“Be Wild” the banner in the background proclaims as a chap with dyed hair performs an acrobatic leap leap off the ground in what appears to be the start of a dance move. De Mathew then starts his signature “Shama Shama” shout as two voluptuous but unremarkable women dance, with the fellow doing the leaping earlier having recovered to stand between and behind them.
That video is one of three that have been the subject of debate because of the message they attempt to pass, which is rather basic and oft-repeated. It is that Uhuru Kenyatta is a great chap deserving of the presidency and that Raila Odinga does not meet the standard and is therefore not deserving of the house on the hill. Kamande wa Kioi uses the good old Moses metaphor. We can’t tell whether the Kikuyu or the country are the Canaanites, only that Uhuru is the anointed leader and he can split the Red Sea. There are also accompanying shots stolen from a movie.
It has been suggested that the songs’ content amounts to hate speech and John De Mathew, Kamande wa Kioi and Muigai wa Njoroge should be thrown in jail and the key dropped in the latrine because they are spreading hate speech.
I’d suggest Mzalendo Kibunjia and his crew at the National Cohesion and Integration Commission summon the trio (through the media to make it sexier) have a two-hour sit-down with them and then send them away to think about their lives. Haul them before a judge and threaten them with jail? No. Jail them? Not necessary.
Why? Let me explain.
Kikuyu music videos are rather boring. Most feature three curvaceous women and some dread-locked thin men dancing in the compound of a hotel with green lawns and flowers. The singer also makes an appearance; singing and dancing with the crew at times and often hanging out with friends and family. You can tell it’s all made up because the rest of the guys will be staring at the camera.
Kamande wa Kioi is different, and a little more creative in the video-making department. In the video that is the subject of debate and anger now, he has shots of Uhuru on the campaign trail, at the prayer rally in Gatundu before the first trip to The Hague and poorly synchronised shots of Kibaki, Moi and Raila with other people doing poor imitated voice-overs.
The initial reaction on seeing and listening to these three songs is rightly shock, and sometimes anger, and there has been enough going round. But after a second look at the transcribed lyrics and listening to the songs again, I’d advise the heedful to ignore the bullshit.
De Mathew performed at the rally in Gatundu. He is loved by his listeners. His other songs are brilliant and well-written ballads about love – Njata Yakwa- lust and Aids- Kiura Kinene- and life- Wendo wa Matiribu.
Ditto Muigai and Kioi.
If they play defiant and fail to heed the warning from the NCIC- they could rightly state it is within their rights to make such music- there will be more of such music from them an from their kind.
When the political season starts- and it started early this time because of The Hague- musicians get hired to perform at political rallies. They sing and dance for the sort of large crowds that show up at these rallies. At Githunguri and Gatundu, where I watched them perform, and could have twitched a muscle in tune, the people were in the thousands, and they roared and cheered to the racy riffs.
When they go ahead and make music to suit the emotions they saw and felt at such meetings, they accomplish two goals; they get themselves more money when the videos are bought and played and they get the chance to attract more chances to sing at rallies and get paid.
Every so-called great leader has his praise singers. They might be the mindless MPs who were influenced to vote for The Hague option, influenced again to hate The Hague when it became a reality and then transported to the cold place to sing at the steps. In many cases they are poets and the composers of the sort who made the Muungano Choir songs for Baba Moi.
When they come from the same community as the leader, they make music in his language, often weaving the community’s value systems is the next step.
For the trio, it involves pointing out that Raila is a Luo and suggesting that he doesn’t deserve to be president because he is allegedly not circumcised. A kihii occupies the lowest rung in traditional Kikuyu society. There are also several proverbs to drive this fickle point home.
But circumcision does nothing to make you a man if you cannot feed, clothe and pay for your kids’ education, does it?
These videos and many other of the same ilk are played in bars all over Central Kenya. By making them, these guys could be said to be preaching to the choir. Given the tribalism that flows ever so freely around, those who listen to this tripe are unlikely to vote for Uhuru or anybody he anoints. Not that they’d vote for Raila anyway.
At the height of the Mungiki atrocities in Nyeri, Murang’a and Kiambu, I came across an album of what was said to be Mungiki songs. I don’t suppose that video encouraged youths in those areas to join the sect. They probably joined the sect because it offered a way to get some easy money. Blame here the high youth unemployment rates and poverty.
These videos only go to show the extent of the hero-worship in parts of the country and the failure of our attempts to detribalize.
Well, in the event the blabbering above does not make a point, here is my argument: have the musicians over at Delta House for a long chat, advise them to seek better ways of making a little money or make songs in the mould of the inoffensive Unbwogable and let them go think about it.
Beyond that, pay no attention to these and similar noises.