Joe Thomas Nairobi concert raises controversy

Joe Thomas on his New Man album Cover

It all started with the launch of a new variety of Tusker Lager from EABL. The launch of Tusker lite was marked with a performance by Donell Jones , a US RnB musician who made his name through hits such as You know whats up, Where I wanna be and Shorty. The hits are from two of his early albums, Where I wanna be and Life goes on which went on to record high sales attaining a Gold and platinum status respectively. That was in the late 90s.

Since then Donell Jones has produced 3 more albums with his latest Lyrics which was released in 2010. However, the last 3 albums did not enjoy the immense success that the previous 2 did.

It came as a bit of shock to many Kenyan music lovers who have been weaned on performances by the most popular artist, mainly Jamaican who are at their peak internationally to learn that it would be Donell performing at the launch of the new alcoholic drink.

The event was organized by Capital FM and sponsored by Tusker Lite.

Last week, Tusker Lite announced that they would be hosting Joe Thomas (known simply as Joe) in conjunction with Capital FM for a concert on 31st March at the Bomas of Kenya Auditorium through an advert in the local dailies. The news soon made it to the Kenyan Social media circles and the debate began.

There now seems to be 2 camps of KOT (Kenyans on Twitter) with one group feeling that the event organizers are bringing ‘washed up artists’ into Kenya. However, there are those who feel that Joe’s music like Donell Jones’ is timeless thus regardless of when the songs were hits, the artists can still pull crowds enough to justify a Ksh. 3,000 entry fee.

It would be justifiable for the organizers to raise the argument that the appearance fee for a Jamaican reggae artist is not the same as an American RnB due to various considerations that promoters look at. However, it is also true that Kenya has been lagging behind most African countries in attracting popular artists mainly due to failure by promoters and/or event organizers in maintaining professionalism and abiding by contracts entered into with artists and their managers.

There had been alot of talk that Usher Raymond and Keri Hilson would be headlining the Tusker Project Fame all stars concert only to be replaced with Cabo Snoop, Shaggy and Eve (Shaggy has performed in Kenya twice before) This caused a huge uproar as news of Usher and Keri had spread and their fans were looking forward to the concert. It is not clear what caused the change in plans.

Last year still, Mavado’s concert was cancelled last minute due to visa issues which prevented him from flying into the country only to be replaced by Chris Martin who had already held a previous concert earlier in the year. The issue of an international artist being denied a visa is one that draws a lot of speculation.

The subject of event promoters, organizers and what goes on behind the scenes before, during and after a concert is one that is never discussed openly and is shrouded with mystery especially when accusations and counter- accusations make their way into the mainstream media over cancelled concerts and unpaid fees. Word gets out that Kenyan promoters do not pay regardless whether it is one notorious promoter and the whole fraternity is lumped together and given a bad name.

British Singer – Adele who received numerous Grammy awards this year

That is why Kenyans are finding themselves having to contend with ‘has beens’ who will still ask for top dollar whereas countries like South Africa, Mali and Uganda just to name a few can manage to play host to such artists as Jill Scott, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Earth Wind and Fire, Akon among others.

Joe performed in Uganda in the year 2008

Should we therefore accept the status quo and still continue attending these concerts paying a high price for sins made by promoters who have turned the concert business into a cartel?

It seems like at this rate, we can expect our promoters and organizers to bring such artists as Sade or Adele not in the far future, 2020 perhaps!

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