The Kenyan music scene is now enjoying a proud and time-honoured tradition of recycling yesterday’s top hits. But as a growing range of recent events have proved, retro music has never been bigger. GEORGE D. MWENDWA finds out the reason for the drift.
The good thing about music is that it never gets old, it never gets forgotten.
It is only repackaged and recycled by various music directors or the different cadre of local artistes which provides a new lease of life to the everlasting classics of the resounding hits.
The music of 1980s and 1990s have found many new takers in the recent past and it’s difficult to say if it’s justified to remix them or not. But possibly, the trend could be here to stay.
Retro-Music seems to always be in style. Perhaps it is because it’s always fun to reminisce about old times.
Some sources substantiate that this time round the old sound of the Ogopas and the Genges among others seems to be resurfacing and receiving a warm reception in the country.
On international stats, it could be 1980 or 2018 and Michael Jackson’s music is still playing while young people dance around most of who never got to see his vibrant days.
Again, it may be 2018 and people are still doing the hair/head shake while listening to the guitar riff in Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”. It just might never change.
“Some sounds are just either too classic, or for a particular wow factor the old school hits are regaining momentum. Get ready to press rewind because retro music players are proving their prowess once again though not as vivacious as they were,” holds Deejay Billy a TV show deejay.
In recent times, due to public demand, a new trend has sprung up that has sent various media players to dig deeper in search of the celebrated artistes of the past whose tunes lit up our living rooms and buses as we travelled to school and work.
Most TV and radio shows have hosted the “legends edition” where artistes like Pilipili, Juacali, Mr Lenny, Vinnie Banton, Wyre, Kendi and Jimwat among others have featured.
The feedback has been massive and the viewership cuts across ages as the young and the old scramble to be part of the conversations. This has sent the country into a thrill and later an interesting trend of re-emerging music of the old days through constant airplay.
Arguably, these big names could be booking a second place in the local scene as most TV shows have set a segment for old school music with some social places and posh clubs in the country having an entire night every week dedicated to play these retro hits, where a source confirmed huge turnouts on such days.
The most recent ratification to this drift was the “Baddest” album launch by Redsan held at Carnivore grounds, Nairobi, which brought his unique sounds of Kenya in the noughties as he sampled some of his old school hits like “Julie” and “Apakatwe” which were received with such applause.
“Despite the fact that Redsan hardly sampled from his new album, I felt such worth for my money when he threw it back to the legend we first fell in love with back in the days,” revealed Mercy Nyawira, a reveller in attendance.
Chris Kirwa, an event organiser for 19 years and CEO of Cate Chris Limited, has been in charge of logistics in most recent events including the The Baddest Launch and The Ngoma Festival, both of which he termed a loud buzzer that retro is back.
Of the Ngoma Festival earlier this year, he says that an 8,000 crowd had convened to catch a glimpse of the old school feel even posing a challenge to the management crew of an unexpected turn out.
Strictly old school hits rented the air and were received with ululations and rave the entire night with none asking for variation to mean this is just what the crowd had come for.
“The old sound is getting a nod once more and the old legends just need to rebrand and they will be eminent again. Maybe bigger this time,” he hinted.
Them that were lucky to be musical in the early 1990s and 2000s still remember the old days; a warm breeze, sounds of a working household, and songs of love and life crackling on the radio.
According to some, the screens have changed, the sounds have become loud, and the good old days have been swallowed by hype.
However, those very songs that marked a quiet afternoon of our childhood are arguably making their way back into the contemporary entertainment scene.
Vinnie Banton of the ‘Tumetoka Githurai’ fame, now turned deejay, thinks that the new generation of musicians lack content and that’s why the retro hits are having their time again.
However, his close ally Mr Lenny thinks that music has just revolutionised and everyone going back to the old hits does so for diversity and to enrich their playlist.
Producers who’ve watched the different seasons in the local scene come; trend and fade away are a basis to count on.
Alexis Onthebeat, a music producer behind a number of recent hits, believes that music keeps changing but the taste of listeners doesn’t change it instead grows and so it’s not a rare stunt when music lovers decide to dig into their archives to revive the good old tunes that they danced to in the past.
“Most amusingly, modern day artistes have also taken up the challenge and are making modern day songs that sound like they belong to the past. Old yet modern,” Alexis discloses.
Now this is it, retro is not just about emulating and copying old things or modes, motifs, techniques, and materials of the past.
It is also about creating modern concepts that could easily fit today as in the past.
It's time to dust off the records and tapes you've stored away and pick up an old-school listening device because the retro music players could be having a second seizure of the spotlight.