TRENDSETTER

Are albums redefining the way we consume Kenyan music?

That Kenyan artistes are better off delivering singles is an unfading fallacy

In Summary

• There’s more mileage in releasing music in compilations rather than track by track.

Blinky Bill
Blinky Bill
Image: Courtesy

There’s always been an unfading fallacy around the idea that Kenyan mainstream artistes are better off delivering singles to albums. This strategy of releasing endless streams of singles with the aim of chasing hits has surely outdone that of delivering well-thought-out collections.

Hardly do we get to experience a significant number of major projects from our top acts; they seem to comfortably exist in this misconception. And as we continue to celebrate the artistes who’ve somehow thrived on these terms, one can’t help but reflect how different the music scene is today.

It’s true, releasing singles has its advantages. More often than not, they can be used as a tool, especially by young, upcoming and inexperienced artistes, to discover and gauge how the listeners view their abilities. Well, it might be a tough sell to get people to listen to your album if they hardly know what you are about. It can also be effective for artistes who simply want to keep up with music waves and maintain momentum.

 

As exhibited by music powerhouses, especially the West, there’s always an unfixed creative process that artistes integrate to ensure maximum impact almost every time they release a new album. There’s great thought that goes into the album name, cover art, the arrangement of music and most importantly the thematic concerns the artiste wishes to explore. Some artistes even involve communication and marketing machines to ensure topmost hype. These activities always ensure artistes' works are appreciated by the masses, attracting reviews from fans and critics.

Nigerian and South African artistes, as well as “discerning” acts from around the world, seem to be emulating the West’s fondness for a conceptual full-length project. It is truly difficult to balance the industry's demands with the ever-changing, sickening process of creation, but any artiste aspiring to solidify their place in the music scene ought to understand the purpose and significance of releasing songs collectively. There’s more mileage achieved by an artiste when you release music in the form of compilations rather than spreading releases track by track.

Here, we are starting to witness a rise in era-defining full-length projects. More thoughtful, thematically rich efforts are steadily striking streaming services near you. Last year, we witnessed artistes like Octopizzo, Muthoni Drummer Queen, Eric Wanaina and Blinky Bill put out significant traction. Outstandingly, King Kaka had an entire activation tour and a hit lead single, “Dundaing”, creating hype months before the album launch.

While albums have the power to influence the uptake of Kenyan music, most of our artistes continue to make it difficult for listeners to resonate. Consumers will often be caught engaging in discussions about what an album is like and how it made them feel. If you actually think about it, albums can be presented as a tool that can be used to determine an artiste’s skill level. Simply put, listeners just want to experience the artiste's creative process.

While singles enable an artiste to simply stay in fan's faces with bangers, albums challenge the entire creative process, and by the end of it all, the artiste is able to tell a conceptual narrative that sticks with the fans.