Love Matters Awards: the journey to the public vote

The first ‘milestone’ of the Love Matters Awards has now been reached. 15 songs have been recorded on video and uploaded to YouTube where the competition will continue. So how did they get there? Arno Peeters and Iris Honderos explain.

First off it is good for outsiders to consider the amount of work that goes into a project like this before it actually starts. Even we, as artists, are still getting to grips with working with NGOs. These are often big organisations with guidelines, legal departments and an organisational structure that makes decision-making a lengthy process. 

Since our involvement began in July, there have been several meetings (mostly on Skype) and 146 emails going back and forth on budgets, outlines, the TOR (‘Terms of Reference’), FDG’s (‘Focus Group Discussions’) and the comms plan (‘communication strategies’). There’s no good or bad in this, it’s just a type of lingo you have to get used to. Of course, the artistic (or even creative) approach does not always match with the scientific underpinnings of research which means communication is key to arrive as a team at the same finish.

In work like this, when you come to meet the ‘target group’, they are not always aware what master plan you have in mind and what kind of objectives and timelines you abide to. Our music students cannot fully oversee the scope of the whole thing from the get-go and it is our job to get them involved. 

So, back to the Love Awards: The workshop was very successful: the students understood our mission, could make it their own and had written powerful songs. So far so good.

On Saturday and Sunday we would record the clips. But when we arrived at Sauti Academy (which actually is a program run by Penya Africa, a non-profit record label) and the time came to build up our set, we realised that this particular day had been chosen to break down the kitchen on the floor below us, so the noise would make it impossible to get something useful on camera.

We had to shift gears quickly to see what we could do and Shantyel, who is not only a participating student, but also a performance teacher, found an alternative within minutes. We could record at Dynamix Studios, a place used a lot as rehearsal space by the students. More importantly, we could use it for free, which is rare in Nairobi – that’s what friends are for.

The place was indeed quiet and safe, but very dark: imagine a cellar. Luckily the owner had a LED light that we could use for filming. We tried to improve the acoustics somewhat with pillows and a blanket, but the space kept sounding like… well… a cellar. But we managed to use some guerilla tactics involving two small recorders as mics and where possible, catching the vocals with minimal room sound. 

So at roughly midday we could start and went like crazy to get as much on record before it got dark, when things can get shady on the streets of ‘Nairobbery’, as some call it. 

On Monday at the start time of 9.30am, only one-and-a-half acts were there. We had lost the scope of what we had tried to project on them: this is important, be on time, be prepared. We worked until 3pm and only got five recordings done… This too is something you have to cope with to a certain level; show respect for local habits (Kenyans do speak of Kenyan time or Mzungu (white men) time).  But in order to get things done, you first ask, than stimulate and if both fail to produce result, you have to be strict; else things will continue to go astray.

Our next job was to finish the video, put in logos from all partners and upload them to YouTube. But in order to do that we would need the exact titles (our Swahili isn’t up the par) and translations of the lyrics to have subtitles for non-Swahili audience. This too proved a difficult task but, again, Shantyel was a key-person in making sure we had everything by the end of the day.

A day that had started with repairs on the electric system at our place, due to heavy downpour the night before – a power-cut that would last all day. We had to move into a different office to continue working. Again: these things can be nerve wrecking, but you can also try to be very Zen about it. Losing your temper will simply limit people’s will to cooperate with you or cloud your imagination: the one thing you need to stay on the side of creative things.

The Love Matters Awards are now open to the public vote. Watch the videos on YouTube and give your favorite a ‘thumbs up’. The winner will be announced at the live final on 5 December at the Creatives Garage in Nairobi. 

Date published: 

Arno Peeters

Arno Peeters is an international producer and sound artist. He runs Tape TV Productions.

Iris Honderos

Iris Honderdos has global experience producing community-based art on location.