Celebrities in East Africa face uncertain future

By Andrew Wasike

NAIROBI, Kenya (AA) – At a time when the global economy is entering a stage of unparalleled ambiguity and coronavirus is forcing social distancing, lights have faded on the entertainment industry in East Africa like all over the world.

Celebrities in the region, which includes 20 nations, have been grounded, with all new video and music releases have been paused.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, many celebrities said they have been hit hard by the pandemic, which has led to the cancellation of their new releases and suspended their shows and tours. Some of the big events have been pushed back to 2021.

Kenya-based African popular music band Sauti Sol has been forced to cancel its tours.

Voted numerous times the best boy band in Africa and winning top music awards including one from MTV Europe, the group was supposed to release its sixth studio album Midnight Train, shot in various parts of the world including South Africa and the U.S. featuring input from top producers such as Andre Harris.

Bien-Aime Baraza, the group’s lead vocalist, told Anadolu Agency that he was using his time to play new instruments.

“I play the piano four hours a day. I also play the guitar four hours a day,” he said.

“I’m rededicating this time to my craft. I advise other young musicians to also use this time to grow because the world is never going to give us a chance to go slow and improve and freeze everything around us.”

“We have had to reschedule the releases of our songs. The coronavirus has made us reevaluate our business and take the online space more seriously,” he added.

– Canceled shows

Baraza said that their London show had been sold out and their tour of the U.S. and European countries has also been put on hold.

“Around 26 shows have been canceled. We lost one of our biggest sources of revenue,” he explained.

“My life has changed completely, we had plans … We signed a deal with Universal Music last year. We recorded an entire album and this was the year of the rollout. We released one called Suzzana, and we were set to release more singles.”

Sallam Sharaff – the manager of Tanzanian actor/dancer Naseeb Abdul Juma Issack, popularly known as Diamond Platnumz – tested positive for the virus during a tour of Paris. He went into self-isolation and soon returned to Tanzania.

“I felt it while we were on our way back,” he remembered. “I told people to stay away from me. We were around 10 people. At home my fever went up, my feet started hurting. I had joint and back pains.

The ambulance came and got me from my house and the hospital confirmed I was positive.”

Salaam’s company WCB Wasafi, under the chairmanship of Diamond Platnumz, has more than 30 employees including top musicians of Tanzania.

“Most of the artists, the DJs, promoters…all the people depending on the entertainment industry depend on shows, none of them can do anything. I’m so sorry for the people in the entertainment industry who have been affected, “he added.

-Raise awareness

Salaam, who is still under treatment, said another Tanzanian star Mwana FA or Khamis Mwinjuma, who tested positive for the virus, kept him company in the hospital.

“I’ve now tested negative twice. We have to be careful and pray to Allah, people need to follow the guidelines and do everything to boost their immune systems, “he said.

He urged African celebrities to release theme songs to create awareness and help stop the virus’ spread.

Kenyan celebrity Juliani, whose real name is Julius Owino, told Anadolu Agency that his album releases and tours have also been canceled.

“Things are uncertain everywhere though I’ve been able to look at it positively, as a celebrity,” he said. “I’m training young people to be response teams in their communities and to collect data on the vulnerable who need help.”