The coronavirus pandemic has made life unbearable to foreign music bands in the country. Congolese music bands in the country are worst hit, with some musicians in the outfits weighing the option of folding up.
In a genre that lives on live performances, and now with a fanbase locked up at home, most foreign bands that have traditionally relied on playing compositions of other Congolese greats such as Franco and Madillu System are finding it difficult to survive.
For instance, the Amitie Musica Band, a Congolese music outfit based in Mombasa, is at a loss with up to 10 foreign band members directly depending on live stage performances.
Crispin Tambwe Kainda, the band leader, fears the worst if foreign bands like theirs are not bailed out.
“We are depending on well-wishers for our upkeep because entertainment spots are closed until further notice. We fear about the future,” notes Tambwe.
According to Tambwe, there are many major and nondescript Congolese music outfits performing in towns like Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru and Eldoret. He notes that the cross-border restrictions have made it impossible for few musicians who would want to rerurn to Congo DR.
In an interview with The Weekend, Tambwe noted that most Congolses artistes in Kenya are either refugees or are in the country to seek better fortunes. “Most of us are refugees, hence we cannot go back to our country because of political persecution or general hardship,” he said.
The band that has been in existence for close to two decades also operates a recording studio in Mombasa.
Tambwe has led an illustrious career with his band in the country since 1996 when he migrated from his Lubumbashi home to Kenya. The musician, 59, arrived in the country when he was just 26.
Despite home recording technologies allowing any artist to create and release on-the-spot new material in the era of online streaming platforms, it is not the same for these musicians who rely on live stage performances to earn living.
“Online livestream will never fully replace the power of seeing a band perform right in front of you. This is the reason why we are stuck now and need help from those who care,” notes Josky Malongo, alias Kiambukuta, a Congolese drummist based in Mombasa.
Tours and festivals have been cancelled, and might not return for the foreseeable future. This will have a devastating effect on the music industry, and in particular the artists.