New melodies amid Covid-19 pandemic tough times
Friday, June 5th, 2020 00:00 | 5 mins read
Corona virus has struck an off-key note for the music industry, but artistes are finding innovative ways to persevere using tech, social media and releasing new corona virus hits to entertain an unprecedentedly large audience as CHEBET KORIR writes.
In commemoration of the 57th Anniversary of the African Day celebrated last week, the African Union Commission (AUC) and the All Africa Music Awards (AFRIMA) organised a virtual online concert to advocate for contributions to the Africa Covid-19 Response Fund.
Themed Silencing the Guns in the context of Covid-19, the main objective was to use the power of music and the crucial role of African artists in curbing the virus in the continent and to engage African youth, especially young musicians to join forces and work hand in hand with the AUC in fighting the pandemic.
Artists all over Africa were featured, including Naiboi and Nikita Kering from Kenya, Toofan from Togo, singer Rudeboy from Nigeria, Daphne from Cameroon among others, as they supported the continent against coronavirus.
Also in honour of Africa Day, Idris Elba hosted a virtual concert, in which music talents from across Africa performed.
Sponsored by a partnership between MTV Base Africa and YouTube, the concert served as a platform to raise funds for United Nations International Children’s Education Fund (Unicef) and the World Food Program (WFP) in support of their efforts in Covid-19 impacted areas of the world.
The star studded concert featured performances from Sauti Sol from Kenya, Sho Madjozi from South Africa, Burnaboy from Nigeria, African comedian Trevor Noah and rapper Sean Paul.
But while the music industry is coming to terms with the challenging times, the Covid-19 pandemic has played a significant role as well as impacting the music industry globally and in this case Kenya.
Singer, rapper and producer Naiboi says that music is medicine to the soul and we all need healing during these tough times.
“As musicians, we have had to re-adjust to the new life and our musical strategies because of how the pandemic has impacted our daily routines,” he says adding that the role of music currently is to create a sense of belonging and participation.
New Covid-19 hits
Boondocks Gang is a threeman gengetone group consisting of Exray, Odi wa Muranga and Maddox famous for Rieng, Sidonyo, Mboko Haram hits swapped their usual gengetone trademark and dispensed practical advice in a catchy hip-hop song dubbed 2020.
“Through the song, the main aim was to educate and have a positive impact to the masses, especially during this time of the corona pandemic.
We also felt the need of emphasising on the importance of observing measures put in place to protect one another from infection,” says Exray.
He points out that they were acting on their role of informing the public about important life issues such as coronavirus by educating people living in informal settlements in a language they can relate to.
“Being a Kenyan artist, I understand that it helps to use catchy beats to spread lifesaving information, which we successfully managed in our recent song,” he says.
Award winning musician Arrow Bwoy’s latest track Coronavirus featuring Kristoff and Zzero Sufuri has become a sensation weeks after it’s release with over 60,000 views on YouTube.
The jam basically talks of the global pandemic and how to be cautious. “Coronavirus is with us and through music, my role is to defuse panic and spread the right information to the masses,” he says.
Artistes can do more
As more artists try to create music that will impact society during the Covid times, Maurice The General, an artistes manager and music promoter, says artistes are not doing enough.
“I was hoping to see more songs about the pandemic from big brands to help create awareness and also help with donations to the less fortunate,” he says.
He emphasises that music has a lot of impact to the bigger audiences so using musicians to tell people about the virus would have been a better approach.
“For the few who released music, it was just the norm that everyone knows. We are looking forward to creating good impactful music for people and we believe the world will come back to normal soon,” says he.
Gloria Odhiambo, a renowned music publicist says that her biggest challenge currently is trying to work with artistes who are not aware of how the music industry has changed in this time of crisis.
She feels that the media, too can do more in helping artistes display their work.
“Most media outlets are singularly focused on providing updates on the virus and its impacts on society and economy, but no one wants to hear about an artiste performing or releasing music,” she says.
The pandemic has driven her to restrategise and come up with new ideas and structure of doing business to remain relevant and stay afloat.
Hosting live performances
StudioTisa, a curated online live music platform, was recently launched to develop, celebrate and elevate the work of young musicians in Kenya.
They are providing artists during this epidemic with a plug and play performance ready space for them to use and create high quality music.
Speaking to Dan Aceda, Studio Tisa founder and curator says, “This platform is important at this time as the world is dealing with the deadly virus and artists have fewer options of maintaining contact with their fan base.
We have invested in a high quality production process with multiple cameras and have made some of the best films so that artists can deliver something at a really high level.”
As for Point Blank E Vumbi an Mc and radio host, he strongly applauds deejays who have played the biggest role of online entertainment that has proved to be both an initiative to keep them earning an income and adapting to the times.
“Reggae deejays to be specific spearheaded the online deejaying, which has now become the in thing,” he says.
“As one who is playing a part as host of a DJ show across three platforms, my hope is to also make quarantine times easier with quality entertainment. Performers are also a force in that regard.
“Hopefully online gigs will not come to an end after we get back to our normal routine,” he offers.
Giant social media site, Facebook and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement yesterday partnered to launch #AfricaTogether, a digital campaign and two-day festival featuring artists from across Africa to encourage continued vigilance against Covid-19.
The campaign combines musical and comedy performances with information from Covid-19 first responders and fact-checkers from across Africa.
It will include a festival with performances by artists such as Aramide, Ayo, Femi Kuti, Ferre Gola, Salatiel, Serge Beynaud, Patoranking, Youssou N’Dour amongst many others, as well as a digital awareness campaign with prevention messages developed with Red Cross and Red Crescent health experts and targeting simultaneously Facebook users in 48 countries across sub-Saharan Africa.
The event was streamed on Facebook Live by Nigerian popular actor and comedian Basketmouth and today, the event will be hosted in French by the renowned media personality Claudy Siar.
Powerful uniting force
Mamadou Sow, a long-serving member of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement says the Covid-19 pandemic is an unprecedented crisis in that it can affect us all, and ignores borders, ethnicities, and religions.
“African communities, so far, have responded quickly, but the risk remains very real. If we all do our part, we will beat Covid-19.
Music is a powerful uniting force and we hope that this festival will bring renewed hope and action against this dangerous disease,” he said.
Jocelyne Muhutu-Rémy, Facebook’s Strategic Media Partnerships Manager for Sub-Saharan Africa agrees saying the spike in the use of online tools during this pandemic shows the social usefulness of digital platforms in difficult times.
“We are seeing many incredible initiatives from artistes bringing their communities together on Facebook Live.
“This campaign will enable people to learn more about fighting the virus, while enjoying entertainment from their favourite African performers.
“We will be spreading joy in a way that doesn’t spread the disease,” she explains.