For Kenyan artistes, music alone cannot pay the bills

Singer Wahu performs at a past concert in Mombasa.

Singer Wahu performs at a past concert in Mombasa.

The Kenyan entertainment industry has turned into a multi-million-shilling business in the last decade.

Popular musicians such as Jaguar and P-Unit say they can now charge up to Sh300,000 for a one-hour performance. Others earn between Sh100,000 and Sh200,000 — a far cry from the paltry rates of yesteryear.

Despite the rising popularity of local pop music, many artistes confess that the frequency of shows in Kenya and East Africa is wanting.

It is difficult for a musician to earn a living from performances and music sales, hence many find it necessary to supplement their income.

For Jaguar, whose real name is Charles Njagua, to maintain his four fuel guzzlers and flashy lifestyle, he needs more than just performances.

“I have invested in other businesses so I don’t have to wait for performances in order to pay my bills,” he says.

The Kigeugeu singer owns a garage on Nanyuki Road in Nairobi’s Industrial Area. He has also invested in a security firm that provides guards for offices and homes, and in real estate, with apartments in Kileleshwa and Pangani.

“I’m also importing top range cars and have a fleet of taxis in Nairobi and Mombasa. I have no reason to wait for performances to pay my bills.”

Singer Kunguru is also in business – he has a garage – besides working at Standard Chartered Bank.

Showbiz couple Nameless and Wahu too run businesses when they are not performing. “We co-own an audio visual company, Alternative Concepts, where we produce music and both radio and TV commercials,” says Wahu, adding that shows alone cannot help them to provide for their children.


“We have to think of other ways of getting a constant flow of income, even if the shows may pay well.” Wahu also runs a beauty parlour, Afro-Siri, in Westlands.

Julius Owino aka Juliani decided to open an entertainment-related business. “I have an office at the Godown Arts Centre, with a team that creates concert concepts,” he says.

Gospel act Daddy Owen runs an events company called Loud and Clear. “Performance income is not enough in this industry,” he says. “One must look for other ways to pay bills.”

Boniface Chege, who is BonEye in the group P-Unit, is into green building solutions. He is the managing director of a Muthaiga-based construction consultancy company, Web Limited.

“We are the only company in East Africa that consults on sustainable construction (solutions),” he says. “We are currently consulting on the construction of the upcoming Garden City mall in Ruaraka.”

He sits in the Kenya Green Building Society committee, which seeks to create a unique building rating tool for Kenya, and he is the champion for the National Coalition for Green Schools movement.

“This keeps me busy and pays my bills when we are not performing out there as P-Unit.”

One of the most financially successful musicians in Kenya is Wyre, who makes a pretty penny from corporate endorsement.

His two-year endorsement deal with Samsung ended last year, but he has just been signed up as brand ambassador for Sport Pesa.

“When one invests heavily in their brand, it’s easy to eat the fruits much later,” he says. “I have worked hard to build my brand and in the process, I have gotten a nod from the corporate world. I no longer wait for performances to pay my bills.”

Besides, he owns a recording studio, Love Child Records.

Many other artistes remain in employment. Peterson Githinji (Pitson) popular for his song Lingala Ya Yesu, works at Standard Chartered Bank, while others such as Sanaipei Tande and Mimmo Wanjuhi are radio presenters.




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