During our long driving spells we talked to Tabu about what Ketebul has been doing in 2013. Here is the voice of Tabu.
- “A New Studio: Our first big milestone is a new studio. We refurbished our studio and brought in new equipment. We used our own savings for this to build a better studio and are very proud. Nick Lader, a sound engineer from the UK, helped improve the studio with bass traps, etc… so we could really do a better job. Nick was very hands on and did a great job. He now does a lot of work with us, mastering and mixing our materials. He’s very committed to the Ketebul mission.
- Ewaala Turkana: The most important project this year with the music of the Turkana – we did a CD called Ewaala Turkana with the Loiyangalani Stars. We had first met them with Singing Wells in 2011 at the Turkhana Festival where we worked with the Loiyangalani tribe of Lake Turkana. This tribe had previously discovered oil and water; when we started working with the group, the leaders said that with our help they also ‘discovered their music.’ We then recorded a CD, working with Hivos, and brought them to Nairobi to record the CD. These musicians had never been to Nairobi. In Northern Kenya they are so marginalized that they don’t see themselves as being part of Kenya. It took three days of driving across a desert to find them. When they talk about Nairobi, they talk about Kenya and think of it as another country, separate from their own.
- Songs of Protest: Another project, which took so long for us, was the Songs of Protest Project. We invested a huge amount of time on the book, working on graphics. We were so committed to a great product. My highlight was a group, Jabali Africa, and their song about how greedy politicians are and how they don’t respect the electorate. Makadem also did an amazing song as well. Juliani also did a song Utawala, which is about leadership. These are three great songs that I’m particularly proud of. Many of the songs we recorded from scratch but we also published songs that had been recorded previously. The project is video and audio and we have lots of great interviews. This was sponsored by the Ford Foundation.
- Bridging the Gap: We have also completed Bridging the Gap. It is similar to Singing Wells and Spotlight, where we are trying to bridge the gap between generations by having young people work with older artists to sing traditional songs. The old can see the young sing their songs. And the young can hear traditional music. We used a lot of current hip hop artists to work with us. We are launching the CD at Kenya 50 in December and we also have video as well. Music without visual doesn’t have the impact we need. Each of us has our favorite song from this. Mr Lenny and Makadem did a song called Harambee, done originally by Daudi Kabaka. The kings of the Baganda performed Kabakawhich we love. We also worked with different producers from different production houses so we brought in all styles. We will release the CD at music shops. By the way, distribution remains a terrible problem for all of Africa. My worry remains, however, to create content and then worry about sales and marketing. No point in arguing about marketing until you have deep and rich content. Our government is pushing for local content which is good, but my view is that we first have to have great Kenyan content and then our people will want it because it is good not due to regulations.
- Spotlight: We are also working on Spotlight on Kenyan music Volume 6, having released Volume 5 in 2013. We have focused on the Kenyan Coast and it will be released next 2014.
- We are also supporting Kenyan Music Week. This is an annual event and we are going to support each decade for each day, for our five days, for our 50 year history. This will help solve our identity crisis, to give our people a sense of history. Our partners are Hivos, Phat Magazine, Kiss 100 (every Sunday they host two artists from us and talk about the music, etc..) etc… and we will be the main stand, talking about music through a set of panels. Everyone wants to be involved. One major project we still need to finish is Kenya at 50, both a documentary and coffee table book – which presents 50 years of music. We still need to finish this. A gentlemen named Andy Eisenberg, a Oxford Professor, gave us access to a collection of music and photos, from music promoter Peter Colmore. We are getting all the genres of Kenyan music. I would like the book to be done by types of music. It needs to involve DJ’s, musicians, writers, etc… We have almost all the material. It is now about making a big impression. My dream is we launch this book during the Smithsonian conference next year in Washington DC.
- In terms of artists, Winyo is doing very well. Benga Blues is sold out. He’s been to China, where he met Jackie Chan, and to Sweden. Makadem has also toured all over, Croatia (where he met the President), Germany, and Denmark. Olith Ratego has been to Germany almost every other month where he is very successful. Gargar, our Somalia women, won a major award in France. They’ve yet to go and receive it. Later this year they are travelling to Kuwait. Bado is our latest talent that we discovered during the first Singing Wells project. Rapasa is a new artist.
- I am also looking to increase the responsibilities of our younger managers, having them carry more of the duties of Ketebul. We have given major new responsibilities to Patrick and Steven, not simply as engineers, but also to discover new talent.
- Next year, we have to focus on archiving and make sure our materials are stored in Africa and London. Professor Wolfgang Bender is a very dear German friend of mine. He was working in Sierra Leone and took the music from the radio station there. During the civil war the radio station as burned down. Thankfully, he had all the archives.
- Finally, on a personal side, I’ve travelled Doadoa Uganda, where I played the Jovah CD, and the audience cried. I travelled to Zone Franche in Marseille and MaMA in Paris France. “
Thanks for the update Tabu. Ketebul continues its amazing work to preserve East African music.