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The Evolution of East African Music
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Some may question why most define East African music in terms of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania but the reason is because of the three countries’ colonial roots and how since the 60s artists have been sharing their artistic abilities across the three borders. Since the 60s, the region’s music has transformed from traditional to benga/rumba and now Afro-urban music.
To many, this new style came into the mainstream in the early 90s with people like Tedd Josiah (Kenya), P- Funk (Tanzania) and Steve Jean (Uganda), who were among the first producers to fuse the local music with some influences from the West. Although there was much production during this period, no local radio station were willing to take a chance on playing the locally produced music. This all changed around 1996 with the advent of private-run FM stations which were competing against each other — hence they needed new material to make them unique.
By the year 2000, the movement of what is now known as East African Urban music was generating a buzz way beyond its East African borders. Groups like X-plastaz (Tanzania), Kalamashaka (Kenya) had started touring abroad
It has been over 10 years since this new movement started and a lot has been achieved, production houses like Ogopa Djs, Swahili Ent. Africa, Samawati, Home Boyz and Bongo Records have emerged. With these developments arise problems caused by lack of infrastructure and proper finances to make this emerging industry into a more vibrant one. Most of the people involved in the music industry in this region are not well-informed about the music business.
Moves are currently in place to enable the artists/producers learn more about the business side of the music. Groups like Ukoo Flani Mau Mau, a slum based hip hop outfit with members from Kenya and Tanzania founded by the legendary Hip Hop group Kalamashaka, have been educating their fellow artists on ways to better themselves in terms of production and strategy with the help of Foundation UpToYouToo.
In 2004 they were able to record the ground breaking Kilio Cha Haki, A Cry for Justice Compilation featuring Rha Goddess, a performing artist and social/political activist based in New York. As part of these moves, Swahili Entertainment Inc. and Nomadic Wax Records joined hands in late 2004 to start the distribution and publishing of East African Music. This relationship has led to other companies who have interests in the region like Bab Kubwa and Project 254 records joining in and hence making access to East African music more easy to the public.
More still needs to be done but East African Urban Music is on the rise.
Photo of Man Dojo and Domo Kaya by Lydia Martin
Links to more info about East African Urban Music:
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