The politics behind Kisima

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By Stevens Muendo

The respective three East African music awards have been trying in the past to outdo each other on who rewards musicians better and in organisation. The Ugandan Pearl of Africa Music Awards has finally made inroads across East Africa

Isaac Mulindwa Jr, chairman of PAM awards and Vcitor Mayeiya of Kisima Awards.

and now handsomely rewards artistes. The Tanzanian Kilimanjaro Awards are just about to take off this year for better recognition while Kenya’s Kisima awards are not yet out of the woods.

The Kilimanjaro Music Awards (2009) were launched in Dar es Salaam last month with better sponsorship package as Kenyans wait for the results of last year’s jinxed Kisima Awards.

Kili Awards has been under the sponsorship of Kilimanjaro Premium Lager brand for the last 10 years. After its previous successes, the organisers are out to take it to the next level and more cash has been pledged for this year’s event.

“Through Kilimanjaro Awards, we want our musicians to attain national and international recognition and subsequently improve their financial well being,” says Oscar Shelukindo, Kilimanjaro Premium Lager Brand Manager.

The event is scheduled to take place mid this year.

But back home, Kisima — East Africa’s premier awards ceremony — is still on its knees. In yet another heartbreaking revelation, the red carpet gala, which was to be held tomorrow, has been pushed forward — yet again.

A rough patch

Kisima has been going through a rough patch, we can now reveal and all is not well.

Chris Kirubi

However, even as wild criticism bedevils the organisers of the jinxed event, the officials are holding their heads high. Victor Mayieya, the CEO of Kisima and his team are sticking to their guns that the event must take place. “Kisima is not going under,” he said.

New revelations indicate that behind the scene intrigues from perceived ‘enemies’ of Kisima Awards have largely contributed to the current hiatus.

Last week, Victor came out speaking tough, threatening to spill the beans on how powerful individuals had been plotting the death of Kisima.

For the better part of Tuesday, the Kisima inner clique of Victor, Jones Situma and Steve Ogesa held an entire afternoon brainstorming meeting in a Nairobi hotel. Invites for the ceremony’s 500 guests had already been printed, accolades ready for presentation and all other logistics put in place. Then good news came interrupting the meeting. Sponsors were reaching out to give Kisima much-needed financial boost.

Our investigations reveal that Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) has been in talks with Kisima officials and is ready to bail them from the ensuing financial problems. Another unnamed firm is also said to be closing in a handsome deal.

“The event has to go on. It will probably be held at Intercontinental Hotel. We plan to invite 500 people,” said Steve of Take Two.

MCSK boost

The deal between Kisima and MCSK will see close to Sh7 million funding from MCSK. Most of the cash will go into advertising. The two groups held a meeting at MCSK headquarters on Wednesday and before we went to press, things were rosy. Even though no official word had been released from MCSK on the matter, the giant music umbrella body is said to have bought the idea and will now have a major role in boosting the annual event.

But having been duped after such handsome deals in the past, one can only imagine that the Kisima officials are courting their new partner with caution.

“The circumstances which led to the postponement of Kisima were beyond us. We had tied up a sponsorship deal with Motorola who pulled out of Kenya. The other sponsor, Zain, decided to pull out because of negative publicity,” said Victor.

“We were left in financial crisis and could not raise the promised cash to the awards’ winners.

“We had spent money on launching the event in Uganda and Tanzania for the first time. But the mathematics wasn’t adding up. The last minute postponement was a hard but a brave move as options were limited,” noted Victor.

But it wasn’t all about negative publicity as the manner the two corporates pulled out of the deal in the eleventh hour left much to be admired. Zain is said to have cancelled the Sh4 million sponsorship cheque while Motorola withdrew its Sh700,000 cash pledge in a similar manner.

The dilemma seems to have started in 2007 when the Kisima officials entered into a deal with Capital FM. Kisima was in financial crisis and Chris Kirubi (DJ CK) agreed to bankroll the awards for three consecutive years. But what was at first seen to be a good deal did not end well. And now Victor is speaking out about the fallout.

Turned back

“We refused to sign a contract with Capital and that did not go down well with CK. How does someone walk into your company and ask for a hundred per cent share,” explained Victor.

Channel O representatives had to be turned back at the airport as they prepared to leave South Africa for the ceremony.

With bitterness, the Kisima team are now making allegations, which may as well turn to be the genesis of their current woes. According to the officials, all the money collected from sponsors and the events’ gate charges is yet to be accounted for and they say up to this day, they haven’t seen a penny of it.

“Even the Sh5 million cash pledge by Capital (FM) has never been honoured. The night before the Kisima gala night at Marula Manor, we were being forced to sign an agreement that would see us hand over Kisima to Capital. But our lawyer advised us not to append our signatures to the document because it was a bad contract. Things were never the same again,” adds Victor.

Operating under their registration name, Kisima Holdings, the office bearers have taken legal steps on the issue.

“I have always been in support of the Kenyan music industry and that is why I offered an hand on what I believed was a worthy cause,” DJ CK is quoted to have said.

Our efforts to get DJ CK to comment on the claims were futile, as we could not reach him on phone.

Although DJ CK’s name is not being mentioned — word has it that some powerful businessmen are already working with Mombasa events’organiser on a parallel annual music awards.

The said group has been meeting with a major corporate, a Mombasa based promoter and other players from East Africa.

“It’s hard for any investor to put money in an event which has been dogged by troubles through the years. As much as our company’s policy supports the development of talent we are not ready to put our money in the wrong bag,” said a top official of a leading telephone service provider — insinuating that his company was not ready to support Kisima.

Management problem

Besides, Kisima been enjoying the goodwill of hundreds on musicians if the numerous nominations it receives is anything to go by. Last year alone, 700 artistes entered the nominations.

Its woes are more of a management problem and one can argue that the officials need to clean up their house before they start pointing figures on their perceived enemies.

Kisima founder Tedd Josiah, who stepped aside after he was accused of favouritism when he won the Best Producer Award claims that the current officials have lost the awards’ original vision, a claim Victor will not take lying down.

“Away from the current financial woes, Kisima is bigger than back then. The industry has grown so have the challenges that come with organising an event of such magnitude,” he said.

“I wonder why someone out there is fighting instead of joining hands in getting our only awards event on its feet. We have been running Kisima on zero sponsorship and I can say, our passion and will to see its success has been our only driving force,” he adds.

“We took into consideration ideas from all stake holders including the media. We had a wider and more informed panel of judges during the nomination process and I believe the winners reflect the true voice of music fans.”

The officials point out that besides spending over Sh1 million on logistic issues, Sh400, 000 has already gone into purchasing the Kisima accolades and a bigger amount will be used in flying in artistes into the country for the gala.

Whatever is going on with the local awards event is not unique to Kisima as even continental awards events such as Kora Music Awards and Channel O Music Awards have gone through such tough phases.

Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro Awards and Uganda’s Pearl of Africa (PAM) Awards enjoy massive sponsorship, which has helped to make them successful.

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