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Feature: Kenya's night comes alive as Chinese-sponsored concert ignites revelers' spirits

by Naftali Mwaura
Monday April 8, 2024

A singer interacts with his audience during a Chinese-sponsored music festival in Nairobi, Kenya, April 6, 2024. (Xinhua/Wang Guansen)

Braving chilly weather, a young crowd of revelers filled the giant Agricultural Society of Kenya (ASK) dome in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi, Saturday evening to attend the Boomfest, a musical concert sponsored by Boomplay, a popular music streaming platform in Africa.

One by one, popular artists joined the well-lit stage of the ASK dome, belting out lyrics that lightened the mood of the audience.

Sylvia Saru, a female rap artist who headlined the show had a powerful stage presence, winning the hearts of fans with songs whose message captured popular social themes.

"Basically, this Boomfest show is here to unite us, to celebrate Kenyan music and give visibility to our own artists," Saru said on the sidelines of the well-attended festival.

Among the Chinese firms that sponsored the festival was Transsion, the parent company of the Infinix, Tecno, and Itel brands of smartphones that are popular in Kenya, as well as Oraimo, a maker of wearables and music-listening devices.

Africa's largest music streaming platform, Boomplay, founded by a young Chinese entrepreneur together with Kenyan innovators, convened the Boomfest, which attracted over ten local artists.

Martha Huro, the managing director for East Africa at Boomplay, said the festival was aimed at celebrating the rapid evolution of indigenous music while honoring the resilience and agility of local artists. "We need to celebrate African music in Africa, which does not happen often. As a number one music streaming app in Africa, we decided to organize a festival for the African market," Huro said.

She added that Boomplay, founded in 2015 by Transsnet Music Limited, has been crucial in revolutionizing Kenya's entertainment industry, forging robust ties between artists and their fans.

According to Huro, Boomplay has boosted revenue streams for local artists besides helping them fight piracy and is user-friendly and affordable to music lovers compared with other Western competitors.

In Africa, Boomplay has more than 100 million users and in Kenya, the music streaming platform has about 4.5 million active users and 15 million total users, according to Huro.

She said that in Boomplay, Kenyan artists and their fans have found a credible platform to stream music, adding that it has been embraced by about 10,000 local artists. Huro said that Boomplay's business model is sustainable, and based on embracing the needs and aspirations of local users, while the platform has focused on live music shows, diversifying revenue.

Besides providing a platform for Kenyan artists to showcase their talents, Boomfest created business opportunities for vendors in the transport and hospitality sectors.

Benjamin Otwal, the owner of a recording label and Boomplay's ex-employee, said that by organizing Boomfest, the music streaming platform was able to engage directly with its users, attend to their expectations, and boost its revenue streams.

According to Otwal, Kenyan artists and their fans are now more conscious of the benefits of streaming music, thanks to the mass market platform provided by Boomplay.

A music promoter, who preferred to use his business name Jinx, said that Boomfest raised the profile of local artists, enabling them to connect with their audience in a friendly environment. "I liked Boomfest, it is high time we had more programming with local artists. It is good to build platforms where our local artists shine and connect with their audience," Jinx said.


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