Coastal musicians cry out for Joho’s help

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A storm is brewing at the Coast with artistes pointing fingers at a cartel they claim is blocking Governor Joho from giving them assistance. In May 2013, two months after political office holders took their positions, Mombasa Governor Ali Hassan Joho picked two leading Mombasa artistes as environment ambassadors.

“We represent the youth and the music fraternity in the committee and we will rally the two groups to help the town sparkle,” said Johnny Skani, on his appointment alongside Ngoma Itambae artiste Susumila as environment ambassadors, the face behind the ‘Mji Wetu, Wajibu Wetu’ campaign, which was to have residents come out to clean Mombasa every last Friday of the month.

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As a sign of things to come, the governor propped the county’s executive for Youth, Sports and Gender Mohammed Abbas as his link to the arts. In the age of social media, artistes were scrambling to appear in selfies and photos alongside the youthful executive.

Amongst the tens of top artistes who benefitted from the country, Skani, Susumila, MC Gates and Amoury Beyby had the most proximity to power. In fact, the four were the first names on almost all gigs that were partly or fully funded by the county. The others included Ally B, Nyota Ndogo and Dazlah.

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With the launch of Mombasa Cultural festival in 2014, stars shone even brighter, as the artistes got to headline the last day of the fete, which has taken place ever since, graced by the likes of Tanzania’s Ali Kiba – who has performed in the town almost every year ever since.

The closeness caused some accusations of witchcraft directed at the likes of Susumila, who was said to use dark power to bag almost all gigs in Mombasa. Move over to August 2015, and Governor Joho raises a storm over his utterances while speaking at the World Youth day. He suggested that local artistes needed to be protected with a bill that sought to tax artistes and DJs for performing in Mombasa.

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“We are formulating the Finance Bill in which we propose to have Mombasa artistes charged Sh1,000 for performing in Mombasa and outsiders Sh100,000,” Joho said, words that caused outrage to both Mombasa and Nairobi artistes, who questioned how such a move would benefit the bubbling entertainment scene.

One of the artistes to come out to explain the utterances was, ironically, Amoury. “The Governor was not talking about Mombasa but the nation as a whole and he was just giving an example of how the county and country can benefit from international artistes.”

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According to Abbas, the governor was looking out for Kenya, the sentiments based on broader observations on how different countries protected their artistes; “The fee does not apply to Kenyan artistes but outsiders. When you go to Tanzania or Nigeria for example, you don’t find them playing music by our artistes. There is nowhere on earth where you find this kind of thing happening. We have amazing artistes and we want to grow local art ourselves if Kenyan music has to go international.”

MC Gates, when asked about the proposed studio, one of the ideas, explained that the plans were still intact, and that they were under the Youth, Gender, Sports and Cultural Affairs, “The plans are still there and will come to fruition Inshallah!”

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October 2016 and Chris Brown touches down for the hugely successful Mombasa Rocks show. But it was also this time that the governor started veering towards Bongo, hosting and eventually attending Kiba’s wedding to Mombasa girl Amina Khalef in 2018.

Did the enthusiastic and youthful governor who slays on Instagram step down his efforts to build local showbiz?”When he became Governor, he really wanted to push the arts and we could all see his efforts. Now, he’s changed from a governor to a Bongo promoter,” says Dickson Waweru, a leading showbiz promoter and CEO of Ring Ring Entertainment.

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“He’s killed the industry. Why would a whole governor ask a DJ to play Ali Kiba’s song instead of asking for a local jam?” According to Dickson, there have been numerous agendas that were handed over to the governor by industry players, which have never seen light of day.

“We even suggested he uses the youth funds to open the social halls to arts. He says there are people who are stopping stakeholders from accessing him, but I don’t believe so. If he can hang out with Ommy (Dimpoz) and Ali Kiba, he can do the same with us,” Dickson adds.

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“I think artistes in the Coast need to be supported and that begins with the country government putting in place the right strategies and policies for the industry to prevail. I think there are some artistes who have been lying to the governor that all is OK and it is that circle that is behind all these problems,” says Meg C Kidoli.

“There is a cartel of promoters and some few radio presenters who behave like the spokespeople representing artistes yet all they want to do is gain personal benefits from the people in power,” she adds. MC Gates disagrees, saying some showbiz personalities did not comprehend how open Joho was to artistes.

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“He is probably the easiest governor in the country to work with. His office is always open and if your idea or agenda is positive, he will pick it up,” says Gates, who works at Pili Pili FM. “He knows all artistes and will delay a high-level meeting to chat with an artiste at the reception.”

Gates explains that a few artistes seem to be benefitting only because they have taken advantage of the open door policy the governor has; “Look, he has funded videos for Dazlah, Kelechi, Frankie Dee and Ally B, from his own pockets. If he didn’t care about the arts, would he do that?”

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