By Saumu Mwalimu
Mombasa, Kenya’s second largest city is known for its expansive beaches which attracts tourists from across the globe during summer and as a result it has become a hotbed of entertainment as well. In recent years the allure of this historic town has not gone unnoticed by Tanzania’s new crop of artistes who have taken the opportunity of the cultural proximity to tap the market.
The early influx of Tanzanian artistes to Mombasa and Malindi was led by ‘Takeu king’ Lucas Mkenda aka Mr Nice who then ruled the air waves with his songs such as ‘Fagilia’, ‘Friday Night’, ‘Ladies Free’ and later on ‘Kikulacho’.
Having set the pace and reputation with his waist wriggling dancing style, others were to follow in his footsteps as they went into for the search of better opportunity in the lucrative market in the neighbourhood.
Though he set the pace, Mr Nice has since slipped into oblivion almost beyond trace.Guided by renowned promoter Chief Kiumbe artistes like Ali Kiba, Q Chilla, Matonya, TID and many others found themselves heading north for performances in the coastal city.
According to their own confessions, the Kenyan city has proved to be more lucrative as promoters tend to pay higher in comparison to the little that they earn at home.Mombasa’s allure is not only about the pay but even the distance that once has to travel for a concert as Ali Kiba who first came to the scene with his single Cinderella reveals.
“First of all it is not only a hot cake, it is just across the border and you know when we perform outside even the pay becomes different,” says Ali Kiba.
The cultural proximity is another issue that has made Tanzanian musician acceptable given the fact that the Kiswahili spoken in Mombasa and Tanzania doesn’t differ that much, which makes it easy to pass the message.
“Unlike when we perform in other countries or even Nairobi where the Kiswahili dialect is very different, the response in Mombasa is almost like when you are at home , others even say that we sing better than their own musicians, “says Ali Kiba who last year made it to the One8 group that recorded with R Kelly.
He calls on local promoters to treat local artistes serious if they want to get the best out of them in this era.
Ali Mohamed Ahmad aka Z Anto who says that he was inspired by MB Dog, is another that has had several concerts in Mombasa and he wouldn’t hesitate at any time should an opportunity arise.
“I had never thought of going to Mombasa but just after I released my first track, ‘Binti Kiziwi’, I received several offers to perform there at a relatively better pay than what was being offered by our promoters,” says the Binti Kiziwi singer.The tourist boom seems to have bred the love for party life and entertainment among the dwellers of the Kenyan coastal city.
Fid Q aka Farid Kubanda, has never performed in either Mombasa or Malindi but he thinks the love for entertainment is the major push that makes Tanzanian musicians marketable and he would cherish an opportunity of having a gig there.
“Not only do they love entertainment, Bongo Flava in Mombasa is like a phenomenon, I think it is because of the way we speak almost similar Swahili than in Nairobi or any other parts of Kenya and that is why we draw large audiences,” he says.Ruta Maximillian aka Bushoke who made with his debut single Mume Bwege attributes the success of Bongo Flava in Mombasa to the danceable rhythms which is quite different to what most Kenyan musicians play.
“Right from way back our music has upheld the art of storytelling which is complemented with the great beats as opposed to our counterparts whose music is always in a happy mode,” he says.He adds: In music it is important to tell a story that touches people’s lives, things that resonate with the population, and that is where our strength has always been since the days of Mbaraka Mwinshehe.
However, as the musicians bask in the glory of their new found haven, local music pundit Paul Barnabas was quick to caution against a possible misconception that the artistes were reaping big.“When we compare our musicians and those in Kenya, there is quite little to prove that they were doing any brisk business, because on the average their colleagues are wealthier,” he says.
He attributes this to the fact that most Tanzania musicians lack strong business acumen and therefore agree to perform for very small perks something that their counterparts don’t do.However, whether the monetary gains are anything to talk home of or not, some of the artistes who made the journey have not had very sweet stories to tell as they succumbed to scandals.
Q-Chilla, one of the first musicians to set base in the coastal city was reportedly married to an older woman who later on threw him on the streets when she discovered his love-rat antics.
If any of the tabloid reports in both Kenya and Tanzania are anything to go by, many of the young crooners are tempted by the allure of not only the money but also the temptation of the older women .