Every heart sings a song, incomplete, until another heart whispers back. Those who wish to sing always find a song, says Greek philosopher Plato. Though Plato might have been addressing himself to matters of love, it so applies that songs, and everything musical, seems to speak to the heart more effectively than any other form of communication. It is for this reason that almost all campaigns - political, social, economic - tend to have some musicality in them. Songs drive the message home in a way that only they can.
At the height of electoral campaigns last year we heard songs. There was Hellen Ken’s Mambo Yabadilika supported by its Luhya version, Vindu Vichenjanga, by Amos Barasa that formed the heartbeat of the National Super Alliance campaigns. These two songs ruled the political landscape for some time but it wasn’t long before Plato’s prediction came true and the other “heart whispered back.” Ben Githae’s Tano Tena and Sophie Murimi's Tuko Pamoja enraptured Jubilee Party supporters. It was all dance and political excitement.
Other than the entertainment value that songs provide, the most important role that music plays in the lives of a people is giving hope to an otherwise hopeless situation. It is music that gave black South Africans hope at the darkest hour when apartheid was the official policy in their land. Remember Mbongeni Ngema’s Freedom is Coming Tomorrow? The song was released in 1989 but it was only in 1994, some five years later, that the first real indication of the freedom was witnessed.
In politics, Kenyan politics for that matter, music gives hope even to a political side that has very little chance of triumphing in the contest. In the words, a substantial fraction of the Kenyan population lived in great hope for a substantial period of time. The other fraction continued “being together” and it was good while it lasted! Each party gave the other a serious run for their money and elections came and went. That was in 2017.
Then 2018 came with its own challenges, expectations and responsibilities as it should. With it also came new songs.
But there is one song that has gripped the attention of the nation for the wrong reasons. Ordinarily, the song by one Kimani wa Turacco, would be confined to a constituency as limited as the village from which its singer comes. For, honestly, I had not heard of the man or any other song by him before. Unfortunately, the country is talking about it. It is entitled Tutiri Thiiri wa Mundu. It translates to “We owe nobody”. The “we” in the song refers to members of the Kikuyu community and the “nobody”, I am authoritatively informed, is meant to target Deputy President William Samoei Ruto and his perceived community.
I am not privy to any information that Mr Ruto had sent debt collectors to the Kikuyu community for an alleged debt. Neither am I in the know that the community had commissioned Mr Turacco as a spokesperson to tell off the debt collectors. What I know is that going by the video/photography accompanying the song, it is in bad taste and has potential for very bad consequences if and when the opposite heart choses to whisper back in word and deed!
Apart from the blasphemous reference to Jesus Christ and the allegation that the Son of God paid in full all the past, present and future debts incurred by Turacco and his “we”, the song works against the aspirations of the country to build and preserve the unity of a nation. The “we” against “them” philosophy is not one that works well for a country with such diversity as Kenya especially if the defining aspect of dichotomy is the language group, the tribe. We do not need to be reminded that millions of teenagers in the country are of mixed parentage and “we” could mean their mothers while “them” points at their fathers, leaving the offspring in no-man’s land. Turacco’s efforts to take us where he seems keen to take us should be resisted by everyone else.
The song also suggests that there is a community that is about to contest for a seat and another community with a gun on its head to vote for it. This both literally and figuratively false as the nearest election is a whole term away and no community contests in this country. Only individuals vie for positions.
In his zeal to impress himself and his supposed benefactors, the artist went overboard to extract and use selective images associated with the country’s darkest hour of its history - the events of the 2007/2008 election violence. This stokes emotions as the musician intended, but it does not select whose emotions it evokes. The violence actually affected people from almost all communities in the country and the reaction is likely to be universal. And the reaction cannot be a happy one on any front. We can’t afford these malicious reminders!
The rights enshrined in our Constitution are sacred and must be protected by all means necessary. All Kenyans must be allowed to enjoy freedoms, including taking debts and repaying them, as guaranteed by our supreme law. But we may need to sit back and reflect on whether the absolutism some of us are taking the rights with does not carry with it some suicidal potential.
Though Turacco has a right to sing, he and all other singers need to be careful about what is to be sung.
For even a dirge is a song.
Mr Cherambos comments on topical social issues. [email protected]