Gengeton is a Kenyan genre that evolved from Genge, the hiphop subgenre born out of California based Calif Records which had acts such as Nonini and JuaCali. The subgenre had died once its luminaries stopped producing music. Actually, at that point in time, Kenya’s entertainment scene was bereft of content, not talent. We still had the likes of Sauti Sol but due to the lack of Kenyan music, we turned to Naija for entertainment.
Gen Z however, has come back to rediscover, reimagine and recreate Genge hence Gengeton was born. And my word they have been churning pout music in such a prolific rate that we finally had market saturation. Regardless of what you wanted to listen to, you would find it.
Gengeton was a complete hit in 2019 when it began to take off. But come 2020, with the quarantine period enforced by GoK, Gengetone artists such as Sailors, Boondocks Gang and Ochungulo family could no longer perform. Especially since the strictest form of the curfew was in place for the better part of the year -it is still in place in some form right now.
Artists could no longer perform so there was no money being earned or circulated within entertainment. So why bother churning out as much musical content? Might as well focus on something else to help you pay your bills. As a result, in Kenya, we have witnessed the rise in popularity of Amapiano, a South African subgenre of Kwaito.
As they say, dunia ni duara and things really do go full circle. We have witnessed the rise and fall of Genge (and other Kenyan genres) which was then replaced by Naija-pop. From there, we saw the rise of Gengeton which made it popular to declare your love for Kenyan music. Now, however, we are experiencing the rise in popularity of Amapiano.
The simple way to look at this turn of events is the fact that whenever we have a strong culture and the vehicle being music, Kenyans embrace and celebrate their own. But when it is absent, we have no option but to jump on whatever is hot from abroad.
If we want Kenyans to embrace Kenyan culture, we have to feed their hunger for Kenyan content. And this is where the gauntlet is thrown to Gengeton artists. Clearly, there is a hunger for the sub-genre and our most talented artists need to fill that niche. Proof of the fact is how Kenyans have embraced Otile Brown and Sauti Sol and they are cornering their market by being consistent.