It comes as no surprise that when Showmax released the latest ratings of its most-watched shows in Kenya, Swahili telenovela Selina and comedy-drama series Ma’Empress made the list. But it’s still a feat worth celebrating, especially for the film/TV industry in Kenya which has made even bigger strides in the last few years.
Clearly the myth that Kenyans don’t watch local content has been busted, and Philip Karanja, Ma’Empress co-producer, couldn’t agree more.
“Kenyans will always want to watch what is Kenyan. I think the narrative that Kenyans only love watching international shows is a lie because the conversation on the ground is very different. It’s actually we producers who are not keeping up with the amount of content that Kenyans want. And in terms of quality, the only way to get to international standards is by being on the ground every day working and practising,” Phil says.
His sentiments are echoed by Selina producer and director Reuben Odanga, “The feedback we get from shows like Selina tells you that many people are watching so that assumption is not necessarily true. Kenyans are appreciating local content, which is very good and important for this industry.”
One of Odanga’s best works yet, Selina’s popularity is undeniable. It’s the first local show (that’s not a reality show) that has been passionately and immensely talked about on social media, with each passing episode. And by the looks of it, is not about to dial down on the drama and plot twists even after the whole Rosette (Brenda Wairimu) roller coaster. If you’ve been keeping up with the show, then you know that Nelson’s mother and sister may not be the angels they appear to be. But if Nelson and Selina survived Rosette, then these two lovebirds can survive anything.
“To be among the most-watched shows in Kenya means we are doing something right and it gives us a sense of direction to what more needs to be done. A word to local filmmakers out there: Let’s keep raising the bar!” Odanga says.
Selina, which follows the tortuous romance between Selina (Celestine Gachuhi) and Nelson (Pascal Tokodi), has unleashed an appetite for local soap operas, once only reserved for Mexican and Filipino telenovelas.
Ma’Empress, on the other hand, mirrors the struggles faced by women in the society we live in today, using humour and drama, and Phil couldn’t be happier with the results. “It’s great that Kenyans see the vision that we had for the show. Ma’Empress is a show about women dealing with women issues, as real as the subject can be.”
On his part, Richard Boorman, Head of Communications at Showmax, has affirmed their commitment to acquiring only the best content that the audience will love and relate to.
“Showmax works with almost all major studios globally to source first-class TV shows and movies, but two things give us a particular edge over other services. The first is live streaming international football and other sport, and the second crucial differentiator is local content. People want to hear their own stories told by those who understand them best and that’s why we’re excited to have so much award-winning local content on Showmax,” Boorman says.
Also on the list is another local show, Njoro wa Uba, (featuring Joe Kinyua); international titles like Ambitions, Modern Family, Grey’s Anatomy, Power, and Grown-ish; and South African telenovelas The Queen and The River.