IAN DORMER recently had the opportunity to visit the set of AfricaMagic’s all-new East
African telenova, Kona, at pay-TV broadcaster M-Net’s new studio complex, located
off Nairobi’s Ngong Road.
Kona is an intriguing daily drama based on a story around a boxing gym and the
The synopsis of Kona is as exciting as the production elements that make it all
happen. It reads: “Where glitz and glamour meets grit and sweat, love and family
confront betrayal and solitude; success and triumph are pitted against failure and
desperation. In a world where only the strong survive, where you’re only as good as
your next move, where love and betrayal are interchangeable… we follow the world of
Not only is Kona gripping content but this M-Net AfricaMagic initiative is a massive
boost to the Kenyan production scene.
When the show went to air on Monday 26 August 2013, they already had 179
episodes in the can. For Kona producer Appie Matere the show is ground-breaking in
“We shoot an episode a day, soap-style, edit an episode a day, final mix an episode
a day and broadcast an episode a day. There is a very young crew working on the
series; it’s a learning curve for all of us but we are using state-of-the-art equipment
which helps smooth out the process,” explained Matere.
According to Kona executive producer, Laurence Lurie of Johannesburg-based The
Directors Team (Pty) Ltd, producing daily drama always presents the same challenges,
regardless of where it is produced.
“Once the crew and cast commit to the production, you are three-quarters of the way
there,” continued Lurie. “The crew and cast of Kona are entirely East African. We did a
little training up front using people we had previously worked with on the South
African soap, Egoli. However, the Kenyan crew are experienced and adaptable, and we
have comfortably shot an episode a day since day one.
“The equipment supplied by M-Net Africa was all brand new, including cameras,
pedestal, and lighting, as well as the control rooms and post-production facility. It is
the first time I have worked on a production where every single piece of gear came
straight out of a box,” commented Lurie.
“Working in Nairobi is very similar to working in Johannesburg, except for the traffic
and not living at home for 18 months.”
Lurie had worked extensively with M-Net Africa since 2008 on Big Brother Africa.
“I originally pitched the concept for the Kona series, which at that stage had a
working title of TKO, to Erika Klopper, head of Local Productions at M-Net Africa.
Fortunately they liked the idea and commissioned the series. It has changed very
little from original concept to end product,” he said.
Control Two is the main control area for Kona and controls studios 3A, 3B and the
exterior sets. The space was designed specifically for a drama team and split into
three areas for production, vision and audio.
For many of the Kona team this is a life-changing experience. Fifty-year-old Muthoni
Gathecha who plays Ayira, has never acted before, which is difficult to believe when
you see her in action. Originally given a small role over two episodes, the production
team spotted her natural ability and offered her a lead character.
Said Matere: “For an industry to grow you need stars. Kona, thanks to AfricaMagic,
has set that platform. We are now producing Kenyan stars and showcasing them to
the whole of Africa, this is what we need for Kenya to go to the next level.”
M-Net Africa managing director Biola Alabi added: “Kona is about dreams and goals.
Despite the struggles we go through in our daily lives, Kona is a story that declares
that everyone deserves a fighting chance. AfricaMagic is very committed to fulfilling
its objective of promoting relevant local talent and, at the same time, developing
skills and creating jobs. Kona is evidence of this commitment.”