TV Review: ‘Famous’ on Showmax Displays the Brilliance and Brutality of Music
‘Famous’ is a 10-part Kenyan musical drama television series created by music video director and filmmaker Enos Olik, for Showmax. It gives a unique and localised look into the intricacies of the music industry in Kenya, centering its development around three artists who are the main characters; Nyota (played by a relatively newcomer Brianna Wanjiku), Magic (Khula Budi, yes THAT Mr. World Kenya) and Nikita (Michelle Tiren).
‘Famous‘ is set in a fictitious Nairobi, where Magic, a bullish and cocky music producer who runs the biggest music label in the city, is in a complicated, some would say toxic, relationship with Nikita, an established artist. Nikita has a new album out that is not performing as well as she had hoped, and there are signs of Magic’s hand in the developments; fatigue with both her talent, and their relationship. What starts off as a timid Nikita, rapidly descends into a feisty and firm star who is hell bent on cementing her worth and splitting up with Magic.
Nyota is a troubled but extremely talented rising star, whose only support system is her best friend (played by Sandra Wambui). From a broken home and a complicated past, Nyota’s hope is using her vocal talent which is also her therapy and her redemption. She is purposed to make it big in an industry that proves to be unforgiving and brutal.
While the series kicks off rather modestly and with a gentle pace, it thereafter quickly calibrates itself into dramatic sequences that thrust the characters into the thick of things. It’s interesting to watch exactly what makes Magic (Khula Budi) the womaniser he is, convinced that he gets all that (and who) he wants. Khula’s physique and demeanor are an excellent choice for this apex predator of a man, who is super confident yet measured in his calculations. Of course he is doing something right, having the reigns at Magic Studios.
Keith Chuaga executes his support role brilliantly, as he balances between the interests of keeping the music studio profitable, and managing the sharp relationship that Magic and Nikita have, all the while dealing with issues at home. His experience is his not-so-secret weapon, as he perfects the art of persuasion and often being the deal maker that gets things going in the show.
Sandra Wambui‘s performance as Nyota’s best friend is also worthy of note. Her character is humorous and knowledgeable, and her execution is flawless. She is Nyota’s ride-or-die, and a self-assured young woman who is always there to support.
This is definitely Sarah Hassan‘s year, with her making an appearance from the third episode of the show, as a charismatic psychiatric doctor and potential love interest, or is it conquest, of Magic. She comes into the throng as a mysterious woman and it will be interesting to see how her character further develops.
Other stars with considerable screen time and convincing performances are Manasseh Nyagah, whose character is a close friend and digital publicist of Nikita, as well as Brahim Ouma, a ruthless lower-tier music producer who has built for himself a nasty reputation of preying on the weak.
With its highs and lows, from the obstacles and past and present experiences of a number of the lead characters, this musical drama series is an emotional rollercoaster that tugs at the heart. It is a great glimpse at the extent to which people would go to gain clout, and what those who have it would do to maintain it. It explores the impact of the choices we make, and what to do when things are out of our control. The young yet gifted cast gives ‘Famous’ a vitality that’s certain to appeal to broad audiences, a testament to the accomplishment of a generation of go-getters.
Enos Olik, through his film company EOP Films, have stylized an excellent backdrop for the show, with music video-esque sets that only serve to embellish the top notch quality of the production. The music on ‘Famous’, some entirely new, other selections rather familiar, has been curated by Musyoka and Decimal Records.
Famous airs Mondays on Shomax Kenya
Khula Budi, Brianna Wanjiku, Michelle Tiren, Keith Chuaga, Manasseh Nyagah, Ciku Shire, Morris Mwangi, Sarah Hassan, Brahim Ouma, and Sandra Wambui