What you need to know:
- Values, beliefs and customs are passed onto each generation based on what we present to the young as acceptable and revered.
- If your first instinct when a song or video comes on is to hide from your parents or shoo the children away, then you have a problem.
Sex has sold since the dawn of time. This is why singer Marvin Gaye is singularly responsible for the conception and birth of many 37-year-olds today.
If "Sexual Healing" was playfully explicit without demeaning women in 1982, this means that with music, we can have our cake and eat it too without demeaning women.
There are very few songs from Tanzanian star Diamond Platnumz that do not involve sex as a constant.
But at the end of his songs, I don’t usually feel like taking a shower, praying, crying, dousing my brain in acid or combining all the three coping mechanisms. No one is asking musicians to write vanilla songs about flowers, rainbows and world peace.
But one can’t help but wonder, are musicians in Kenya the only ones incapable of using metaphors in their songs to talk about sex?
New music releases from rising Kenyan artistes across genres claim the crown for catchy beats, addictive catchphrases and a unifying sense of belonging, especially for the youth.
There is no argument about the entertainment value they bring. But, a closer look at seemingly harmless lyrics suggests that we have a deeply-rooted sociological issue that needs to be addressed.
There are ways in which misogyny exposes itself, ranging from general social exclusion, gender discrimination, male privilege, belittling, hostility, androcentrism, patriarchy, and disenfranchisement, to outright sexual objectification, violence, and femicide.
Values, beliefs and customs are passed onto each generation based on what we present to the young as acceptable and revered.
And our music says it is okay to disregard women. Misogyny, get-rich-quick ideologies and borderline alcoholism are some of the key themes explored in Kenyan music — and it is frightening.
The problem with our lyrics is that, unlike those of Marvin Gaye, there is no hidden meaning. And the children are listening.
In one of his most popular songs — "Cheza Chini" — King Kaka raps: “umestand ka nyoyo za adole.” Every time I hear those lyrics I wince painfully, as should you.
An adolescent (read underage) girl’s breasts should not be any adult man’s focus — not even as part of creative expression. And especially not from a man leading a sanitary pads campaign for girls.
In December 2012, P-Unit was an unstoppable force with their chart-topping club banger "You Guy". But this song did more than launch a socialite.
In the first verse, Gabu casually drops a rape endorsing message: "Mi ni mgenge napitanga na zile ziko maji zimebleki". Years later, in the 2019’s "Na Iwake" by the Ochungolo family, you will hear: "mi mi ka ni vajo nyandua". We hear them, and we laugh, and we dance.
Conversations in most WhatsApp groups will always be about debauchery. What's our next plan? Who are you coming with? Who's buying a bottle? Will there be girls? This brings club banging latest sensations to mind.
Most of us miss the femicide allusion by Konkodi's verse in the song "Drinkx na Mayengs", ostensibly referencing the tragic case of the Moi University student hacked to death with an axe in broad daylight, when he says halafu shoka! ile design ya revenge. Or, the other slightly rape-inspired line in Ethic's "Pandana" that goes: "banana, ninayo bas tunabakana".
Listening to most songs that are popular today, you won't miss any of these problematic themes.
The lives portrayed by our artistes in music videos are far from their actual lives, but how many of their young fan base know this?
Most consumers of the said art take whatever they hear or see to be the gospel truth. From the flashy cars, alcohol and (seemingly) disposable women.
Gospel artistes aren’t exempt from this line of messaging. Lyrics aside, some gospel artistes seem to use wealth as a blessing only reserved for “good” Christians.
Naturally, no one makes a club banger with longevity in mind, but the fact remains. If your first instinct when a song or video comes on is to hide from your parents or shoo the children away, then you have a problem.
An artiste like the late E-Sir managed to straddle the line between poetry, club bangers and socially conscious music — today’s generation can do the same. They just don’t want to.