Gospel singers dominate Kenyan film industry

Gospel singers dominate Kenyan film industry July 29, 2006

Reuters has an interesting piece on the Kenyan film industry:

The black sports car maneuvers through the shoppers thronging Nairobi’s River Road and stops. “Ringtone,” a Kenyan gospel singer, steps out and heads into Nduti One Stop Shop to check on sales of his latest music video.

“He’s sold more than 10,000 videos in the last five months. People like watching songs of prayer,” says shop worker Vera Washira, sticking labels and price tags onto stacks of CDs and cheap digital videos known as VCDs.

This bustling street in Kenya’s capital is at the heart of a flourishing low-budget video market, nicknamed Riverwood in a nod to the movie-making heartlands of Bombay and Los Angeles.

It’s a market Kenya’s fledgling film industry wants to conquer. Film makers in the predominantly Christian country see the success of home-grown gospel music videos, by singers like “Ringtone,” as one reason for optimism. . . .

The success of gospel music videos — which have no story line but show stars singing outside their homes or in quiet gardens — has helped foster a taste for home-grown videos, which nonetheless must compete for buyers with of
ferings from Nollywood as well as cheap pirated versions of Hollywood films.

Films and music videos are sold on streets, in markets and in retail stores for just 250 shillings ($3.40) each — meaning returns can be very low for film makers.

It all sounds very reminiscent of the Nigerian film industry, which is apparently the third-largest in the world, and is nicknamed “Nollywood”; I mentioned it here four months ago.

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