kenyan music

The #PlayKeMusic hashtag has been trending in Kenya for a while now. It is derived from “Play Kenyan Music” and is a moniker created to boost the Kenyan music industry, to have more content being played on our airwaves and put Kenya on the global map in terms of music.

Kenyans from all around the world have been sharing Kenyan music through this hashtag and many were awed because it bore so much fruit. Through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and even WhatsApp, users from all walks of life are able to quickly find and enjoy Kenyan music at the click of a button!

I can’t put a finger how it began but it’s no lie that as Kenyans, we desperately need this. We seem to be failing somewhere with our Kenyan artists. When you look at Africa in general, we were recently overtaken by Tanzanian Bongo music in the world ratings. No disrespect to TZ. Eish! The effort these guys have! Hit after hit; one can only admire. From artists like Harmonize and Diamond Platnumz and the rest of the Wasafi Records cronies, to Alikiba, Vanessa Mdee and the rest, they have beaten us in every level, even collaborating with international acts, while singing in Swahili!

South Africa has guys like Nasty C, AKA, Cassper Nyovest, Kwesta and the rest who are really doing their thing. Quickly go to the west of the continent and see akina Wizkid, Yemi, Sarkodie, Davido, Oluwa Burna… Man, I don’t need to even start with West African music.

Why? Why them and not us?

Promoters’ Greed

I feel like this one is the biggest out there. We don’t really support each other when it comes to Kenyan music.

I got this excerpt from an interview done by Mr. Eazi, a Ghanaian artist and he had this to say:

Speaking to OkayAfrica, Mr. Eazi listed Kenya and Gambia as favourite destinations for West Africans where they can easily earn big per show. Mr. Eazi disclosed that the same artists cannot “jump on stage for a set” in Nigeria and make the same amount.

”East Africa is arguably the most receptive spot for music. In East Africa, they listen to hip-hop, they listen to their local music, they also listen to music from the West of Africa, they listen to pop. So in recent times, asides from when I do festivals or branded shows in the UK or wherever,’

”Nobody is going to pay you $100,000 in Nigeria to do a show or even $60,000 to come and jump on stage for a set. But you can easily get that money by walking into Kenya or walking into the Gambia. “So those places should be the ones I focus on. Also, when we dropped Keys to the City, which was not a single and we saw the views on YouTube, the bulk was from East Africa,” said Mr. Eazi.

Talk about facts! I can’t even blame the guy, not that I have anything against him or West African artists. A cool Kes. 10 Million/concert!

Promoters and large companies go for these ‘huge’ names and leave our artists curtain raising for them, even with mediocre to no pay while international artists bag millions of shillings and some can even perform for 30 minutes, come up on stage drunk and still secure the bag$.

“Kenya is where to go if you wanna create the wave,
We give these foreign artists a platform and major pay,
Poxi Presha must be turning in his grave,
Cause Burna Boy insulted us but we still let him get up on that stage.”

– Khaligraph Jones – Khali Cartel II

Lack of Support

This comes next to the promoters’ greed because it’s why they become greedy. They tend to fetch bigger when they bring in artists for us to gobble up because they know that Kenyans will gladly pay Kes. 5000 to go see Yemi Alade than attend a Kes. 700 Fena Gitu concert. ☹️

Mr. Eazi said what he said because they have a very huge fan-base here, heck, I think Tanzanians have a bigger fan-base here than most Kenyan artists do. It’s sad really.

Do we have to have international acts in all our concerts?

We don’t go to their concerts or album launches, we don’t listen and ‘give them YouTube views’, we don’t buy their music. It’s of no surprise that many Kenyan artists often feel neglected. Many new and upcoming artists don’t even get a platform to share their work.

Moreover, the Kenyan media has played a very huge part in this. It’s why artists like Khaligraph have called them out. I won’t lie, I’ve actually heard it. Some radio stations famous for looping songs again.. and again… An hour never goes by without playing a TZ or West African song. Unless a Kenyan song is really a hit, we barely hear it and there is a lot of content out there. Maybe stations like 1FM are the only exception here.

DJs have also had their own battle with Kenyan artists and the Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK). Artists were demanding of royalties and whatnot from their music being played in clubs, weddings etc. which DJs were against, some calling their music not even worthy of this. Majority of the DJs at that time went ahead and boycotted playing Kenyan music and would play music from the rest of Africa and the world. A whole mess. I don’t even know how that ended.

To add to this, there is also a crop of artists that feel that they are too important to perform. They ask for crazy fees and requirements and that puts off most promoters. Some are actually very mean characters even to their fans.
Like I just wanted a selfie for the ‘gram sis, relax. You’re not Cardi B.

Lack Of ‘Rich’ Kenyan Content

Sill on DJs, DJ Pinye, one of Kenya’s OG DJs recently received a lot of backlash after a radio interview where he revealed why he didn’t play some artists’ songs on the famous NTV music show, The Beat. “They didn’t meet our standards…”

As expected, this resulted in a lot of bile and even a diss track from Kenyan artist, DNA. This revealed some nasty allegations about him as a pioneer DJ and event promoter but, story for another day.

That aside, a lot of these new artists are out here singing garbage and we are heavily consuming it. Catch-22 though, what is good content? This is a tough one. Fact remains that there are some songs I hear that I would not want playing anywhere near my family. Sincerely speaking, raunchy music has really taken over and surely it’s not the kind of music we want to be associated with, or is it?

Without mentioning them (mnazijua), Pinye kinda had a point. He had his job to do and he knew what was required of it. He was not ready to jeopardize that and he had to draw a line. Well at least that’s what I would do. Listen, club hits are club hits, but the let’s face it, ‘good’ content today is lacking.

Above that, there still needs to be a form of censorship by the media even with this difficult Internet age. There are a lot of kids who are not old enough to be emulating stripper moves in your house.

Lack of Kenyan Identity

Lastly, I don’t know how we still seem to lack a Kenyan identity in our music. If it’s there, no light shines on it as it should be. The audience nowadays too doesn’t consume music if it feels like there is nothing new you’re bringing to the table (or studio in this case)

I think it has affected our industry because many are trying so much to be like everyone else instead of just being them. This leads to a kind of void where no one really finds us exceptional in our work, not like the rest of Africa though.


To support the #PlayKeMusic movement, we have given you, our beloved reader the section on our homepage dubbed ‘Tambua Ngoma of The Week’.

Here we select and showcase a different Kenyan song every week, to bring you not only Kenyan content but rich, Kenyan content. Genres know no bounds; from some fresh jams to major hits, to the unknowns, to some serious throwbacks.
Are you ready to enjoy some Kenyan musical treasures with us?



PS: If you would like to share with us some dope Kenyan songs (your own or from a playlist), we can’t stop you just like nobody can stop reggae! Halla via our contact section or go old-school & say was’up via email

Written by Ian Wainaina
I believe in realism & expression of true thoughts. Simplicity is my style , elegance is my strong suit 😎