TED TALK

‘Un-Kenyan’ music shunned, I forged my own path — MDQ

'Otherism' runs deep and is the root of problems in Kenya, she says

In Summary

• Blanket and Wines was her response to four years of not being given space to shine

Muthoni Drummer Queen
Muthoni Drummer Queen
Image: Courtesy

Muthoni Drummer Queen was selected to be part of TED Global Network, and she gave a talk about the Kenyan entertainment industry, narrating how she struggled to the top.

"Between 2004 and 2008, I unsuccessfully tried to get into the Kenyan music industry," she said.

"The recurring answer from producers was I was not Kenyan enough, meaning I didn't sing fully in Kiswahili and I didn't sing enough party tracks. They said Kenyans wouldn't listen to a Kenyan who sounded like me."

 

The 'Nai Ni Ya Who' hitmaker went on to say that the idea of "otherism" goes to the root of the problems and runs deep in Kenya.

 

"We cannot build what we do not truly love and we cannot love until we love ourselves," she said.

"The idea that Kenya can only include some of us led me to found Blankets and Wines to give a platform to myself and other misfits. It has allowed for multiple Kenyan ideas to exist, while inspiring the industry to discover and engage with Kenyan music."

Through her platform, the singer has inspired hundreds of bands and created employment. She says Kenyan radio can help to heal the nation through music.

"Traditional radio is still the biggest distributor of ideas in Kenya. We can use radio to let Kenyans hear the diversity that is Kenya," she said.

"We can break down ethnic barriers by playing Kenyan music done in English, Kiswahili and ethnic languages on what is now single language on ethnic radio. More importantly, it can help create a more inclusive narrative about Kenya."

She spoke about the need to grow a lot more Kenyan stars to blow up abroad.

 

"Other creative industries like TV can do the work and film has potential. Resources put into the sector have already produced world-class acts like Lupita Nyongo and Wanuri Kahiu," she said.

"But we are going to need more incentives and investments to make filming in Kenya easier so that Kenyan stories can get into the Kenyan TV and spark off the really difficult conversations we need to have with one another."