How do you listen to music? Radio? YouTube? Illegal downloads? How? SoundCloud? Spotify? Apple Music? Or are you the type who only listens to music when there’s someone out there playing it loud?
I love music. And funny enough, or maybe this is perfectly normal, I listen to – and deeply love – very many different genres of music.
I rarely listen to Radio. I am mostly on YouTube. For most part of the past 4 years, as long as I have an internet connection, I’ll be on YouTube. Listening to music mostly, as there are YouTubers with very nice informative channels. But YouTube has its limitations. Like: I have to constantly be on the app… I can’t switch my phone/tab screen off… can’t listen to audio only etc.
One thing I totally don’t like about YouTube is not being able to multitask when listening. And screen has to be on.
— Dickson Otieno (@DicksonOtieno) February 10, 2016
Two years ago, I started enjoying certain Podcasts. Then I discovered I could listen to many different Podcasts and radio channels from an App called TuneIn Radio. And it was this discovery that made me realise that audio streaming is not as I thought it’d be: expensive, unimpressive quality, always buffering etc. Instead, I came to realise, streaming audio doesn’t take up a lot of MBs and doesn’t necessarily require very high speed internet. I can properly stream podcasts at 256kbps.
This post is about Mziiki. So let me focus on Mziiki from now on.
I discovered Mziiki on YouTube. Most East African artistes are now signed with Mziiki and you can see the logo when streaming their videos from YouTube. There’s a Mziiki YouTube channel where you can find music from very many artistes – audio or video. Well, it is still a mess finding several of the same video from different YouTube channels but this initiative by Mziiki is nevertheless exciting and highly welcome.
When I was in Tanzania, I saw very many Mziiki adverts telling people to download the app, get free song downloads, listen to free music and ‘furahia bongo music’. Well it is a fact Internet is waaaaaay cheaper in Tanzania compared to Kenya, and that’s why, I believe, Mziiki is such a success in Tanzania. So I downloaded the App then, around March last year, and rated it 3 stars on Play Store, having found it very disorganised.
They have made several strides since then and that’s why I want to talk about the app.
Mziiki is a free music streaming service. All you need to do is go to the App (or the site) and start listening to music from the Artistes whose music they have. There have very many artistes who are mostly from East Africa. And you can find not only very recent music, but also the classics that we might have forgotten about that can’t be traced anywhere else online.
Being a free platform you expect to find adverts. But you can rid yourself of these ads by going premium. The cheapest premium option is Ksh. 20 per day which you can pay via MPesa, PesaPal, Airtel Money, VISA etc. When you first pay, you get 7 days free. And each day there’s one free song download. When streaming music, you can save the songs offline so as to listen later on without a connection. Listening offline is different from downloading. When you want to download songs (except for the 1 free download per day), you pay Ksh. 30 per song.
What is so GOOD about Mziiki?
The fact that I can get to listen to almost all East African artistes legally and for free is the best thing about Mziiki. There are many other artistes from other countries in Africa and there’s the promise for other famous musicians across the world.
I like it that I can now access whole albums from artists. I can see the songs they released before fame, I can see classic albums, I can discover new songs…
Audio quality is now good. When I first downloaded the app, the audio quality was bad and that’s why I rated it 3 stars. My rating right now is 4 stars. Most people rate it 5 stars.
The other good thing, and this is very important, is that this venture ensures artistes earn from their work. The major problem we’ve seen in recent times is that musicians don’t get to make money from their music. Pirated music has been selling more than original music. This is a step in the right direction. It is a fact that very few (Kenyans) buy legal music. Very few own original music collections and very few are bothered to realise that having illegal copies hurt the artistes they so love.
Mziiki is an answer to piracy and, as I have been saying on Twitter, the future of music in Africa.
Note: Yes you can also stream Mziiki at 256kbps
There are a couple of issues I still don’t like that need addressing:
- Categorising & Arrangement: Proper arrangement of songs according to genre, country, album etc is still a big challenge. Formating before uploading songs is key and it is irritating finding song titles in toggle case letters like for example “diaMond PlatnumZ – utaniPenda”
- Quality of Album Art and Artist Pictures: It is very annoying that the artist photos, song covers and album art used are very low quality.
- Tablet Mode: There’s no tablet mode. Nope. If you have a tablet you’ll be very frustrated. I hope they can re-make the app with some little material design and allow tablet orientation.
- Advertising: I have no problem with there being ads. I killed the ads by going premium. But the ads need to be clever. Ads shouldn’t tell me about Mziiki when I am already listening to Mziiki. Makes no sense. Advertise about something else. The top ad banner is okay as the ads are about other things. But the audio advert (that annoyingly goes after every three songs), should be looked into.
- Changing Players: You’ll have to pause Mziiki so as to play audio on another app. It doesn’t work automatically.
— Tech-ish.com (@TechishKenya) February 9, 2016
Why I wrote this:
I love music and I want people to discover and enjoy the diverseness, culture, beauty, rhythm, passionate creativity etc. that is in African music.
I also want people to listen to African music in a way that is legal and proper. A way that promotes the creative minds behind the music. A way that makes the people who give us these songs earn proper living.
I am against illegal music. And I believe this is a good step.
You will agree with me that African music, whatever genre it be, is on another level compared to music from other parts of the world. I have a collection on Google Plus where I infrequently share music from African artistes. The collection now has about 19,000 followers and is all in a bid to promote African artistes. That explains why I so wanted to write about Mziiki. Tell me what you think about the app and the venture in general.