I have always imagined shooting a music video must be so hard. I literally imagined the director shooting and shouting “Cut!!, Take 1!!, Take 2!… That’s not the shot I want, let’s take another one!…Silence on Set!!!” and that sort of thing.
When I did get an experience on what it takes to bring your favourite Youtube banger to life, I was amazed by how a rather timid videographer simply pushing an on and off to start recording as the artists sang and performed their song playing from a Bluetooth speaker. It looked like more of a lip synch battle that later incorporated me and everyone standing along to come in for an unpaid crowd scene.
We had been hired for makeup for a leading female star shooting her latest video, an opportunity I took to see what it takes to shoot a music video in Kenya.
Obviously one of the key elements when it comes to shooting a music video is location. For this specific shoot, it was quite an experience. The video was shoot was to take place at Richam gardens in Limuru. From 7pm to 4am.
We had no clue that video shoots take that long but am glad that I got to experience it. It was a long and scenic drive with lush green tea farms on both sides of the road. The drive was made even longer with the Nairobi evening traffic
I was distracted by the paradise-like views until I noticed the car veering off the road and I could have sworn my driver was dozing off. “Oya bro, Rada,” I called out, trying to save my life from what would have been a very uneventful end.
“Pole bro” he immediately apologised as he joined the road again. “Ni shida ya alignment, ilikuwa nipeleke gari garage last week lakini sikuweza” he tried to defend himself but I knew, we both knew.
Before long we got to the location and nothing could have prepared us for the cold foggy weather that almost froze us to death. It was an old colonial home surrounded by tea farms and huge trees. They had sheep and a few cows grazing near the entrance.
This was about to be transformed into vintage music video scene straight out of a colonial picture book complete with a club scene out of the reception. The house had a 70s theme like vibe and if you stayed there long enough , I promise you, you can easily forget you are living in a modern world. It was almost as though we were in a simulation.
You could swear you have walked in to an old Virgo white woman’s home. The bedding, curtain and wallpapers were all matching with green and cream floral print. The chandeliers on the ceiling and walls had candle like design that matched the theme.
To enhance the set, video production crew had come prepared with state-of-the-art equipment for quality video, old school colored lighting and props including smoke machines for the shoot. They had also carried with them a loud JBL speaker for playing music in the background as they recorded. I could tell how organised they were so busy checking the lights and perfecting the sets.
Once the artists arrived on location, it was a marathon. All three of them had to be ready and done with makeup in about 1 hour and 30 minutes. The team had shared their theme and mood board earlier and after consultation with the stylist on their outfits we had planned looks accordingly.
Immediately after makeup, they are handed to the stylist, who had them looking like the real stars that they were after dressing them in the 90s rnb outfits that she sourced for prior.
Watching them in their element as they performed on set, lost in smoke and flickering red and blue lights, vibing and feeling their music to their core was quite the experience. Had me singing along by the end of the night.
Once the first set was done, the artists did some touch up and now it was time for the second set. It’s incredible how they managed transform a basic boring waiting area into a club like set by simply using smoke and lights.
For this scene, a dance crew came on , showed the artists a few moves and performed along side them while the rest of us stood a little further back , acting as the crowd in the ‘club’ and hype crew.
They must have done this a lot because the way they moved on cue was, well, perfect. The dancers had solo scenes where they did freestyle dance and vibe to the music and they absolutely killed it! Talent.
Behind the scenes video is also a crucial part on the production. They took videos, some with the help of their social media manager. They struggled to take transition videos on their phones as well for TikTok and other social media handles, trying to keep up with the ever changing trending apps.
“I struggle to use TikTok sometimes but these days you just have to keep up for your own survival“ one of the artists confesses as we assist her to edit a video she just took.
After it was finally time to do a few photos for the covers and call it a wrap at around 5am. From the experience I learned that shooting a music video requires team work more than anything. Every individual role is important and makes a huge difference.