The Kenya Cultural Center. Role of collective rights management IN theater

By George Robert Asewe Dj Probert Founder & CEO

Acknowledgements to @CultureCentreKE @CISACNews @IFPI_org @AngelaNdambuki @kampkenya @JaphethKassanga @luodollar @leumasabetum @ABBA @YvonneChakaX2 @OfficialAliKiba @KerMogallo @EUinKenya

Some things are guaranteed in life but turning 70 isn’t one of them.  I think anyone who turns 70 years old has God’s favor and grace in their life. It’s hard to focus on what to say in a card for a 70th birthday. Do you focus on the fact that the person is getting old, or do you wish them another 70 years of bliss?

The Kenya Cultural Center is turning 70 years old in November 2022. We believe that every Kenyan should be excited and support this important cultural institution that has stood the test of time. Despite several limitations over the years, it is transforming itself into the kind of cultural institution many creative industry stakeholders wish for.  

Vintage Photograph of The East Africa Cultural Center. Copyright Property of The Kenya National Cultural Centre

At 70, the public institution seems to be determined to turn a new leaf. A lot of exciting stuff is happening at the center. We recently wrote about a playwright call here. We would like to magnify the opportunities they are creating for creative communities, artists & professionals. In this piece, we explore the history of this great institution.

This is part two of a 4-part series on unpacking the Kenya Cultural Center incorporating The Kenya National Theater. In Part 3 we will explore the Centre in the 1980s & finally in part 4 we explore the Programs currently being run by Cultural Center. In the third part, we discuss the great creative opportunity for Kenyan theater professionals.

Brief background about The Kenya National Cultural Centre

Kenya Cultural Centre incorporating Kenya National Theatre (KCC-NT) is a Government Agency established by the Kenya Cultural Centre Act. It is mandated to provide a Centre for the use and enjoyment of the citizens of Kenya.

It is mandated to provide for the performance of music, drama, and dancing, for the exhibition of works of art and craft, and the holding of meetings for discussion of matters of literary, historical, scientific, or educational interest or importance, and connected purposes as may be approved by the Governing Council.

KCC-NT is Kenya’s oldest state cultural institution and is currently administered under the patronage of The Ministry of Sports, Culture, and Heritage.

The Kenya Cultural Centre has a great history of promoting and conserving art and culture running back to 1952. Over the years, it has hosted hundreds of artistic and cultural events making it the premier location for championing culture and heritage in the region.

Relationship Between Collective Management Organizations & Theater

According to CISAC University in their Article Role of a CMO, CISAC asserts that Collective management of authors’ rights/copyright serves two primary purposes.

Firstly, it enables copyright owners to administer certain of their rights effectively and cheaply to obtain a fair return for their work.

Secondly, it provides a service to rights users by facilitating ready access to and licensing of copyright works, easily and cost-effectively.


CISAC – the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers – is the world’s leading network of authors’ societies.

Founded in 1926, CISAC is a non-governmental, not-for-profit organization with headquarters in France and regional offices in Africa, South America (Chile), Asia-Pacific (China), and Europe (Hungary).

CISAC protects the rights and promotes the interests of creators worldwide. They enable collective management organizations to seamlessly represent creators across the globe and ensure that royalties flow to authors for the use of their works anywhere in the world.

CISAC represents more than 4 million creators from all geographic areas and all artistic repertoires: music, audiovisual, drama, literature, and visual arts.

As at the date of this publication in July 2022, CISAC is presided over by Swedish songwriter, musician, singer, guitarist, producer and a member of the Swedish musical group ABBA Björn Ulvaeus.

Swedish songwriter, musician, singer, guitarist, producer and a member of the Swedish musical group ABBA Björn Ulvaeus. Photo by Frankie Fouganthin during the opening of ABBA: The Museum May 6, 2013.

The other four Vice Presidents are South African singer, songwriter, actress, entrepreneur, humanitarian, and teacher Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Mexican composer and director Arturo Márquez, Chinese director, writer, and producer Jia Zhang-Ke, and International Neo-Expressionist visual artist Miquel Barceló.

Yvonne_Chaka_Chaka_and_Ali_Kiba Photo by Kevin Mogallo February 23, 2017

Today, CISAC’s membership extends to 228 authors’ societies in 119 countries, spread over all geographic regions and artistic repertoires including music, audio-visual, drama, literature, and visual arts.

Being a CISAC member offers multiple benefits to authors’ societies. It allows them to participate in CISAC committees, global policy and legal affairs activities, and seminars and training events organized by CISAC and its partner organizations.

CISAC membership also provides access to the Common Information System (CIS) Tools, and representation in CISAC’s creator’s councils. It allows involvement in CISAC’s governance through nomination and election to the CISAC Board of Directors, as well as participation and voting at the annual CISAC General Assembly. It also gives opportunities to obtain financial support, legal advice, and technical assistance if needed.

Admission as a CISAC member is a hallmark of trust and confidence in society. By joining CISAC, a society signals to its counterparts across the world that it is committed to meeting the governance standards and rules voluntarily adopted by the CISAC community.

From Left Former KAMP Chairman Japheth Kasanga, Vicmass Luodollar , Samuel Sanwa CISAC Africa Regional Director & Angela Ndambuki. Angela iis the Regional Director of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry for Sub-Saharan Africa, effective 1 July 2020. She is responsible for 46 countries, based in Nairobi. Copyright Property of Kenya Association of Music Producers Facebook 2019.

Sangwa is CISAC’s Regional Director for Africa, responsible for coordinating the activities of member societies in Africa, the promotion of laws relating to intellectual property in creative works and the development of an effective network of collective management societies.
He has over 10 years of experience in building cultural and creative industry capacities, private sector development, activating community business and international cooperation in the cultural sector.

Copyright Property of CISAC

Functions of Collective Management Organisations

Collective Management Organizations (or CMOs for short) have the following principal functions:

  1. To license the use of the rights they manage.
  2. To monitor that use to enforce the conditions upon which the license has been granted, and
  3. To collect and distribute the royalties payable as a result of the licensed use. 

The licensing function includes the negotiation of appropriate rates of royalty with the prospective user which, once agreed, should guarantee the rights user’s immediate access to the licensor’s repertoire.

CMOS should keep the administrative costs incurred by users and owners to a minimum and should also provide for the use of works that have yet to be made (and hence are of unknown value).

CMOS should meet the needs of rights owners and users whatever the scale of their business.  In short, the role of the CMO is to simplify the process of rights clearance on behalf of its members through efficient and cost-effective “one-stop” licensing solutions.

In a system of collective rights administration, rights owners authorize one or more CMOS to administer rights on their behalf. The rights may be assigned to the CMO or the CMO may act as the agent or licensee of their members.

CMOS then, as a general rule, offer blanket licenses to prospective rights users which allow them to make the authorized use of the entire repertoire, national and foreign, represented by the CMO in question, for certain purposes and a prescribed period.

What is a “blanket” license?

In the field of musical works, blanket licenses are licenses granted in respect of all the musical works under the management of a particular CMO. CMOS do not usually license their repertoire (library) on a piecemeal basis.

Blanket licenses generally provide substantial value to the rights users by encompassing the CMO’s entire repertoire within a standard fee and license structure.

Licenses can be arranged for one-off events as well as long-term use and may apply to use in a specific venue or on a regional or global basis. CMOS also offers a range of licensing tariffs to reflect the different ways that music is used.

Increasingly, CMOs are making substantial investments in setting up online licensing mechanisms further enhancing access to and ease of licensing.

Online music uses including audiovisual download and streaming services (interactive or otherwise) are becoming increasingly important to both audiovisual rights owners and music users.

Since many of these new services operate across borders, CMOs have responded by building multi-territory licensing capability and capacity.

In Europe, for example, several alliances between different CMOs have emerged, in line with calls by the Commission of the European Union, and as now embodied in EU legislation, to facilitate user-friendly, pan-European licensing.

In some cases, however, the task of licensing and administering rights is split between the rights owner and the CMO.

empty seat

For example, authors of dramatic works commonly conclude individual contracts with theatres directly while the CMO takes on the job of monitoring performances and collecting and distributing the remuneration. 

There are circumstances where a CMO will issue an individual license on behalf of a right owner, although on standard terms.

A license granted normally gives rise to fees for the use of works: royalties (and in some instances advance payments of royalties) or other forms of remuneration – the fees are payable in respect of private copying for example.

A CMO collects all the remuneration and distributes it to its members according to distribution rules and policies.

These rules and policies are established by agreement between the CMOs’ governing bodies and the membership to ensure they are fair, efficient, accurate, and transparent. 

CMOS operates within an international framework that enables them to represent their members at home and abroad. To this end, CMOs around the world cooperate to ensure the accurate cross-border collection and distribution of remuneration.

They do so by sharing vast amounts of data on copyright works and their use in their respective territories.

CMOS have together created international standards for the identification and description of repertoire and the systems supporting the necessary information exchange.

CMO nowadays operates through an increasingly comprehensive and sophisticated global data network.

CMOS also undertake several other functions on behalf of their members in addition to their ongoing supervisory role regarding the licenses they grant and monitoring the uses made of the works entrusted to their care.

CMOS also have a residual responsibility to ensure that unauthorized use of the works under their management does not occur.

These days, most CMOs have anti-piracy departments set up to investigate infringements and to defend their members’ interests. Where necessary, CMOS institute legal action to stop the unauthorized use of their members’ works.

They also organize technical and legal cooperation among their members to assist in the constant fight against piracy.

Again, providing this collective anti-piracy support is essential to the interests of rights owners for whom the cost of individual actions against infringers would be prohibitive. 

As we reform the Kenya Collective Management System, The Cultural Center will play an increasingly important role since we are building a coalition of stakeholders to set up a CMO for the theater industry in Kenya.

Interesting Facts About The History of The Kenya National Cultural Center

The idea of a national theatre was conceptualized in 1949 when a steering committee made up of British and Indian settlers requested the colonial government to set up a venue where they could express themselves in drama, music, and art.

In 1951, Construction was completed, and the center was incorporated under an Act of Parliament (Cap 218 of 1951). The building comprised a 450-seater hall, an orchestra pit, curtained stage, and a balcony with a bar and restaurant where patrons could enjoy refreshments during breaks and after performances.

In 1952, The Centre was officially opened for use. This marked the beginning of theatrical performances at the Kenya National Theatre.

In 1959, The Kenya Cultural Centre hosted the inaugural National Schools Drama Festival, which was modeled on the British drama festival for higher education. It comprised expatriate teachers, inspectors, and staff of the British Council.

When Bungoma High School was locked out of National Drama and Film Festival in 2019

In 1971, The first local play to win the National Drama Festival at KNT was a phenomenal moment in the history of the Center. The production was Olkirkenyi”, by students of Olkejuado Secondary School.


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