BLKE 2014 Watch List
For our month-ender/month-starter, we’ve all had the whole of January to get a rough picture of what the local entertainment scene is going to be like. So, in the spirit of randomness, here’s a very limited selection of some of who/what to look out for as the year progresses. Of course, this list is in no way exhaustive, but we’ve tried to make it as diverse and unpredictable as possible. We hope to drop mid-year watch list in June so let’s see who will remain relevant enough to warrant a second mention. Anyway, twende kazi:
Imagine a world where you’d only have to pay 500 bob per month for unlimited high speed internet AND on-demand video content. Well, Able Wireless, led by its CEO Kahenya Kamunyu, say that world is soon going to be a reality, thanks to their (ironically white coloured) Black Box and super-secure wireless network to be rolled out around the country. This unit will be able to provide subscribers with broadband internet (with the exception of torrents) and exclusive video-on-demand streaming all for the extremely pocket friendly rate of Kshs. 500 per month.
The Black Box, which was first revealed at the tech start-up event Demo Africa in October 2013, could turn the the internet, content provision and DVD movie game upside down. As of November 1st 2013, the service already started operating in a few parts of Nairobi. There are challenges ahead for Able Wireless such as getting enough distributors on board and ironing out curious elements of their service that may not go down well (such as a 24 month commitment by subscribers). However, there is no doubt that there is a HUGE demand for such services from Ruiru to Rongai, and even the rest of the country.
It should be a big year for this neo-soul sensation as he makes finishing touches to his debut album entitled Starborn. He has so far impressed with individual singles such as Chips Funga and a bunch of other collaborations across the gospel and secular music divide. Can he now concentrate on his very own project and come up with a cohesive album full of the neo-soul goodness we all believe he has? Check out his first single off that album entitled Paid My Dues.
More and more local brands out there are starting to be keen on generating content that will not only engage their target audience but also strengthen their brand presence, whether it is through TV series or web campaigns. Safaricom recently had such an initiative in partnership with Citizen TV through their YouTube Challenge and Coke Studio Africa has proved quite a hit across the continent. In addition, Nokia sponsored a TV show, Stay, which has some less-than-subtle brand promotion storylines. The Safaricom-sponsored Instragram photo project #MatembeziNai also comes to mind.
Interestingly, it is EABL who’s been doing this kind of thing via Tusker Project Fame, who are leading the back in what we believe will be an greater influx of branded content. The brewers are back with Tusker Twende Kazi a new reality show that has the look and feel of what you’d get when you combine The Amazing Race and the Heineken Dropped web series.
City Models Africa
After gracing catwalks all over the globe, one of Kenya’s most recognizable supermodels, Ajuma Nasenyana launched her very own and Africa’s first international modelling agency last year. The agency called City Models Africa is not only on the lookout for fresh new faces for modelling work with a focus on high fashion, they are also hunting for actors of all ages for ads, TV shows and films. With her links and experience in the international stage, this may be the agency that introduces the world to Kenya’s next supermodel or indeed the next Lupita Nyong’o.
Cr3w Teflon / TSU
Cr3w Teflon recently teamed up with a bunch of other artists to create a rap collective known as The Switch Up which includes Paapibeats, Kimani, YODA ,Kenani, MIAGI, Dora, C.T, J.K, TimmyTim, Kavi, Biior and Accurate. Their self tiled mixtape is set for release very soon and by the sound of the first two tracks released, The Switch Up is bound to be a banging tape and one to watch out for this year. Killuminati boasts some pretty good bars and hip-hop/R&B references by Accurate and TimmyTim.
After numerous court battles, media tantrums and deadline postponement, February should mark our official switchover to digital television broadcasting, if the Court of Appeal case brought by three media houses to block the move fails. This switch-over has deeper implications other than having to buy set-top boxes to be able to view free-to-air TV channels. Transmitting via digital signals will free up bandwith for much more channels to get on board. The implication of this is that with increased competition, channels will now have to concentrate on creating great content to retain the audiences that will enable them earn advertisement revenues. Broadcasters will have to abandon traditional strategies and start thinking outside the box. We will also see channels that concentrate on niche markets (channels dedicated to a single topic or target audience eg. gospel, real estate, sports, music etc.) or specific geographical zones like cities. We shall be following all these trends keenly.
This band finally made the big step and whipped up their debut studio album with Jana Usiku serving as a perfect introductory single (read our review HERE). As a result, they have expanded their audience beyond the concert goers and made a permanent residence on our TV screens courtesy of the Jana Usiku music video.
We cannot wait for these guys’ debut album to drop!! All the singles released so far have been top notch, confirming their status as one of the top-rated electronic/house beatmakers in the continent. The list of guests featuring in the album (entitled The Journey: A Tribe Called Africa) continues to impress each time they reveal a new track. They are currently working on a new track with Harry Kimani called Kairitu Gakwa.
With digital migration right around the corner, this absolutely awesome musical TV series could be the main reason you’d want to Zuku installed in our house (now for the price of Kshs. 5,600). Kijiji Entertainment have really outdone themselves this time. Carefully scripted by the likes of Yafesi Musoke (who brought us Briefcase Inc.) and starring lots of great talent including Patricia Kihoro and jam packed with lots of great new and classic musical performances in the mix, this show is a feast for the eyes and the ears. This may be one of the very few local TV shows that deserve to cross over to the DVD format.
Kiss TV recently relaunched as a full-time, youth-oriented, music-based channel with the tag line “Not Your Mama’s Station” following Grace Msalame’s online spat with some tweeps. Even with its great intentions, and retaining its top-rated shows like Live On Blast, the channel faces several execution problems (as outlined in our assessment article). We are still curious to see the shelf life of this new reincarnation, especially after the content boom that will be caused by migration to digital broadcasting. It would be quite an epic feat for a TV channel to survive for a year on nothing but music videos after that.
There is no discussing it – Lupita Nyong’o is definitely one of the biggest Hollywood stories this year, never mind that more than half of the good folk over there are having a hard time pronouncing her name. The actress, first noticed locally for her performance in MTV Shuga, nagged a role in Steve McQueen’s hard-hitting film 12 Years A Slave.
Her supporting actress role in that film has earned her around 40 nominations for various awards including the Golden Globes. Critics’ Choice and Screen Actors Guild awards which she won after serious competition from the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Julia Roberts. All focus is now on her Oscar nomination, which is looking more and more likely to be a win for her. Her next big screen appearance will be on the action flick Non-Stop alongside Liam Neeson and Juliane Moore.
Motion Image & Sound
Even though this music, film, photography and creative content solutions firm is relatively young, Motion Image & Sound has done a great job handling artistes such as Karun, Kagwe Mungai, Fena and Taio Tripper. It has also worked with a bunch of corporates across Eastern Africa including Airtel DRC. With a talented producer like Jaaz Odongo and the film/photography smarts of Andrew Mageto, it is only fair to expect big things from this crew in the coming months. Check out their latest talent, Wanja Wohorro who already has an EP out available at waabeh.com.
Following up with his Groove Award winning collabo with MwenyeHaki on Wanajua (Ni Kulenga Tu), Pitson has started off the year on a phenomenal note with his new single Lingala Ya Yesu. This track hits all the right buttons required to make it one of the biggest gospel tunes of the year.
As with branded content, this will be a big year for the reality show genre locally. An obvious indicator is how energetically NTV pursued and grabbed Tujuane from the clutches of KTN. It is also more than likely that they will be a bit more diverse that the formats we are used to (music competitions and dating shows and the rather shamelessly copied prank shows). Look forward to much more interesting, celebrity-driven formats such as Real Housewives gracing local TV screens. I kid you not. All that remains is to see who will do it better and come up with a reality series worth investing your airtime in.
Right after the announcement of Safricom’s half-year results last November, the telcomm giant’s CEO Bob Collymore made an interesting revelation. The firm plans to add on-demand video content to the internet provision services in an aim to expand their revenue streams from data, mainly through content aggregation and delivery. It will be interesting to see what kind of pricing and packaging plans this new initiative will have and how well it can compete with other players in the market (read JTL and Able Wireless).
This is one TV and Film production company that is well aware that the industry is slowly turning on its head and now focusing on who can produce great content and not on the ones responsible for delivery and distribution of that content. With CEO Dorothy Ghettuba at the helm, the company has embarked on a massive push to create all sorts of content from TV drama series, to reality shows and even web series. It also is keen on not only recruiting the right people (Oyunga Pala took up the Head of Digital Content position last year) but also working with other companies with a similar vision. For their efforts, Spielworks has earned a bunch of nominations at the Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards for shows like Higher Learning and The Next Big Host web series.
Thee MC Africa
After the split up of Camp Mulla, all its members have embarked on solo projects that will reintroduce each of them to fans on their own terms. K’Cous dropped his well received Js and Purple mixtape last year, which was preceded by Karun’s critically acclaimed Sun and Moon debut album (read our review HERE). It is now Taio Tripper’s turn to reveal the kind awesomeness he his made of. Chosing to stick to his other alias, Thee MC Africa, he is working with Motion Image and Sound on a double-sided debut album. The first part is called Man Made Machine and is set for release very soon. A peek at the teasers for some of the tracks to feature on Man Made Machine reveal that this could be one of the biggest rap albums of this year.
Forget that terribly creepy ad starring Johnstone Mwakazi. More people than you think have cozied up to the line of phones introduced by Tecno Mobile Limited who have had to work pretty hard to shed off the stigma associated with Chinese products. Like all other Chinese agendas in Africa these days, the Tecno side of things seem to be doing pretty well and have sales figures that could start to unsettle many top brands such as Samsung, due to their marginal prices for feature packed phones with good looking designs. In fact, they even had the extra cash to sponsor a very fancy music video.
Their domination will grow much more this year, with its range of flagship models – the Phantom Pad Mini, Phantom A+, Phantom AIII and the P5 phablet – which are set to continue attracting those who want gadgets with a feel of high-end features at mid-range prices. Just like our allegiance to Toyota goes , the phone in front of and behind you will most likely be a Tecno soon.
After creating a huge internet buzz after releasing her very first mixtape entitled Consume: Chakula Ya Soul (read our review HERE), this teen rapper was set to release her debut album Art 19 in December 2013. The album release was pulled back and replaced with a free instrumental mixtape release called Balance which gives us a feel of what the album will sound like. So far, she has dropped a couple of tracks from that new album. IAO features Just A Band’s Blinky Bill while Keep Walking contains a glorious sample of Gino Vannelli’s Keep On Walking. We’ll be keen to see if her debut album will create as much hype as Consume.
Zack is the guy responsible for the artistic and visual direction behind Wangechi’s Consume and is playing a significant artistic role her current Art 19 project. The Consume mixtape cover art is an obvious statement of his vision and talent. If you are looking for a unique, modern, and/or trippy feel to your music video or cover art, he should be one of the names at the top of your list.