Beats and Business at Ongea Summit

The Ongea Summit is in its third year and as someone who has the feel of the Nairobi art scene it was embarrassing that I was yet to attend the annual festival in the past three years.

Script would have been the same in 2018 had I not stumbled on a tweet by Tim Rimbui who was the moderator of a session dubbed ‘Beats and Business that piqued my curiosity.

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The thrust of the conversation was on to get content into the hands of industry shapers that matter and eventually to the audience.

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Writing this a week after the chat my take-homes are:

  1. You have to know your audience, you have to know your market, you have to know the gatekeepers of your industry. Intimately. And be aware that change happens constantly.
  2. The internet and social media is great as a content maker but you have to build actual real life relationships and grow interpersonal skills to push your content as every cog in the production line of content is important.
  3. The content is not for you. Once you create you have to get folk to like it and buy it. Therefore best you be adaptable to the market in as much as you strive for purity of the art. If it cannot be bought, what is it for?
  4. Passion and grit is the difference between average and above average. And you would be surprised how common talent is.
  5. Yes, you can and you should be proficient in multiple skills but find a niche and really work on it.

All the panelists brought their A-game even DJ Space who was picked from the audience after DJ Creme was a no-show. Special mention to Adelle Anyango who wowed me with her eloquence and understanding of the Kenyan music scene vis-a-vis radio. It was awesome to finally understand the rationale behind Kiss FM overplay of hits.


Troy White, the founder of Temple Management also had awesome gems from the American hip hop scene that resonated with me. In addition stumbled on Martin Keino who is also part of Temple and he intimated that Temple would also be unveiling several partnerships with Kenyan sporting icons soon.

The audience was also great with thought provoking questions asked. There is clearly as huge a hunger for knowledge on the arts as there are artsy folk in Nairobi. Got me thinking that perhaps there is need to have the Ongea Summit talks more often as there is a hunger that needs satisfying.

This was best shown by how folk crowded Sauti Sol’s Polycarp Otieno after talk seeking to get more information.


Once was done with the engaging conversation walked around the Sarit Centre Expo hall checking out the exhibitors in the 56 stands to get a feel of the range of the Kenyan art scene currently.

It was lovely to see Musyoka of Decimal Records holding court on the white couch at his stall and giving eager artistes 5 minutes of his time to pitch him. There was even a queue.


In my walk about learnt about the Presidential Music Commission of Kenya that was gazetted in 1988. Gotta say they have not done a great job at shouting about their existence. From the website the commission should be of huge help to Kenyan musicians.


The organ was a huge part of my formative years and seeing a mini-version at a stall made me stop and gawk.


This lead to a chat with the old man who sold the pianos. My protestation that I was too old to learn how to play was countered by a 15 minute monologue on how it is never late. So maybe I shall choose an instrument and enrol for classes.


Leaving the venue and walking around Sarit stumbled on an activation by Nairobi’s newest radio station NRG. The activation brought to the fore the new way to hook crowds in a mall in the age of social media. It has to be eye-popping, catchy, picture-worthy so as to be shared on social. Even I stopped to take a picture.


Change really is the only constant. You have to adapt constantly so to keep on being with it.

All in all a lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon with numerous tidbits picked.



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