CNN explores why Kenya is tuning into electronic music on ‘Marketplace Africa’

By Brenda Keshi

‘CNN Marketplace Africa’, on it’s latest episode explores the growth of electronic music in Kenya, and how its presenting opportunities for musicians and entrepreneurs alike.

When the American DJ Diplo performed to a sold-out audience in the country last year, it was a momentous moment for the industry, which has found its popularity grow rapidly in recent years.

Electronic music artist Blinky Bill explains the significance to CNN: “Just seeing the number of people that came out for it. Even five years ago I don’t think we would have attracted the same crowd.”

The event was organised by Kenya Nights, and its owner Rizwan Ibrahim, tells CNN he brought Diplo to Kenya for the second time because he sensed the appetite for the genre: “I would say in 2012, there was a huge impact with electronic music just because there was that crave and no one really knew what it was… We had about 3,800 people [at Diplo’s concert]. It was probably one of the biggest concerts Kenya has seen in terms of production.”

As the popularity of electronic music grows further, one of the issues faced is a lack of underground movement to grow the genre from a grassroots level in Kenya.

‘Marketplace Africa’ travels to The Alchemist Bar in Nairobi, which was opened in 2016 with electronic music made an intrinsic part of the venue.

Owner Peng Chen discusses the initial risks attached to the venture, but also how its helped contribute to expanding Kenya’s music scene: “There’s a lot of trial and error because you also want to balance working with newer artist, newer organisers, as well as the established ones. But I think what’s great about Nairobi, especially in the last few years, is this collaborative effort that everybody has brought in.”

One of the electronic acts that Chen collaborates with is EA Wave, who are also part of a larger collective called Vibe Tribe, which helps organise events and help develop the marketability of the product with the hope of attracting a more international audience.

Jude Clark, the manager of EA Wave tells the programme: “We’ve got a product – if you want to put it that way – a product that they can market international for festivals and things like that. Once you’ve got a festival run, you get access to larger audiences, which then helps your music to sell, so it’s kind of two-pronged.”

Despite the financial risks attached to developing a committed following from the grassroots, the gr