ARUNGA: It's time to quit policing Sauti Sol’s colourful ‘Melanin’

Monday November 27 2017

A screenshot from Sauti Sol's new video

A screenshot from Sauti Sol's new video "Melanin". It features Nigeria's Patoranking. PHOTO| COURTESY 

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Sauti Sol and Patoranking recently released their newest hit single, “Melanin”, to floods of nationwide controversy.

It is interesting to me how people are reacting to this particular video. The line seems to be either you love it completely or abhor it like the very devil.

I've read through countless conversations on my WhatsApp groups about the supposedly terrible lyricism, about how Sauti Sol are not what they used to be, and of course, how there are only skinny and relatively 'light' women in the video.

There are, of course, some commentaries I agree with. I won't speak on the lyricism because I feel like Sauti Sol know their target market well enough to know what they are writing and why they are writing it, whether that target market is the international pop industry, their local fans, or them themselves.

What I will speak to is a number of things that I have heard about this video. For one, yes, Sauti Sol are not what they used to be.

But surely, do you expect them to be the same as they were all those years ago when they released Mwanzo? Mwanzo was a fantastic album, but of course I expect growth and change.

They don't look like that anymore, and they don't sound like that anymore, and neither do their fans.

I call this the Lauryn Hill syndrome – expecting an artist to stay in the exact same time capsule as they were in when you found them.

It is ridiculous and unfounded, whether you liked Lauryn Hill's later works or not. Miseducation remains quite simply, iconic, and the chances that something will come out of her again, like that, are slim. That said, you can't expect her to do the same things she was doing, literally 20 years ago!

That type of entitlement is infantile.


Then, obviously, I love that the song is called Melanin. I love that it is a celebration of black women who are beautiful with banging bodies.

That's all fine and dandy, that's the direction they chose to go with in this video, and I appreciate it. However, I am ready for a video with women who are larger than a size eight. Much as I can't stand that Calvo Mistari song, Urembo ni Wewe, for varied reasons that I talked about here, I can appreciate that in the very least, it represented a range of women.

Again, I am not saying that Sauti Sol are obligated to be inclusive or cater to everyone's whims.

I'm just saying, I'm ready for more than 1/5 of the population to be represented in music videos.

I'm not sure if there is a point in once again addressing Ezekiel Mutua's comments on the video, and how they should not be so sexual, and how once again he wants to protect the children.

I strongly feel we need to protect the children from Ezekiel Mutua and give him a reality check, lest they start to think that uninformed intolerance is the way to go – starting with his gay lions comments to his fake diplomatic passports.

I'm exhausted at having to defend the fact that sexuality in a video does not mean a lack of talent; and sexuality is not something that has to be put under wraps (for the kids, of course) until they're 30 and married with complexes about nakedness and conversations because no one ever told them that there is more to sex than DON'T HAVE SEX.

But perhaps the most annoying thing for me was a comment on Twitter from someone who said that art should transcend generations, and basically implied that art focused on coitus will not stand the test of time.

Once again – ignorant. Some of the best songs, paintings, literature, - any type of art you could name, really, are based on sex. Starting with the (banned) book Lady Chatterley's Lover, to Marvin Gaye's Sexual Healing, to practically every French/baroque/Renaissance painting there's ever been, to our very own After 4:30 by David Maillu – among countless others.

We really need to stop acting like sex didn't happen and everyone alive is as a result of it. It isn't a dirty secret. We aren't in primary school any more, sniggering every time a teacher says a 'dirty word.'

Artists have no obligation to make anything that will change the course of time. That would be ideal, but is not always the case.

Artists make art because they must! An audience is excellent, but not integral to the production of the art.

Of course people are grateful for fans, but the art will not stop without them.

And not everything has to make it to the next generation – because some great art can just be for now, for the people here.

It is not every artist's goal to win souls and change lives – unless, those lives are their own.

And it is definitely not for the fans to decide what direction the artist's art should go. It isn't our prerogative. Quit the policing.