2016 may be the year to forget in many respects. It showed that people cannot be trusted to make decisions for themselves. The United Kingdom orchestrated Brexit, a baffling calamity that many didn’t foresee. The United States of America followed quickly in their footsteps by handing what many would consider an incompetent with fake hair the power to nuke anyone he doesn’t agree with. And back home, the Kenyan government has taken every opportunity to bleed the country dry with one corruption scandal after another.
But there is reason to celebrate. Reason being, this has been the best period in rock business for the past three years as far as Kenya is concerned. There are those that have argued blindly that the Kenyan rock scene will never be the way it was in 2010. That fans were more responsive and there were better bands back then. Granted some of this is true.
Move on from the past
First of all, there is no possibility that the circumstances of a certain event in time can be replicated. There were obviously unique factors that germane to that point that allowed for things to be the way they were. Social media wasn’t the monster that it is now. Secondly, the generation of bands and rock lovers have obviously moved on to shoulder parental and professional responsibility and it is no longer possible for them to contribute to the scene with the same vitality as they used to. There is no more In Oath because guitarist Christopher Lilako is away in Canada studying. Other bands just couldn’t cope with the reality of making more out of music and working with each other as a professional outfit. The reasons are endless.
However, it is also true that we tend to look at the past too fondly. With a few exceptions, we will always look back and wish that we lived in the past, thinking things were never as bad as they are now. It is a lie that we tell ourselves when we dwell on our memories too much.
It is also true that when we live in an ideal world where thoughts and deliberation are more dominant than action, then we lose sight of the really good things that go on in the real world. For instance, we have been too blinded to see, that the scene here in Kenya as far as 2016 is concerned is far better than anything we’ve had in the past three years. And this is true again for a number of reasons.
One, since 2014, the only band that was doing anything worth mentioning was Rash. They released quality singles, at least, twice a year. They’ve done more music videos than anyone in the rock business. They also performed at uncountable shows with different musicians from across the country. They practically held the Kenyan rock scene down.
The present is bright
That is no longer the case. 2016 has seen such an increase in performances by bands that it has been impossible to keep up with them. Simply Tomas does two regular shows every week. New bands like “Powerslide” and “The Seeds of Datura” have played approximately seven shows between them in the space of four months which is an astonishing feat. There is no shortage of regular shows either. Nairobi Underground’s rock showcase organises shows every third Sunday of the month at the Blues Restaurant.
Furthermore, we have seen more music than we can deal with at the moment. There have been four album releases this quarter of the year from Kanyeki, Andromeda Music, Rash and Hybrid Actuary. The only challenge we still face is with distribution and promotion. A large chunk of rock fans have no idea that these projects even exist or where to find them. This is largely due to the ineptitude of bands naïvely letting the internet midwife their material and nurture them to maturity. But hopefully this is a mistake that will be corrected in the future.
We should also not forget that our Kenyan Rock scene is getting more attention from the outside world. The Hardcore Help Foundation in conjunction with Rock Society of Kenya and Last Year’s Tragedy have done tremendous work to bring both continental and international bands for shows in Nairobi. Mozambican fireballs ‘Nobromide NMD’, Dutch Hardcore act, ‘All For Nothing’ as well as German Hardcore band ‘A Traitor Like Judas’ all played this year.
Not to mention that there is an increasing culture of playing rock music that has been cultivated by DJs like Edygrim and Tumz who play regular gigs every week, both on radio and at clubs. People have also started embracing the band merchandise culture with help from entities like Moshpit Protocol who rolled out Lust of a Dying Breed t-shirts as well Hardcore Help Foundation who have sold a variety of merchandise from a plethora of bands.
However, with all these good things going on, it is also very easy to be caught up in the hype and forget a very important thing. That all this progress could fade away like mist if not properly managed. All this new-found energy needs to be properly channeled and made sustainable so that finally, all the hard work that has been done by bands, sound guys, organisers and fan zines won’t go to waste.