In Summary
  • Kenyan female artistes have come a long way, they have built strong brands and become household names, adding on to the celebration of women empowerment.
  • But, majority are yet to reach the star power that male artistes are basking in.

A simple Google search of the top Kenyan artistes will tell an intriguing tale. The names that pop up are the likes of Nameless, Willy Paul, Jua Cali, Daddy Owen, Wyre and Jaguar. The same goes for performance contracts; shows are often headlined by the same old faces. The case is the same for South Africa, Uganda and Nigeria where males artistes like Bobi Wine, Bebe Cool, Wiz kid and Davido dominate the air waves.  In Tanzania at least names like Vanessa Mdee, Saida Karoli and Rose Muhando feature prominently in their music scene, but ladies there face the same challenges too. 

In contrast, a Google search of American top artistes will bring up names like Beyonce, Madonna, Taylor Swift and Rihanna right up there with all their male counterparts like Eminem, Jay Z, Michael Jackson and Kanye West. In the UK Adele rules the airwaves alongside a host of other female artistes who ably compete for the slice of the pie.

This leads one to wonder; where are all the Kenyan female artistes, is the industry just too harsh for them to survive or are they purposely discriminated? Is it a lack of talent, effort or opportunity, why do we have so few female artistes at the very top of our local industry?

TOUGHER FOR GIRLS

Having been in the industry for many years, Avril admits that it is tougher for a girl in the game because the industry is undeniably a boys’ club. She contends that women have to work three times harder, to create networks and stay ahead of the game.

She says: “If you have good management you do get paid just like everyone else, treat your brand as a business and it will reward you as a business. You cannot be emotional because the moment you do, you forget why you do what you do. No matter what happens keep your head in the game.”

Yet even in this tough environment artistes like Muthoni the Drummer Queen have defied the odds and are taking their craft to the world stage. Beyond starting and running the Blankets and Wine platform successfully for various years, MDQ, as she is popularly referred to, has really come of age as an artiste. With a thrilling live band set and an energetic show to match, MDQ is taking the world by storm. She is due to headline several festivals in Switzerland this month. Over the years MDQ has set herself apart with a unique sound and breath taking performances.

Fena Gitu and Mayonde have also managed to cut a niche for themselves in the local industry. Though they are not necessarily pop sensations, they command a strong following in their neck of the woods. By localising and specialising these two Kenyan queens have broken the boundaries and gathered a solid fan base across Africa.

After many years in the cold, Mercy Masika burst into the scene a few years ago with her smash single Mwema. Since then she has become a permanent fixture in just about every major show in town.

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