As the lights dim out on The Presenter show that styled itself as being in the quest of “Kenya’s Next Television Presenter”, another edition of what is marketed as Africa’s Biggest Reality Talent shows ‘Tusker Project Fame (TPF)’ is in the offing. Kenya plays host to many television shows. Irrespective of the hard economic times which have seen many Kenyans starve, the talent shows go on thus leaving many wondering whether they are worth all the money pumped into them. BETHSHEBA ACHITSA writes.
None of the previous or current Reality TV programmes on air both in Kenya and in other African countries has an inclusive nature that truly celebrates the true essence of humanity, gets across all ages, genders, social classes, and ethnic barriers to create strong bonds, followership in society. Most talent shows, which are based in cities, tend to concentrate on sports, art and fashion. This means that only children from well to do families get to participate.
A closer look at the winners of the first and second editions of the Tusker Project Fame and the other shows raises the question of the aptitude of the winners of local TV reality shows. Started in 2006 and sponsored by The East African Breweries, the TPF show has to this day seen Valerie Kimani of Kenya walk away with a car, while Esther Nabaasa Mugizi of Uganda took away Sh5 million (about US$62,500), among other goodies. Nearly a year after her exodus from the academy, Esther is yet to release a single.
When she came to Kenya in early February 2009 from South Africa, where Gallo Records is putting the finishing touches on her debut album, Rock in a Country Soul, she said her album will be officially released in April 2009. Whether East Africa will acclaim that TPF is doing great depends on how well her album will be received by many who have been longing to hear her mellifluous voice once again.
Although Valerie Kimani is said to be still singing, it is evident that she has not gained root in any East African country. The singer, who has an album dubbed Baiskeli, has failed to impress and convince many that Tusker Project Fame has a good sense of creativity.
Talking about what happens to winners of most reality shows, Tshaka Mayanja “Mugizi’s producer who also served as a judge during TPF2” admits talent is a big problem when it comes to talent shows and that most participants are a let-down. He says most reality TV music stars disappear into abysmal anonymity because all they want is 15 minutes of fame without intending to make it as musicians.
While this may seem to be true it is also agreeable that some of the talent shows fly off tangent as they revolve around comedy and other factors that make the show “nice” instead of the intended purpose. People who are supposed to positively influence the lives of the participants as they undergo the training appear to be ignorant of their duties or are not aware of what they ought to be doing. At the end the awards are given not because one has proven that they are worth but because the awards are there to be won. By someone. Anyone.
As participants leave the academy the sponsors rarely make any follow up to know what they are doing and thus some may leave the show and start scouting for other similar events in the name of enhancing their talent.
Africa, particularly Kenya, has rich cultural values which, if identified and harnessed, would be brought 0out well in the winners of talent shows. But this goes unnoticed because we as Kenyans would want to either ape the cultures of other people or deem our own as outdated.
Organisers of these shows need to ask themselves why Western TV shows like Wife Swap, Survivor and Fear Factor seem to create a difference in the societies they are based in and attracting many of the audiences who ought to be talking about how their own local shows have impacted their lives. Is it because the above mentioned shows are of a foreign concept and Kenyans love foreign concepts that’s why they keep on watching them?
Even as we grieve over our own local shows for having failed us, the world is about to embrace African talent from 52 African countries through a reality TV talent show set in Kenya in April 2009. Africa’s World Best (AWB)(as the show is called)is the first of its kind to bring together 60 Africans from all parts of the world into one house to compete for one title with the biggest prize in the history of African TV to be won. So we are told.
The event, which will be hosted by the first ever Big Brother Africa winner, Cherise Makubale from Zambia and Gaetano Kagwa from Uganda who has worked in similar capacity on TPF, will involve talents such as singing, acting, performing arts, Comedy, poetry, script writing, dressmaking, jewellery making, sculpting, dancing and other unique talents.
Having been officially launched at the high Commission of Kenya in London on February 6, 2009, organizers of AWB say it will launch it in Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa and Libya. But how different will AWB be from previous shows whose credibility is still in doubt? Just where will they get multi-talented judges to identify, assess and reward talent? Organisers of AWB say they are ready to accommodate participants of ALL ages and not just the youth. Is this realistic?
For a show of the magnitude AWB organisers say their show will be calls for enormous resources and time is of the essence here. How come, then, that not much time appears to be devoted to this venture? Auditions, we are told, will go on throughout Africa in March and April with the main TV show going live on air on Friday, April 24, 2009.
During the London launch AWB founder, Pauline Long, said that there is need to recognise African talent worldwide, develop new talent and reward the existing talent. That is good. If it can be realised.
Kenya’s rising hip-hop star Kizzy is set to present the extra show on AWB called “The Spin”. This show will bring the audience exclusive behind the scenes news, gossip and interviews with contestants, judges and other celebrities in the reality TV show, according to AWB.
Other than the talent show, organisers say they intend to give back to Africa by establishing sustainable youth projects through non-profit entrepreneurial foundation called “AWB Together”. This foundation will encourage social enterprise through partnering with various organisations. The foundation will assist youth entrepreneurs and establish creational and educational centres for children and youth of Africa. And I think it is here that one starts to wonder if AWB know what they are saying: How do you involve people of all ages in a show and then start talking about setting up foundations for children and youth and not the elderly, women or men? Is AWB mentioning “youth” and “children” as a marketing gimmick?
After 60 days, a participant will win US$100,000 and a brand new car whose make the organisers keep to themselves. That winner will also receive an opportunity to perform at African Union conference in front of all African Heads of State and dignitaries such as Nelson Mandela and Wole Soyinka besides taking trips to Europe and America to promote Africa in a “positive way” as part of the winner’s role as Africa’s World Best and the Ambassador for AWB’s Humanitarian and Educational projects in Africa.
Here, the deal seems to be too good to be true, but what one wonders is how the judges will be able to handle the diverse events, which the participants will be involved in. As we wait for the big day, we can only hope that this will be quite a different experience from the other bizarre circuses that we have witnessed on our local TV channels.