Struggling artistes’ financial woes mount as the pandemic enters second year

The effects of the current economic downturn will likely be felt for years as artistes in Kenya’s entertainment industry try to build careers and savings in a segment that has been struck to rubble.

The entertainment industry, which is like a conjoined twin with the hospitality sector, has been wracked by the Coronavirus economic fallout leaving artistes in one huge financial mess.

For the last one year, artistes, stand-up comedians and deejays have been denied a source of income – literally – as the pandemic containment measured have left clubs, as well as hotels and restaurants shut.

Also affected are event emcees, who would on a good weekend make decent income hosting wedding parties or corporate events where thousands of people gather and laugh the night away.

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As the country enters a second year of tough measures on social distancing and the ban on social gatherings, musicians have been left with few choices. Many have turned to hosting fans to virtual shows, many of which don’t really mean good business.

In 2020, the government stepped into the arena, hoping to rescue the entertainment ship from Covid waves by proposing a the ‘work for pay’ KES100 million stimulus package for artistes, actors and musicians. Interestingly, only a handful of players benefited.

Many entertainers eventually went broke as their regular streams of income run dry within months.

A new norm of park and chill, a drive-in, social, outdoor event that was started by a number of deejays led by Pierra Makena last September have replaced the usual gigs but the few, who attend them, do so with abundance of caution. This is not to be as easy as it sounds nor to be a changing event in this industry.

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Interior CS Fred Matiang’i has said the ongoing nationwide curfews is set to come at the end of May.

Comedian and radio personality Jalango advises his colleagues in the entertainment industry to get out of their comfort zones and find ways of making ends meet away from Nairobi.

Following on Saturday night operation by police aimed at enforcing the 10pm – 4am curfew that left thousands of Nairobi residents stranded, rapper Khalighraph Jones addressed his concerns to various leaders starting with the former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, “Baba Yawa, kitambo ulikuwa unatutetea sana, sai Kenya Tunaangamizwa umenyamaza. Fanya ile kitu uone vile utaingia statehouse haraka, wacha kunyamaza ivo.”

To the Deputy President William Ruto, Khalighraph Jones said: “Hustler najua we utasoma hii, Ma Hustler Wanaumia kwa ground, Watu wanalala Njaa, Nyumba zinafungwa, if you can help us in this situation, I will campaign for you for free in the coming elections, kindly help unlock our country.”

While asking Khaligraph to meet him and plan how they can reach out to artistes hit by the pandemic, the Deputy President William Ruto said: “Bazuu Khaligraph, nimepata message yako bro. Ahsante. Mimi najua the pain of sleeping hungry. As a personal initiative, I am ready to help as we complement government programmes on the same. I will also mobilize my friends to get some more help.”

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