Exclusive: Former MCSK Boss Maurice Okoth On Clearing His Name And Working On His Passion For The Youth

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Maurice Okoth has been on the limelight numerous times following his turbulent exit from the Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) in May 2016. Mr. Okoth was accused of misappropriation of funds, a case that has since been dismissed.

Since his exit from MCSK, the Lawyer has been involved in various community projects, including spearheading the Talanta Mtaani talent show airing on local television channels.

WoK caught up with him to find out what he has been up to, his passion for the youth and plans for the future.

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Tell us a bit about yourself

My name is Maurice Okoth. I am a Lawyer by profession but I’m drawn to the entertainment industry more because that’s where my passion is. Since I was young I have always set my mind on doing different things and went ahead and did them. That’s why I always stand with Mark 9.23, because I believe I can do anything I set my mind on.

You quoted the Bible there. Are you a staunch Christian?

(Laughs) I wouldn’t say staunch, but I’m a firm believer. God has been very good to me and that’s why I profess that through him I can do anything I set my mind on.

What do you enjoy doing outside your career?

I enjoy playing basketball. I am a fan of the Golden State Warriors team that recently won the NBA title. I also love playing Chess because it helps me with strategic thinking and thinking outside the box.

Most people know you as former MCSK boss. What have you been up to since leaving MCSK?

After serving as CEO of MCSK in 2016, I went back to legal practice for about 2 months but then I was extremely bored. That’s when I got an offer from the MD of TV Cosmopolitan (TVC), someone I had met while working at MCSK.

It’s while working at TVC that I came up with the idea of Talanta Mtaani. I remember meeting a group of talented youth who wanted to have a show on TV. However, the proposal they gave me was not properly structured, and that’s when we came up with the idea of a talent competition show called Talanta Mtaani.

Tell us about Talanta Mtaani and what it’s all about

Talanta Mtaani is an empowerment program for talented youth. We focus on building capacity and growing talents into moneymaking brands.

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So working together with the Swedish Embassy through the Civil Society Urban Development Platform (CSUDP),  we came up with a curriculum to build creatives and artists into becoming brands in their own right. People like Churchill, Jalang’o and even the Sarakasi dancers all leveraged their talents and diversified into comedy, event management and even MCeeing to create the big brands that they are now.

How does Talanta Mtaani work and how do you get contestants?

We majorly focus on the youth in poor communities in different towns and counties across the country. We advertise for auditions on TV including KTN Home, PPP TV and Signs TV, with the main agenda of pushing local content.

Pre-Covid, we would organize for physical auditions in different towns at specific locations like the Kenya National Theater. However, when COVID hit we had to move online due to physical restrictions. We began asking applicants to submit a one minute video of them showcasing their talents, then we would shortlist and call shortlisted candidates for physical auditioning.

It is also very important to note that Talanta Mtaani features both ablws and disabled persons, with a special segment only covering contestants with disabilities.

You speak very passionately about the youth. What’s drives this passion?

I would describe myself as a very passionate individual. I am a giver and I enjoy helping people. I feel that there’s a lot that can be done to empower the youth in the creative industry. I aim to leave a legacy through my work, and that’s what fuels my passion.

The music industry in Kenya has been marred with accusations of mismanagent of artists and disregard for artists rights by bodies like MCSK. Given your experience in this space? What are your thoughts on the current music industry environment?

My take may seem a bit biased, but when I was CEO at MCSK we had a very amicable relationship with artists. We held MCSK awards to celebrate most streamed artists, and kept things very transparent with artists. When I joined MCSK in December 2007, we only had 900 members, a number that had grown to over 15,000 by the time I left in December 2016.

We had even grown to 3rd best performing Music Society in Africa, and collected more funds which meant that we disbursed more to the artists. I think that now there is need to restructure the system and work with the support of the government to better the current conditions.

How do you think the situation can be alleviated?

I have always advocated for joint revenue collection to harmonize the needs of the artists. The current team is lucky to have the support of the government. More can definitely be done to increase collections that consequently increase disbursement to members. We did so much without government support back then. They can definitely achieve more now.

When working at MCSK, you were accused of funds misappropriation charges, of which you were later acquitted. What are your biggest lessons from that experience?

I would say to anyone reading this, check on your friends. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Some of the people going against me at the time were those I considered to be my friends. Always look out for people who pretend to be your friends.

The accusations against me were all false, as they were a result of me stepping on some toes my my pursuit of better earnig terms for artists. Some people felt differently about the changes I was seeking and it was basically a set up by them.

However the case was eventually thrown out because there was no case to be answered. We never even went to trial.

Business aside, you are a father and family man. Tell us a bit about that.

I got separated from my ex-wife, but we are still good friends. I now have a daughter whom I love very much. So now I’m just going with the flow and enjoying being a dad to my daughter.

What’s your advice to the younger generation of artists and creatives?

I’d advice creatives to diversify their craft to ensure continuity. Thinking outside the box and putting out good quality content will definitely keep them relevant.

A lot of the things I’ve done I’ve had to convince myself that I could do it. If they believe in themselves, have passion and doing whatever it takes to succeed, then they will succeed. It doesn’t pay off immediately, but eventually they will start harvesting the fruit of their labor.

Tell us 5 important things you would tell your younger self.

One, count your blessings. Always keep in mind that it could be worse. A lot of things will happen in life, but always count your blessings. As long as you are alive, there is hope.

Two, always do what make you happy. Learn to put yourself first and do what makes you feel your best.

Third thing I would say to my younger self is do not blindly trust anyone. Not everyone wants the best for you, so be careful with who you trust.

Four, Limit your circle of friends. When I was younger I had a lot of friends who were not really my friends. I’d say keep your circle very small.

Lastly, be wise with your financial management. Money is nice, and it helps us solve very many problems. So be wise about spending it.

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