Activism or just an act? Why Eric Omondi is feuding with musicians

Eric Omondi

Comedian Eric Omondi.

Photo credit: File

Comedian Eric Omondi has escalated his beef with Kenyan artistes, saying that on Tuesday next week he will lead a demonstration to Parliament on their behalf.

The controversial funnyman says his plan is to push young MPs Charles Njagua (Jaguar), a former musician, former comedian John Kiarie, Babu Owino, and former journalist Mohamed Ali to draft a bill that would force local media outlets to devote 75 percent of their airplay to Kenyan content. 

The bill would also compel promoters to pay local acts the same amount of money as foreigners for their performances.

This comes as the controversial comedian is embroiled in online feuds with several musicians after he suggested that the Kenyan music industry ‘is dead’ because local artistes have become complacent.

His comments attracted the ire of some artistes, including Bien of Sauti Sol.

Singer Bien Aime Baraza of Sauti Sol

Singer Bien Aime Baraza of Sauti Sol. 

Photo credit: File

“Why are they irked if my sentiments are not true? Why does Bien (Aime) appear so hurt? I saw (Kevin) Bahati attacking me, someone I have helped before. This is not about comedy but the Kenyan entertainment scene as a whole,” Omondi told the Nation.
 
“On Tuesday, we will march to Parliament to push for a bill that will see Kenyan musicians get enough airplay. We also want the bill to ensure promoters pay Kenyan artistes the same amount of money as these foreign artistes.” 

He referred to American performer Chris Brown’s performance in Lagos in 2012, saying his contract “stipulated that he had to bring (Nigerian singer) Wizkid on his set and perform together”.

“Wizkid was little known then but look at him now, the likes of Beyonce and Justin Bieber are all fighting to work with the guy. It was the same case with Mary J. Blige. Her contract when performing in Nigeria was pegged on bringing Tiwa Savage onto the stage with her. Look at her now,” he said.

But why is he doing this?

“If I were to call Bien we would protest for the good of the industry, (but) he won’t show up because he is a superstar. Khaligraph (Jones) the same, because they both got an ego and an image, so they think,” Omondi said. 

“Bahati is just full of himself. But think of the other musicians who aren’t as established as these are. So many approach me to help them out. I am doing these for the few who have seen sense in what I am saying.”

Omondi says his war with the Kenyan music industry was triggered by the number of foreign artistes visiting Kenya for performances while Kenya performers do not get similar gigs.

“In case you haven't noticed, Popcaan is coming to Kenya, Konshens, Shenseea are on their way, Adekunle Gold is already here, Omah Lay came last week and after performing, he is now holed up in Mombasa enjoying life,” he said. 

“Last weekend, a South African amapiano gig was a craze in Nanyuki. There was also South African DJ Black Coffee, who had a mega show in Nairobi last weekend. But where are the Kenyan shows in all these?”

On Monday Bien-Aime (of Sauti Sol) issued a dressing-down to Kenyan comedians, directing his fury specifically at Omondi, and asked them to stick to their lanes and stop attacking musicians.

“Eric and Jalas (Jalang’o) should let us be. They don’t understand what it takes to be a musician or how it feels to be one in a time of a pandemic,” he said. 

“Our work is not as easy as posting jokes on Instagram. Eric Omondi is not building an enterprise in music. He started a record label and it died. As an enterprise, which artist has Eric built? The industry is not in the trenches, it's in transition.”
But Omondi hit back, insisting Bien is hurt by the truth.

“He can call it clout chasing, which by the way to me is business. But what of the issues I’m raising, are they not true?” Omondi said. “Kenyan artistes are not just aggressive enough. They sit and wait for promoters to call them instead of making things happen. Or they are okay with the Sh30,000 they are paid at clubs for appearances. They have to rise up and fight for their space.” 

The saga started last week, when Omondi, whose comedy has transitioned to publicity stunts - something he acknowledges, arguing that ‘normal is boring’ - lamented on social media that Kenyan artistes had become lazy and complacent. 

That provoked fury from some musicians. Female rapper Femi One was the first to take a swipe at the comedian and the two had an ugly spat.

Legendary rapper Jua Cali also aired his distaste at Omondi’s comments, asking the comedian to have respect and decorum for fellow artistes.

Rapper Jones, a close friend of Omondi’s, also took a dig at him, attaching a video clip where he is seen performing his track “Kwenda” to a mammoth crowd.

Music producer and artiste Savara Mudigi (of Sauti Sol) also bashed Omondi, saying the comedian did not deserve the attention because he always does everything so he can trend on social media.

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