For years, the reggae soundtrack has been synonymous to untidy people sitting on slim benches, outside a liquor shop, chewing khat, smoking bhang and occasionally nodding.
However, this music genre has since changed that plush clubs in Nairobi's Westlands, Hurlingham and Ngong Road have reggae nights that are always packed with 'sophisticated' fans.
With the reggae soundtrack now having its moment, event organisers and promoters are cashing in on the new wave. This year alone, international singers have performed in sold-out venues and returned to Kenya to full venues.
The likes of Christopher Martin, Luciano, Etana, Tarrus Riley, Chrionixx, Morgan Heritage and Richie Spice have been to Kenya two to three times.
Backing up this shows and club gigs have been the likes of Black Supremacy Sounds, Dohty Family, Lovers in Dub, MC FullStop, MC Supa Marcus, Simple Simon, MC Jah Watchman, Daddie Konia among others.
The local scene has also seen the rise of reggae singers and bands from the late Mighty King Kong, Dynamq, Ousmane, Empress Kare, Gravitti Band, Zestic Band, Chief and the Marshalls and the most promising singer Lavosti. However, most of these artistes have not had an opportunity to share the stage with the international singers.
“We cannot pull such crowds because we are not known. However, we are looking for new opportunities for ourselves and experimenting with different sounds. Slowly, we are being accepted by Kenyans,” says Kare.
Another factor that has contributed to the rise of reggae is the DJs. For instance, “Reggae in the Sun” an event founded by John Ezekiel (JohnieBeGood), providing a platform to showcase reggae DJs.
“The future is bright for reggae as we have more artistes coming up. Reggae performances have become more peaceful therefore easier to sell to corporate sponsors and a newer mature audience,’’ Caroline Wangare (Empress Kare) said.
Dennis Situma of Jamdown Shafflas says there are more artistes who have not yet had a chance to share their talent as focus remains on international and well-established musicians.
For reggae fans, their ultimate music lover bucket list differs. James Munyua says he hopes to attend a concert with Beres Hammond and CocoaTea on the same stage.
Rasta Ras wants to attend a two to three-day festival with the likes of Buju Banton, Marley brothers, Sean Paul, Shaggy, Sizzla Kalonji and Fantan Mojah.
“I would love to see a mixture of old and new artistes such as Koffe, Kabaka Pyramid, Lavosti, Michael Bundi, Kevin Brown and adding Burning Spear to the list,” Situma says.