Once upon a time, in a land in the east side of Africa called Kenya, something spellbinding happened.
A group of libertine, slice-of-life young boys from an area called Eastlands decided to compose a song. The song wasn’t artistic like an orchestra symphony by Wolfgang Mozart or socially conscious like an album lead-single from Nassir Bin Olu Dara Jones, popularly known as Nas.
It was an explicit ear-shocker capable of making nuns to hold on tight to their rosaries and say “Forgive them Lord” in unison.
FAME AND COPYCATS
The teenagers called the song “Lamba Lolo” but they didn’t forget to give themselves a name too. They unanimously agreed to go by the name Ethic, despite the fact that what they were singing was devoid of ethics.
To accompany the audio, they did a low-quality video that looked like it had been shot with an old school Motorola flip-phone. Not only did the video lack proper direction, but it was also overcrowded. I guess someone was shouting “Kujeni mutokee kwa video (Come over, you’ll appear in a video)” to any teenager that was passing near the shoot. It was obvious they were just having fun. They never expected it to be anything major.
On May 31st 2018, Ethic posted the video on YouTube. Little did they know that they were about to become overnight stars. Within a short time, the song had gone viral and everyone was talking about them.
“Lamba Lolo” now sits at 2.9 million YouTube views. That’s quite something for a Kenyan song. Only the likes of Sauti Sol, Nyashinski, Otile Brown and Willy Paul have managed to hit those figures in the past.
After the surprise success of their song, they stuck to the same formula and released three more songs just like it. There was “New Position”, “Saba” and then “Instagram”. All these songs went on to perform extremely well.
As expected, other people now want in on the fairy tale. Several Ethic copycats have emerged and attempted to use the same modus operandi. An alarming number of young Kenyans are forming groups and releasing ostentatious vulgar songs which never land quite right. They then accompany these songs with doltish, low-budget videos.
It’s a worrisome trend. These kids are hoping to be the next Ethic but, as expected, their songs aren’t gaining any major traction. The only thing that’s going their way is limited outrage.
During the recent #PlayKeMusic debate, those who were against the idea of forcing the media to play Kenyan music were quick to bring up songs by these idle teenagers to prove that Kenyan music is second-rate hence it shouldn’t be administered to us by force. I, too, was against the debate but I didn’t like the idea of using Ethic copycats as case studies as to why Kenyan music shouldn’t be played.
This is because doing that is totally unfair to the good artistes that are trying to come up. There is actually no difference between people who argued like that and people who vow to never date from a specific tribe just because one person from that tribe broke their heart.
There is a reason why Ethic as a group works so well. All the members bring something different to the table. Reckless is the chorus and flow guy who always gets their tracks kicking. Swat is the likeable lad who says outrageous things and gets people talking. Seska is the talented rapper who gives the group legitimacy as a proper Hip Hop group capable of delivering heavy bars. And Zilla, hmmmm…Zilla needs to leave the group. He is the weakest link. But that’s just my opinion.
The groups that are trying to copy Ethic don’t have this kind of aptitude-diversity hence their songs end up sounding odd and eerie.
They might not be the first to mould themselves in the likeness of popular stars but they might as well be the laziest. Unlike Ethic, these groups are not trying to have fun. They are forcing stardom.
The emergence of these groups shows how some people don’t take themselves seriously. If you are serious about your career in music, you would never copy anyone else.
In the American music scene, this practice is called jacking a style. It has been proven that artistes that do this never last long in the game.
You can never be perfect at being someone else. A good example is rapper Desiigner who copied Future’s flow and voice. After the success of “Panda”, which everyone initially thought was Future’s song; he failed to produce any other notable hit. Right now he can only get shows in places like Kenya…oops.
My advice to the copycats would be this: stop wasting your own precious time. If music is not your passion and you are only in it because your friends persuaded you, sit back and rethink. Be your own decision maker. If God wanted you to think within a group, he would have created you as sheep, not as a human being.
Find what you really love doing and stick to it. If music is what you really love, don’t try to be Ethic. Discover your own style. Make it unique. That’s the only way the industry will take you seriously.
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