The Kenya music industry is one with a lot of amazing stories and phases. A lot has transpired since the onset of popular music in the Kenyan music scene.


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The birth of popular music in Kenya is traced back to late 1940s up untill early 1950s. It was introduced by international secular songs elements being adopted in the local scene in the wake of WW2. This was before the mau mau uprising began. Traditional songs of pre independence era, armed liberation struggle were composed. Nairobi later became the regions core musical hub as a stream of instrumentalists, composers, musicians, traversed the border of east and central Africa countries eg Ethiopia, Uganda and tanzania. The 70’s were a turning point as international record labels opted to invest in Nairobi. It was at the 70’s and 80’s that the veteran names such as Daudi Kabaka, Owino misiani, Fadhili Williams and Suzanne Owiyo rocked the airwaves with smooth songs of love and social issues. The trends took a major turn in the late 90’s and early 2000’s where names such as E-sir, sautisol, Nameless, Longombas, Big Pin, Gidi Gidi maji maji and K- rupt emerged with a different style of pop music and hip hop ish feel, thereafter to 2008 upto 2017, Kenya witnessed the rise of a new breed of artistes who are a mix of hip hop, crunk and RnB. From 2018 to date (2021), there erupted a young generation of artistes who introduced a genre known as gengetone which really took control of the airwaves.

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Lingala music from Congo

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Lingala which is Congolese music has been a major influence on Kenyan music. The lingala music relies heavily on bass guitar and the melodious voices of several lead singers. Examples of artists are Fally ipupa and Koffi Olomide.


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Growing up, many people were immersed in reggae tunes from artistes such as lucky dube, bob Marley, peter Tash, and UB40. This lead to emergence of local reggae artistes and groups such as the noize and hard stone.

Hip hop

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Originated from America. This genre reasonates deeply with the younger generation growing up in the urban areas such as Nairobi.


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The 90’s were a golden era in Kenyan music because of the RnB tunes which dominate till to date.

Afro pop

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Afro pop, a sub genre of pop music in Kenya is huge, with talented groups eg sauti sol, churning out hits after hits. In June 2017, the first afropop festival took place in Kenya.

Artistes royalties

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The lifestyles of many Kenyan artistes have been termed to be fake. Most artists post porshe lifestyles on their social media platforms but then live very different lives in real life. This has seen many of them ending in depression or even worse still dying in unclear circumstances eg papa Dennis. Despite of this few , there are still those few who really afford the flashy lifestyles in real life but attribute it to other businesses and not proceeds from music.


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In music, the content of an artist is crucial. In order to relate to the feelings of your audience, you must have prowess in composing music and also get good instrumentals that match with the audio. Many artistes fail to sustain themselves longer on the limelight because as soon as they become famous they start producing music with no content.

The covid 19 pandemic

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Since the pandemic hit the country, one of the people who were really affected were artistes. Due to the government enforcement of the curfew, and ban on public gatherings, artistes opted for other means of survival as they could not hold shows anymore. Many of them even left the city for upcountry as they couldn’t bare the situation anymore. Not once or twice have we seen artistes pleading to the public to raise up money for them as they went broke. Nevertheless, other artistes opted into other businesses which seem to be giving them good money such as guardian angels chicken rearing business


There are so many challenges facing musicians in Kenya. Apart from living fake lives, there’s too much expectations from friends and loved ones or even fans who expect one to have a given character. Ones private life is always people’s business and a small mistake by an artiste may be magnified into a very big one eg Embarambamba dancing with women in the club caused problems to his music career. Many musicians don’t have real friends as many come because of fame and thus has caused many to be abandoned when they run bankrupt.

Source of entertainment

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So far, music is the leading source of entertainment in Kenya. Individuals have their favourite artistes whom they listen to so much. Radio and tv stations have so many music programs who’s genre depend on their viewers. Music has also been one of the biggest content in platforms such as YouTube, boom play, and itunes. In today’s world it’s almost impossible to see one with a phone that doesn’t have any kind of music.

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