The Rise and Fall of Gengeton Music in Kenya

Gengeton is a Kenyan hiphop subgenre that emerged from Genge, a California-based hiphop label that featured acts like Pilipili and Nonini. Genge popularity spread across all East African countries. When its luminaries quit producing songs, the subgenre disappeared. Kenya’s music landscape, rather than being devoid of talent, was devoid of content at the time. We still had artists like Sauti Sol, but we flocked to Naija for entertainment due to a paucity of Kenyan music. 

The Rise and Fall of Gengeton

Gen Z, on the other hand, has returned to explore, reimagine, and reconstruct Genge, and thus Gengeton was formed. And my goodness, they’ve been pumping out good music at such a breakneck pace that the market has finally reached saturation. Whatever you wanted to listen to, you’d be able to locate it.

When it first started to gain traction in 2019, Gengeton was a huge success. However, due to the quarantine imposed by Government of Kenya in 2020, Gengetone musicians such as Sailors Gang, Boondocks Gang, and the Ochungulo family were unable to perform. Especially because the strictest form of the curfew was in effect for the better part of the year and is still in effect in some form.

Because artists could no longer perform, there was no revenue generated or circulated in the music industry. So what’s the point of pumping out so much music? You’d be better off concentrating on something else to help you pay your debts. As a result, Amapiano, a South African Kwaito offshoot, has become more popular in Kenya.

Dunia ni duara, as they say, and things truly do come full circle. We have seen Genge (and other Kenyan genres) bloom and fall, only to be supplanted by Naija-pop. The advent of Gengeton followed, making it fashionable to show your affinity for Kenyan music. Amapiano’s popularity, on the other hand, is on the rise right now.

We must satisfy Kenyans’ appetite for Kenyan content if we want them to embrace Kenyan culture. And it is here that the Gengeton artists are given the gauntlet. Clearly, there is a demand for the sub-genre, and our best musicians are needed to meet it. Kenyans have welcomed Otile Brown and Sauti Sol, and by remaining constant, they have cornered their market.

by Edwin Turner



Ghafla Kenya

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