We often praise artistes for blessing us with captivating music but we equally forget the pivotal role played by producers.
Beats make or break a song. An artiste can be wildly gifted but if they are swimming in a pool of bad production, no attention will be channelled their way.
Luckily, in Kenya, we never have a shortage of good beats. Ever since the wheels of local mainstream music were set in motion over 20 years ago, we have seen plenty of gifted beat-makers, each bringing their own sui generis style.
Examples are plentiful. There was Tedd Josiah, a percipient spotter of talent who hatched about half of the total hits of the late 1990s and early 2000s. There was Clemo as well, the Calif Records head-honcho who turbo-charged the Genge genre and became more famous than some of his artistes.
There is Musyoka too. He was the star of Homeboyz Productions in the 2000s and is now co-owner of Decimal Records. In one of the greatest mysteries of our time, he has never aged since 239 BC, the year he was born. (I am just playing. Musyoka was only born in 1914 when World War 1 started)
Anyway, there was another dreadlocked genius called R. Kay who was not really Kenyan but we are claiming him since he did most of his best work here. Another master of production was Lucas, the Ogopa Deejays producer. He often shied away from the spotlight but created a chain of bangers for artistes such as Nameless, Redsan, E-Sir, Mr. Googz, Kleptomaniax and Wahu.
Legend has it that he was allergic to cameras. Not even once did he allow someone to take his picture. When a journalist once attempted to take a quick photo of him, he grew big and purple like Marvel villain Thanos and developed fangs like a vampire. He then grabbed the camera and chewed it like PK gum.
Okay, I play too much. That never happened. Haha.
We also can’t forget Ulopa Ngoma who felt he needed to rebrand and of all the names he could possibly come up with, he decided to settle for Bwana Ngoma. What? That has to be the worst name change in history. Who misadvised you Ulopa?
Nowadays, we have a new crop of on-fire producers like Cedo, Rico and Jack on The Beat but the most voguish and distinguished of them all is Magix Enga. He is the complete opposite of people like Musyoka and Lucas. He loves the spotlight and everything that comes with it.
His signature sound is often ornamented by piano, hard bass and a myriad of fruity loop effects and for the past two years, this sound has punctuated an endless list of radio singles. Hits like “Wembe”, “Nataka Iyo Doh”, “Digi Digi” and “Dundaing” have made him a household name. He makes beats that are aimed at giving listeners a fun time rather than a gritty, arduous, over-complicated one.
And as if producing is not enough, he doubles as a part-time singer too. He is no Luther Vandross but he isn’t a terrible singer either. He is bearable. He isn’t one of those singers who make you need an ear drum transplant after listening to their songs.
An artiste can go to Magix Enga for a beat and leave with a chorus as a bonus. Quite a bargain, right?
There’s no doubt that Magix Enga is currently the chieftain of the airwaves but will he be popular for long and will his works stand the test of time?
Modern producers have often been accused of making songs that have a very short shelf life. This is a fact. If you listen to “Dundaing” right now, only a few months after its release, you’ll probably say “Hiyo song nimeiskia sana hadi ishanibore (I have heard that song so many times that it’s now boring).”
But if you listen to an old track that was crafted by Tedd Josiah like “Unbwogable”, you’ll say something like “Damn! I miss those days. Those were the days when music was music.” Not to say that music nowadays is sports or music nowadays is movies. That’s just a phrase we use when reminiscing about the good old days.
So, will Magix Enga be famous for long? And even when his star has faded, will his music still be iconic? It’s hard to tell but the odds are truly against him.
Nowadays, the producer landscape is characterised by on-demand beat makers with short-lived stints at the top. When it comes to staying famous, modern producers aren’t always so lucky. Longevity just doesn’t like them. Their popularity withers and dies as quickly as their songs.
In America, we have seen the likes of Dj Mustard and Mike Will Made It falling off the scene very quickly.
We will have to wait and see how Magix fares on. But that’s ‘we.’ What does ‘he’ have to do? I’d say that to beat the odds, which are truly against him, he needs to build a popular empire, clique or label, whatever you’d like to call it. Clemo had (and still has) Calif Records, Lucas had Ogopa Deejays, Musyoka has Decimal Records, Tedd Josiah had Blue Zebra and so on.
In fact, he can even follow directly into Naiboi’s footsteps. He can build a huge label/clique/production house like Naiboi did with Pacho Entertainment and in a smart move aimed at avoiding the incoming fate falling off as a producer, he can eventually shift his focus entirely to singing. He can then leave junior producers who are under his tutelage and payroll to continue the work.
Magix, if you are reading this, consider it free advice. Your beats will soon become less popular with time but if you will have already built an empire that everyone knows, it won’t be a problem. You can simply move on to something else and your name will still remain big.