Musicians, actors to get Ksh.5K each from Uhuru’s Ksh.100M Covid-19 ‘gift’

President Uhuru Kenyatta on Monday opened a can of worms when he announced that the government had set aside Ksh.100 million to cushion local musicians and actors from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

President Kenyatta, addressing the nation on the state of the Covid-19 outbreak, said the funds will allow artists, actors and musicians to continue entertaining the public through TV, radio and the internet.

This declaration, however, kicked up a storm and elicited mixed reactions and confusion in equal measure among members of the public and even creatives themselves on social media.

Among the questions that arose included; Where will this money come from? Who exactly qualifies to be referred to as an ‘artist’ or ‘actor’ in order to be eligible for this money? Through what channels will the process be undertaken? And was the anger exhibited by other Kenyans on social media justified?

For starters, according to Music Copyright Society of Kenya (CEO) Chief Executive Officer Milka Kulati, the Ministry of Sports, Culture and Heritage is in charge of the money through the Sports Fund.

It is however still unclear whether the ministry will distribute the money itself or channel it to the Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) under which the three available Collective Management Organisations (CMOs) fall. [A source at KECOBO who requested anonymity said the ministry had scheduled a meeting on Wednesday with industry stakeholders to discuss this.]

The three licensed CMOs in Kenya are MCSK, Performers Rights Society of Kenya (PRISK) and the Kenya Association of Music Producers (KAMP).

MCSK represents musicians and songwriters, KAMP is licensed on behalf of producers of sound recordings while PRISK represents the interests of actors (performers in recorded films and series in main, featuring and supporting roles) as well as artists (background vocalists and instrumentalists.)

All the CMOs combined, as confirmed to this writer by Ms. Kulati, represent the interests of at least 19,000 members of the creative industry.

While saying “this is why we keep urging creatives to register with the CMOs,” the MCSK boss presumably intimated that it is the 19,000 registered members who will be eligible to receive this money once it is released.

If this is the case, and working on the reasonable assumption that all the players in the sector are to get an equal cut of this pie, then it would mean that each artist or actor will take home approximately Ksh.5,200 from the Ksh.100 million.

Most of the entertainers who also spoke to Citizen Digital, while terming this money as “too little”, however said it was a step in the right direction for the industry.

Riccobeatz, producer of the now heavily popular Utawezana hit song, said: “Times are tough for everyone, including the employed. So you can imagine that, for the creative industry, things must be at least twice as rough.”

“There are so many artists registered with the respective bodies, hence the money is not enough, but better half a loaf of bread than no bread at all.”

Maombi songstress Nadia Mukami also commended the government’s initiative to compensate creatives amid the pandemic.

“About if the money is enough or not, I think it’s a good place to begin for now and I want to congratulate the president for remembering our plea as artists,” she said.

Tujuane singer and Swahili dancehall maestro Arrow Bwoy, on his part, opined: “The entertainment industry has been hit hard during this pandemic, and no money is enough for any human being but this money will at least cushion the situation. I’m positive that the distribution process will be fair.”

Mike Strano, the Founding Director of PHAT! Music & Entertainment and an industry veteran, addressed the mixed reactions exhibited by a section of Kenyans on social media following the announcement saying the creative industry was among the first sectors to be affected by the pandemic hence the compensation was deserved.

“Every industry has challenges, and we have been trying to find solutions, but everything including events was cancelled. So the public should be kinder to us, the creative industry is not about people just sitting around waiting for gigs,” he said.

“On behalf of the creative industry, we want to express gratitude to President Uhuru Kenyatta. He has done more for the creative industry than any other president. We are grateful that he sees us as a serious industry that can create more employment for the youth of Kenya and also pay taxes and contribute to development of the country’s economy.”


President Uhuru Kenyatta Actors artists Mike Strano Milka Kulati

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