Here at Ngorongoro a phenomenon has gained momentum in the last couple of years. Anyone with a halfway decent singing voice dreams of “cutting” their own music CD. Some few Maasai with outstanding voices have become very popular and their CD’s fly off the shelves of music shops in Arusha and Karatu. One of these is Augustino Laizer. He is a Catholic religion teacher of the Loongido area on the Kenya border. We have one of his CD’s and play it on our Land Cruiser CD player when we go to Maasai encampments for meetings and services with the people. This fellow’s music is very good and we have tried to buy more of the numerous disks that he has published but have so far been unsuccessful. There seems to be a run on any shop that stocks his music. I am wondering if one would have to sleep overnight on the porch of the shop to be first in line in the morning to get a Augustino Laizer CD, as happens in the US with the latest iPhone.
Here at Olbalbal a number of young people have made their own CDs, although none have become very popular among the wider Maasai population. To make a CD is a very expensive proposition and the young people who have produced them are among the wealthier. It costs well over a million shillings to make one, about eight hundred dollars. The vocalist travels to Arusha with his or her accompanying singers and goes to a studio to record the CD. This involves a stay in Arusha town for a number of days. One might ask where the profit lies in such an effort. How many Maasai people have CD players? The answer is almost none. So why make a CD that, except in the case of a really outstanding singer like Augustino Laizer, will never sell more that a few copies?
The unexpected answer is most don’t expect to sell large numbers of their CDs. The expected profits come at the celebration that introduces and announces the CD to the world. I have been very skeptical that the cost of making the CD including travel and lodging in Arusha could be covered by the generosity of the people who attend such a celebration. The feast last week that kicked off the “sales” of the CD of Naseku OleDooki changed my mind. I was astounded at the number of people who attended. Granted we’re in the midst of a serious dry season, but did all those hundreds of people come because of the food? Secondly, I couldn’t believe the amount of gifts that were given to Naseku. She received seven cows, 54 goats and sheep, and the equivalent of $1,000 dollars in gifts. I sat there dumbfounded. How is such a thing possible? Present were the other young people of the Olbalbal area that have “cut” their own CDs. Each one played songs from their disks on the loudspeaker system powered by a small generator. These local artists led songs for most of the afternoon. I’m trying to figure out where all of this is going.
Naseku received enough, together with the few cows that she already has, to make her self-sufficient and comfortable. This success story has been repeated among the other four young people of Olbalbal that have made CDs. A couple of them have done even better than Naseku. Naseku gave me a CD; she will sell them for about $3 apiece. Even if she sells only a few, Naseku has done very well, getting back all that she has spent and much more.