By John Muchiri
Musicians and other players in entertainment industry are minting millions from the ongoing political campaigns.
Unlike in the past where most entertainers would cut cheap deals with politicians under the table, they are reaping big time from the ongoing vote-hunt.
Musicians, producers, sound and stage providers have landed lucrative deals with parties and alliances, charging them “above market rates”, the say.
One of the highest paid musician in the ongoing campaigns is Charles Njaguar, popularly known as Jaguar, who is riding high with his hits Kigeugeu and Matapeli.
According to sources within Jubilee alliance— the coalition that Jaguar performs for— he was paid Sh5 million just to be in the alliance, and he is paid additional Sh300,000 every time he performs at rallies.
A senior member of the Ogopa DJs, the record label that Jaguar belongs, could not confirm the Sh5 million deal, but clarified that the artiste is paid Sh500,000 every time he performs at Jubilee campaigns.
This is way above the normal performance rates in Kenya— musicians like Jaguar are paid an average of Sh200,000 per performance.
Hope for musicians
But confirming the reports, Jaguar said he not only negotiated to be paid such an amount but also agreed to be in that camp because there is hope for musicians in Jubilee manifesto.
“If you look at Jubilee alliance’s manifesto, musicians and the youth are well taken care of, and that is why I agreed to perform in their rallies,” Jaguar told Saturday Nation.
Alex Apoko, better known as Ringtone, is also a major beneficiary of the on-going political campaigns.
He is also among musicians who have had interest in politics. In 2011, he contested the Kitutu Masaba seat in a By-Election, where he lost. Late last year, he expressed interest in Dagoretti North constituency parliamentary seat but dropped the ambition last month just before party nominations.
“I had to drop my parliamentary ambitions after consultations with the top officials in Jubilee alliance, and was included in the secretariat to deal with musicians and youth matters,” said Ringtone.
Although he did not disclose how much he is paid, Ringtone seems to be making a killing from the coalition.
DNA, whose real name is Dennis Kaggiah, is also another big beneficiary of the campaign windfall.
According to his producer and manager Yousuph Noah, his high-riding song Chapa has been on high demand by all the coalitions, but they are yet to agree on terms.
“Just for any alliance to use the song Chapa, as their official campaign song, we have asked them to give us Sh20 million. No one has been able to cut a deal with that amount and we are not desperate to lower the price,” Noah told Saturday Nation.
DNA has already landed a lucrative deal from the electoral commission, where he is currently doing a countrywide peace tour.
“Performing six days a week, DNA is getting Sh150,000 a day. He has performed in western Kenya, Rift Valley, and is in Coast this week,” said the manager.
Other musicians who are indirectly making money from the campaigns include Size 8, whose real name is Linet Munyali. Size 8 has not joined any political camp but is supported by Peace for Africa and Economic Development to recruit peace ambassadors throughout the country.
“I have been approached by all the alliances to join them but I have declined because I want to promote peace during the elections,” said Size 8.
“My Wakenya Peace 2013 campaign reaches out to all Kenyans to promote peace by first sending a text message to 20345 to get a peace ambassador certificate.” Being an ambassador comes with major financial benefits, although she did not disclose how much she is making.
Although Cord alliance has not signed popular musicians to perform in its rallies, it has been contracting quite a number of them to make special appearances.
Music and video producers are also benefiting a lot from the campaigns. According to SK Blue, one of the directors at Sakata Media, they are charging higher rates for producing political songs.
“The normal rate for producing an audio is about Sh15,000 and for a video is about Sh120,000,” he said. “But we are doubling and increasing it further while doing a political audio or video. This is because they give us a very short time to do the work.”
For sound, lighting and stage providers, business might not be as good as musicians’ and producers’. They have attributed this to competition from some politicians who are providing similar services to their camps, and poor maintenance of their equipment during rallies.
“Most politicians went to buy sound equipment and roadshow trucks before the campaigns started, that’s why they are giving us competition,” said a director from Showbiz International— a reputable event management firm.
Rumour mill has it that the sound and stage used in all the major Cord alliance rallies are provided by the coalition’s Nairobi Senate seat aspirant Margaret Wanjiru. Several politicians have followed suit and bought their own equipment.
MCs like John KJ Kiarie in the Cord alliance and Big Ted Kwaka in the Jubilee alliance are making lots of money too during rallies.
What is different now is the fact that most showbiz stakeholders are asking for payment up front, unlike in previous elections where they offered services on credit.
Artistes adopted the new approach after suffering in the hands of some politicians and parties, who refused to pay after losing in the elections.
During the 2002 and 2007 General Election, most musicians performed almost for free in campaigns.
They were promised lucrative deals after candidates won— something that did not come to pass. Those who got paid then did not make much money as expected.
“People still think we got so much money from the Rainbow coalition campaigns in 2002 when they used our song Unbwogable, but that’s untrue,” said Joseph Ogidi, one member of the Gidigidi Majimaji music duo.
“We learnt much later that we could have made so much money out of that campaign but it was too late to rewind the clock,” he added.
In 2007, DNA had the hit song Banjuka Tu used as the official campaign song for Party of National Unity. “People assume I got so much money but I didn’t,” said DNA.
“Yes, the cash was released by the secretariat, but by the time I was getting it, it had passed through so many hands and only little was left for me. ”