political seats with some being successful, but we need more serious patrons we can call on to streamline the entertainment industry from the top.

Mike Sagana, who dabbles as comic Kartelo and gengetone music group Rico Gang manager, is a potential candidate in next year’s General Elections with eyes on the Kasarani Constituency parliamentary seat.

 “It is disheartening to see ‘youths’ at 90 years of age being given work while a majority of the Kenyan youth has been left out to work out a way for themselves.

Our artistes are hurting so much out here, especially due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and our leadership seems unbothered.

It’s time to act for their common good. Leaders must humble up and work,” he says in conclusion.