Why artistes want foreigners charged to perform in Kenya

MC Jessy

Comedian MC Jessy on July 26, 2019.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

As the debate on the influx of foreign artistes to Kenya for shows rages on, local entertainers are now pushing to have them pay a fee to perform.

Comedian MC Jessy is pushing the government to create a regulator body to be called the Creative Economy Council of Kenya, arguing that foreign artistes should pay to perform in Kenya.

“That’s why they all like coming here because they will never pay taxes on the money they make as appearance or performance fees. This is simply because we don’t have a regulator,” says MC Jessy, who lost his bid for the Imenti South parliamentary seat in the August elections.

“Do you know in Tanzania a Kenyan artiste cannot perform without paying $100 (KSh12,000) to the government? But here they come and go as they please.”

Having a regulator will make it difficult for foreign artistes to come in as they please, he says.

An events booker, who asked not to be named in order to freely discuss the issue, said a majority of foreign artistes, especially Nigerians, Jamaicans and Tanzanians, who have grown fond of visiting Kenya, enter the country with a tourist visa even when they come to perform.

“There are so many shortcuts in Kenya that foreign artistes get away with and that’s why they are always popping up. Most of them enter the country on a tourist visa instead of a work permit,” he claims.

“You can never do that in Tanzania. You have to obtain a working permit from BASATA (Tanzania Arts Councils) to perform in the country.”

The Kenyan government, he argues, does not pay sufficient attention to what foreign artistes make.

“Other than the promoter paying taxes on the concert to KRA and him/her obtaining county and Nema licences, the government really never cares,” he adds.

“The artiste will come, collect his performance fee in whole and leave. We should also make it difficult for them to perform here.”

The booker went on to give the example of the 2016 incident when one top Kenyan deejay at the time, DJ Crème de la Crème, was denied entry into the US.

“Someone, I guess a competitor of the promoter who was bringing DJ Crème to the US, set him up. DJ Crème had a tourist visa but didn’t know the authorities had already been notified,” he says.

The DJ, whose real name is George Njuguna, arrived at Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) International Airport but was denied entry by immigration officers, who sought to know the nature of his trip to Dallas.

Mr Njuguna reportedly told them he was in the US to spend time with friends over the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

Memorial Day is observed in May in remembrance of US soldiers who died while serving in the military.

Upon further scrutiny and with the information already in their possession, including his scheduled shows and promotional fliers for the events, immigration officials detained him at the airport for about 25 hours before taking him back to the boarding gates and ensuring he boarded an Emirates flight back to Kenya via Dubai.

With a regulator, MC Jessy believes, such stringent measures would uplift the creative industry in Kenya.

He says he and other creatives have presented the proposal to President William Ruto.

“It may not happen today or tomorrow or in a year’s time, but I am sure it will under President Ruto, given the nature of the engagement we have had together with him and other like-minded creatives such as Jaguar (former Starehe MP) and KJ (John Kiarie, a comedian and current Dagoretti South MP),” he says.

With the creation of a Creative Economy Council of Kenya, MC Jessy says, Kenyan creatives will not only have a regulator but a face like other professions.

“As creatives in this country, we are not recognised anywhere because we don’t have a regulator. Kecobo [Kenya Copyright Board], the MCSK [Music Copyright Society of Kenya] are not us. That is why having this council enacted by an Act of Parliament is important,” he says.

“This is because we will now have a regulator to protect us. The regulator will be our identity, which we don’t have. Media have their own council, the doctors have their own, and are regulated by law. What we have is nothing.”

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