President Barrack was sworn in for his second term the other day. Hours later, the internet was flooded with news that Beyonce lip synced her performance of the Star Spangled banner. Truth be told, I didn’t know it was lip synced till the news broke. As usual, social media played a huge role in this story with people weighing in from all over. Some said it was scandalous, others applauded it, and the rest could care less.

So this whole Beyonce lip sync story got me thinking about artists using playbacks and singing live. Picture this; you pay 5,000 for a concert, and you spend all night pushing people out of your way and maybe being rained on. When you finally get home hours later, you are dissatisfied and you feel cheated because the artist you paid so much to see used playback instead of a live band all night.

Personally I am against use of playbacks at concerts. I like having an artist entertain me with a band. He can switch up the tempo of a song for fun and he can change the words to suit the situation he is in. It does not limit him to stick to the words and the beats as recorded in studio. I also like hearing all the instruments on their own and together, seeing how different pieces come together to make that one beat that I love. I don’t mind having you sing to the beats, but you miming the words and a record is played in the background just does not sit right with me.

I am not a musician so I can’t explain why they use playback. Many excuses are made for it: the weather would have messed with my voice, I didn’t get time to rehearse with the band beforehand, or I have a cold.

Using playback makes an artist look lazy. Makes it seem like zero effort went into preparing for the event simply because they pick a CD they recorded months ago and use it on stage. There is also the fact that the playback system can fail at times. And the artist is left standing on stage not knowing what to do. They have no band and the system is off, no beats to sing to. So they scream and make you put your hands in the air and hope it comes back on soon. How about the artist who forgets they are on playback and starts screaming loudly into the microphone and they are a few seconds ahead or behind of the playback track. Makes it look sloppy.

Of late, Kenyan revelers seem to be joining the bandwagon for live performances. You watch a concert and the artist who used playback has little or no response from the audience. Another steps on stage with his band and the crowd goes wild. Artists who used to lip sync at concerts have now learnt how to sing live and are embracing it. They seem to be putting in more effort to entertain people with a live band backing them on stage.

I’m not saying playback is a bad thing. Everyone has their style and maybe even their reasons for picking it. Maybe you’re more comfortable having the songs lay and you sing over them. Maybe you have too many songs to perform and can’t do it live all night. Some people say it’s hard to do some genre of music live. I don’t know how true this is, but an effort to do a live performance would go a long way with the audience.  Live band performances are slowly taking over the concerts in Kenya and it’s time all musicians adapt to it.

With concerts coming up where a setup is made to have a live band back an artist I have to ask: Is Kenya  finally at the stage where we say goodbye to artists using playback music to entertain us?