Category Archives: Business

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.



Les Mangelepa at 40

Words are read but music is heard so it is hard to write fluently about a musical experience.


But this story is about more than just music.

Since November 2011, Rashid of Roots International has hosted a live music gig at Choices on Baricho Road dubbed Thursday Nite Live.


A glimpse on Nairobi Now that gives me the ‘in’ into Nairobi’s art scene revealed that the legendary Orchestra Les Mangelepa would be performing on Thursday 16 June.

I battled Nairobi traffic, got to Choices at 7.45pm and snagged a good seat that would enable me to get a good view of the stage and also of the crowd.

The crowd was a mix of young and old itself a testimony to the endearing and enduring nature of the music of Les Mangelepa.

The gig was set to start at 8pm but in typically Kenyan fashion it did not. Not complaining though as I got to overhear a conversation that was as funny as it was informative.

Three members of the ORIGINAL Orchestra Les Mangelepa can boast of forty years of marching to their step.

The three are Kabila wa Kabanze Evany, Nzazi Kalenga Kibawa Vivy and Kaniki Lutulu Macky.

The band members of Les Mangelepa walked into Choices and their humble bearings meant that many did not recognize they were the stars of the night. From my vantage position I observed them, picked out the trio of legends whose dressing revealed they are sapuers.


At a quarter past eight Kenyan cartooning legend Paul “Maddo” Kelemba went up on stage and wore a new hat. That of the Chairman of the Board of Directors for Ketebul Music which is a not for profit organization that seeks to curate the music traditions of East Africa.

Maddo proceeded to give his audience an education on the origin of Les Mangelepa. His mastery of Lingala and the in’s and out’s of Rhumba in Kenya was a marvel to behold.

After the impromptu lesson it was time to invite Les Mangelepa to the stage. Maddo started with the new band members before completing with the three living legends – Kabila wa Kabanze, Nzazi Kalenga and Kaniki Lutulu.


Les Mangelepa then gave a brilliant performance. The first hour went by so first. The dance moves of the three oldies were breathtaking. The trio then took a 10 minute break and performed for another hour getting the crowd on their feet.

Personally I was blown away. It was wonderful listening to hits like ‘Embakasi’, ‘Maindusa’, ‘Nyako konya’ and ‘Safari ya Mangelepa LIVE.


Rhumba bands fragment every so often so for a band to mark its 40th birthday is an AMAZING feat.

Félicitations Orchestra Les Mangelepa!

The legendary band is marking 40 years in the music scene with a tour of Europe.

Hope they will celebrate their four decades in music with a performance in Nairobi West.

Long live Muziki ya Bakulutu.



Aid for energy sector

Low-income households will have increased access to electricity after the government got a 5.4b loan and a 550M grant from the French government.

The French government through the French Development Agency (AFD) advanced the funds after the signing of crucial financing agreements with the Kenyan government to facilitate scaling-up of energy projects.

The loan will finance projects that will see rural electrification program bear tangible fruits with potential customers getting loans dubbed StimaLoans to enable them pay for their domestic connections. Currently one has to pay Sh. 35,000 before electricity can be pulled from the poles into the house which has proved to be beyond the reach of many.  StimaLoan will seek to assist 500,000 new customers get connected to the grid in the next five years.

There shall also be increased distribution of energy-saving light bulbs with the government seeking to reach roughly 1 million new users.

In addition, more transformers will be installed on the existing national network so as to maximize the number of customers can be connected countrywide.

“Energy is a key element of economic development. Kenya seeks to grow its national wealth from 5% to 10% and thus access to energy for all must be urgently facilitated,” said the Finance Minister Njeru Githae.

Kenya lags behind in matters energy with only about 25% to 30% of households in Kenya having access to electricity with the connection rate dropping to around 15% in rural areas. Thus these French-funded projects will go a long way in improving the situation.

The terms of the loan are that it will attract a 1.1% interest with the payment period being 20 years and the grace period being one year.

The grant which is sourced from the Social Fund for Development will be disbursed through non-governmental bodies’ and it will seek to help improve lives of those in living in informal settlements and in rural areas.

The agreements were signed at Treasury building in Nairobi by the Minister for Finance, Njeru Githae, the French Ambassador, Etienne de Poncins and the acting Director of AFD in East Africa, Hugo Pierrel.

The project which benefits from a 5 million Euro interest rate waiver from the Energy Facility of the European Union is in line with the Paris-Nairobi initiative promoted by the French and Kenyan governments to support access to green energy for all in Sub-Saharan Africa.

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