Makadem making a mark
Some remember him for the hit, Obama Be Thy Name, released during the 2008 American presidential elections.
But as far as Charles “Makadem” Adamson, is concerned, he would like to be identified by the music he composed before and after the release of this popular track, which went on to be played by some major international media outlets like CNN.
For instance, he is set to release his new album, Koko–rio (rooster) in December, a project that he says will be a true reflection of his previous work.
Makadem says the album, which comprises 10 hits, is a gift to his fans as he has not deviated from his usual afro-fusion flavour.
He insists that coverage of Obama Be Thy Name didn’t catapult him to stardom.
“In fact, most of the responses that came after the release were negative. But I have to admit that somehow, I owe my countless performance invitations to the coverage I received afterwards,” he explains.
It is these extensive tours in Africa and Europe that have seen him perform in some of the most prestigious festivals like the 2012 Cannes Film Festival in France, as well as meet and share stages with some of the biggest names in music like Gregory Isaacs, Glen Washington and Baaba Maal, to name a few.
But on the other hand, Makadem’s music hasn’t been short of controversy, with some music critics branding him arrogant, perhaps one of the reasons he claims his music hasn’t been receiving the courage it deserves.
Q: Tell us more about your new album?
A: The album titled Koko–rio (rooster in Luo) has 10 songs, for example, Nipe Denda Moja, Koko-rio and Sawa Sawa, to name a few. Most of the albums are recorded in Denmark. Also, I have featured some international artistes, with plans already underway for its release in December.
Q: Your songs are good but they rarely get played, at least according to you. Why do you think this is so?
B: Pushing music is another hustle that needs it’s own life and I am working on that. Music isn’t played, it’s made to be played either by pushing very hard and even buying your way to air play. That’s what we call the music business.
Q: You are one of the few Kenyan artistes who have had a chance to perform internationally.Do you think Kenyan music has been embraced abroad?
A: I have had the chance to visit Uganda, Zanzibar, the US, Denmark and Djibouti, among others, and to tell you the truth, Kenyan music is nowhere to be seen. I don’t think Kenyan music has reached a level where it can be accepted in the international market.
Whenever Kenyan musicians are invited to international concerts, they usually perform as underdogs, a fact that is never highlighted in the media. Honestly, we haven’t reached the level of African greats like Baaba Maal, Salif Keita or Oliver Mtukudzi.
Q: So how do you rate Kenyan music?
A: We have a pool of great sound totally unused and that’s what we are working on, but so far what we have is great for local consumption.
Q: What do you think is ailing the Kenyan music industry?
A: The Kenyan mentality of thinking music is just business.
It takes time to make good music and make money out of it but quick music commercialised cannot last. Music is an art first, and this is the secret for international music as well.
The problem is that we have a non-loyal fan base that is not so proud of it is roots and culture. We have been divided into tribal traditional pop music as in the Luo benga, Kamba benga, Kikuyu (mugithi) benga, etc.
Q: Most of your songs are recorded in Denmark. Does it mean that there are no quality recording studios or producers here in Kenya?
A: In Denmark, there are international studios but that doesn’t mean Nairobi has no quality production companies. What I am doing is just business; those are my networks, that’s all.
Q: There has been an increase in the number of artistes venturing into ohangla music. As a traditional musician yourself, do you think they are tying to go back to their roots or is it just a means of making quick money?
A: It’s important to have a unique sound in music and not one like any other out there, and the only way is using traditional Kenyan rhythm and sounds while incorporating international sound. But remember, music is not about the language you use; it is the style and arrangement that count.