10 artistes making a quiet return after failed stints in Diaspora


Kenyan artistesYou have seen the images — Kenyan entertainers returning from their sojourn in foreign lands looking shattered, their dreams of a better life having been dealt a crippling reality check.

While their sendoff was marked with fanfare and partying, their return is only celebrated by family members and close friends.

They left at the height of their careers, but now hardly anyone recognises them. They had seen their names in lights and wanted a bigger stage, probably inspired by the likes of Akon and other celebrities of African descent who found fame in the most hyped market in the world.

For ages now music has proved to be a hard nut to crack for many new artistes. Making a mark in the now crowded local industry has never been, but as it turns out, not only new artistes get it rough trying to cut through but also big names in the game too.

In Kenya alone we have a bunch of such artistes who rocked at some point but are now nowhere to be seen or heard no matter how hard the try.

Pioneer Kenyan rapper cum raga singer Hardstone’s song ‘Uhiki’ had just become a major hit in the country in the late 90s when he packed his bags and left for the US. Famous pop group Swahili Nation joined Hardstone in the “land of the free, home of the brave” around the same time, leaving behind their runaway hit song ‘Hakuna Matata’.

Gospel group Milele, who had a high-riding song then ‘Sanjolama’, among others, as well as all-girl gospel group Sita, famous for their song ‘Knees and Toes’, also left for USA.

And they kept on leaving. Ndarlin P of the ‘4 in 1’ song fame went to Australia never to be heard of again as was the case with gospel mega singer Henrie Mutuku, who went to the UK.

These are just some of the Kenyan musicians who took part in the mass exodus to the diaspora. And a lot more showbiz stakeholders moved, too, including fashion designers, DJs and event organisers.

It seems that not many succeed abroad, at least musically. And then when they get back, they have challenges trying to re-establish their brands as the industry churns out new styles and talents every month. Undoubtedly, when they are in the diaspora, they lose touch with Kenyan music, or at least what music fans want to listen to.

But the question remains, what happens to our entertainers abroad Why do they disappear into thin air when they leave the country, and kill the huge brands they have worked so hard to create

A good case study is former Ogopa DJs-signed artistes Longombas and all-boy gospel group Gospel Fathers. By the time they were leaving for the US eight years ago, they were household names and their songs topped local charts.

In fact, the last member of Gospel Fathers to leave Kenya, Kerra, did a song with Daddy Owen and Alan Aaron, ‘Kiriro’, which was a major hit. The Longombas, on the other hand, left their fans high and dry with their song ‘Vuta Pumz’, and are yet to have a hit that will rival it.

According to US-based Kenyan film-maker Benji ‘Bendrix’ Onyango, the Longombas are working in his music studio, which he had built for his daughter Idah Onyango, also a musician.

“Lovi of the Longombas married my daughter and they are working in my studio now. At least they are working hard to get back into the music scene in a major way,” says Benji.

But it seems it will take a long time for the Longombas to really bounce back, judging by the songs they are currently releasing.

Former Kleptomaniax member Nyashinski who was probably the best rapper Kenya had also left for the US many years ago and is yet to prove his comeback.


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