Video shoots all around as Kenyans eye celebrity status
Kenya is turning into one big stage for shooting video clips as content creation gains root and new celebrities keep getting minted.
On a random day at a random corner, you are likely to stumble upon someone or a group of people performing in front of a phone. For long, that has been a reserve for artistes shooting music videos. But since TikTok danced its way from China to Kenya and took a whole generation by storm, a new craze is unfolding.
One way to tell that it has become a trend is the proliferation of advertisements about shooting kits on various online retail platforms. Selling at Sh3,000 on average, a kit will convert a simple smartphone into a camera with a stand, a microphone and auxiliary lighting to boot.
That is about all a person needs to churn out videos for platforms like TikTok and YouTube Shorts and hope for fame and maybe some cash. What’s more; a person can do this alone, unlike using older technologies where a whole crew had to be involved.
Selfie sticks, phone tripods, and ring lights are among the items that have become fashionable as the craze catches on. And terminologies like filters, stickers, voice-overs, sound effects, and background music are becoming part of everyday conversations.
As the millions who use TikTok in Kenya take part in challenges, participate in duets or simply seek to break new ground, brace yourselves for more shooting at more unorthodox places.
One of the Kenyan trending videos on TikTok yesterday afternoon was of a pair of a young man and woman in matching black-and-white attire dancing to Trio Mio’s song ‘Achia’. It was shot on a not-too-busy road and an older person who might have observed them making the video might have wondered when young people decided to hit the streets and dance all they can in broad daylight.
Author and actress Phibbian Riziki says all this is because TikTok has grown from a simple lip-syncing platform to an arena for all manner of content.
“Creators on the platform are getting extremely creative with their content, putting together funny sketches and informative videos. Entertainment and dance continue to be the most popular types of videos on TikTok. But you can also find plenty of educational content covering topics ranging from health to investing. I enjoy posting Kiswahili content and mashairi (poems) myself,” said Ms Riziki.
So, what are those involved in this trend saying? TikTokers from various corners of the country said they are living in the moment.
In Nakuru, one group of nine students at Egerton University will spend weekends shooting at all manner of places: generating pranks, dancing to music and doing everything else they may feel like doing.
They are led by Joseph Muli, a 21-year-old agricultural economics student who uses the TikTok handle @black_mully. Joseph has 250,000 followers on the video microblogging platform.
The group usually shoots its videos randomly in public places. They aim to explore all counties within Kenya and beyond. Beaches, lonely streets, busy city areas and parks are all game for them as they shoot their content. They also do crazy dance videos which entertain audiences.
“Our main aim is to create awareness to common pitfalls in the society such as crime, drug and substance abuse within the youths,” said Joseph.
To make their work easier, Joseph says, they do their school work during the weekdays and delve into content creation during weekends.
The group performs pranks and comedies on roadsides and in the university environment. Their target audience are teens and another objective they have is to enlighten and bring a smile to their faces.
Other members of the group are David Omondi (Blinker), August Mike (Lil Yogoh), Evans Otieno (Mwanafalsafa Mteule), Ahmed Abdulaziz Ahmed, Jedidah Wawira, Bradleen Oduor, Ruthie Muema, and Olive Juin.
One of the most famous pranks from the group garnered more than 200,000 views. It was about a person pretending to board a matatu but rather than enter, his friend carries him on his back and runs away from the matatu. It left the passengers and the conductor surprised and in laughter. The video went viral and was later reposted by famed Twitter user Omwamba Ke, upon which he felt encouraged and recognised.
August Mike, one of the group members, said that their future plan is to create and work with big brands and be in a position to deliver the best content. He added that discipline, hard work and dedication is the key to their success.
“Five years from now, we see ourselves working with big companies in and out of Kenya,” he said, noting that lack of adequate funds and equipment is a major setback to shooting quality videos.
In Nairobi, one of the young Kenyans who swear by TikTok and its power to make someone a star is called Wanjiku. She uses the handle @_wanjikuwanjiku on the platform. Most of her videos on TikTok are shot at the social joints she attends. Wanjiku, who is a TV host at KBC TV, said the short video medium is catching on because of reduced attention spans.
“Let’s face it: the attention span of the ordinary human has reduced drastically due to changing times and most online users now want to get information in the shortest time possible. That’s why top media houses, fashion houses, celebrities and even preachers are jumping into the TikTok trend,” she said.
“TikTok has also become the new filmmakers’ editing suite. It has these features that help you cut the videos, add filters, link a number of videos and rope in beautiful music whose beats go with the edit, all these even without being a professional filmmaker,” added Wanjiku.
The TikTok app has simplified video creation and sharing and taken it to the next level. All users have to do is record anything from their daily routines and post it instantly. Due to the short format, neither the video creation nor the watching process takes much time or effort.
“In fact, you can easily get discovered on TikTok internationally by top music labels because of its reach through the power of sharing and hashtags,” said Wanjiku.
Dance challenges are particularly popular on the platform. These often involve a creator coming up with a dance routine based on a certain song and then challenging their followers to participate. As more and more people jump in on the trend, the challenge eventually takes over the entire platform, resulting in the popularity of not just the choreography but also the song.
In Kisii, TikToker Diana Nyaboke, who uses the handle @bonareriactress, is gyrating her way to fame. She has filmed herself dancing in various locations: by the roadside, in the middle of a road, in busy streets, at the beach, inside her house, at the farm, name it. You don’t get 127,000 followers by just staying static, it seems. And it helps that she has all the curves in the right places.
“You can earn money by going live on TikTok or by posting some videos. A follower can give you a gift and this gift can be converted into money,” she said.
During festive seasons like in December, that is when she says she makes a lot of money. She also goes to clubs and other entertainment joints and attends birthday parties upon invitation to entertain attendees and revellers.
This coming Valentine’s Day, she hopes even much better.
In a week, she can go live on TikTok up to 10 times. In every live stream, she can make between Sh2,000 and Sh5,000.
“TikTok is good. It has helped me grow and become popular. It is also good as compared to Facebook and Instagram because you can easily get money,” Bonareri said.
The Kisii National Polytechnic alumnus says she has confidence in everything that she does. “I work hard and smart. So should most youths do. Whatever you do, do it to the best of your ability. One day the doors will open and you will be in that place where you wanted,” she added.
TikTok describes itself as “the leading destination for short-form mobile video”. According to the latest TikTok stats, the app has been downloaded more than three billion times. As every last young person with a phone strives to outdo the other in creating the most liked video, cameras are bound to capture areas in Kenya that have probably never been filmed before.
Reporting by Elvis Ondieki, George D Mwendwa, Richard Maosi and Wycliffe Nyaberi