Kenya: Are musicians composing “dirty” songs just to please listeners?
Editorial from The Nation (Nairobi), 12 November 2004, by Philip Mwaniki
That Kenyan music has grown tremendously in the past few years is incontestable. Many local FM radio stations play this music and TV stations devote whole programmes to Kenyan music. As a result, many young people, including children in lower primary, have become hooked to it. However, this appreciation goes beyond just entertainment: many youngsters look up to the musicians as their role models. Thus names like Nazizi, Nameless, Wahu, Prezzo, Nonini, E-Sir, Bamboo, Kleptomaniax, Circute and Jo-el now feature among some youngsters’ role models, to the dismay of parents.
And with songs like Manyake, Wee Kamu, Piga Makofi, Kamata Dame, and John among others that talk about sex, money and girls, their fears might be justified. Many parents have had the embarrassing experience of having their five or six-year-old child singing along to one of these lewd lyrics in a matatu or supermarket or loudly asking what Juala (condom) is. Some children get so engrossed in these musicians lives that they lose track of reality. A case is told of a Standard Six pupil who, when asked who Kenya’s First Lady was, confidently responded, “Nazizi!”.
It is thus discouraging to note that, although the growth of Kenyan music has show just how much Kenya has to offer in terms of raw talent, most of these young promising artistes seem to rap or sing only about is “hanyee”, drinking and women.
And with the HIV/Aids scourge hanging like a cloud over us, it is hard to tell just what the lyrics and videos by local musicians are doing to their biggest fans- youngsters.
Many people have accused the media of contributing to moral decadence by glorifying music with raunchy lyrics and giving minimal airtime to those with positive messages. Among those who sing music with positive messages that appeal to people of all age-groups. Interestingly, they do not have the near-fanatical following some of their colleagues who sing suggestive songs enjoy.
The question then is: “do we blame the musicians or the fans regarding the lyrics, given that the musicians are in it for money while the fans simply want entertainment and more often than not dictate the type of music they want to hear?
Some artistes reason that, much as they would want to sing songs with positive messages, their hands are tied because that is not what their listeners want. This has led to a situation where a number of musicians are composing “dirty” songs just to please their listeners.
Even some gospel musicians have fallen victim to this hype, although not in terms of the lewdness but lyrics. Many of them concentrate on singing about their lives before they got “saved”, giving details of how they used to search for girls, how they used to steal, drink and engage in all sorts of vices, the very themes secular musicians are dwelling on.
There have been calls for the media to stop airing certain songs but they are unlikely to heed this because it could mean a drop in advertising, and therefore, revenue.
It seems that we are caught in a vicious circle from which it is impossible to extricate ourselves. With such heavy external influence, parents will have to work extra hard to ensure that their children grow up into morally upright people.