The moral cop, chief executive officer of the Kenya Film and Classification Board, Ezekiel Mutua, knows just when to strike – when the rod is hot enough! On Tuesday this week, he announced a ban on two of East Africa’s hottest street anthems, ‘Tetema’ and ‘Wamlambez’. The Wamlambez song, released by a group of young artistes called Sailors, who are under the banner of celebrated Radio presenter Mwalimu Rachel, has grown exponentially to become one of Kenya’s greatest anthems.
Kenyans have identified with the song on a never before seen level and customized the lyrics to fit every possible scenario they could think of. The ‘Wamlambez’ ‘Wamnyonyez’ phrase had become viral and infectious to an extent that it is even being used in greetings. Kenyans living in the diaspora were also quick to adopt the phrase, making it a symbol of identity among their fellow Kenyans in the diaspora. It has become uncontrollable.
However, what is most intriguing, is the meaning of the phrase. Even though quite a number of people have come up with different explanations as to what the phrase means, it’s become evident that the phrase means boys and girls in a sexual way. The song itself is also full of sexual references that can only qualify for obscenity of the highest order as per the moral standards that our society claims to uphold.
The Wamlambez movement is a reflection of the dirty lyrics that have been dominating the airwaves in the recent past even though authorities such as KFCB have been working tirelessly to curb the raunchiness. This, however, hasn’t been a recent debate since international hits have also been enjoying massive and undisrupted broadcasting despite the dirty and even sexually abusive content that they display in the songs.
There has been a very long history of filthy lyrics when it comes to popular music, hip hop being a perfect example of a genre that tolerates such a history.
The kind of content that is portrayed in hip hop songs even today are as obscene as they can get. Global icons within the music industry like 50 Cent, Lil Wayne, Ludacris and Nicki Minaj have thrived on gross lewdness in their music yet the world seems to embrace and adore it blindly. Lil Wayne can utter all sorts of racial slurs, sexually abusive words and even trash on global leaders but get away with it.
The same goes for our millennial age rappers and artistes who have made filthy music sound cool and look cool. If you were to explore a millennial’s playlist, you would be shocked at the content of the songs that this era adores.
Such content enjoys airplay without regulation even in Kenya whereas authorities only tend to act on local content which raises a lot of questions. Are we just being hypocrites? This has had an immense ripple effect on local content within the East African market space.
In 2016, celebrated king of Bongo and Wasafi Records founder, Diamond Platnumz released a remix of Zigo with veteran Swahili rapper AY and the whole East African community went crazy.
The raunchy nature of the music video raised eyebrows as to what a bold move the Tanzanian stars had taken. Whereas a greater percentage of the society was praising the quality of the song and music video, which they only likened to Hollywood production, the authorities weren’t happy with the move.
The Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA), were quick to ban the song rendering it offensive to the society’s moral standards.However, it didn’t take long before another controversial and raunchy song dubbed ‘Chura Dance’, hit the media. It was becoming hard for TCRA to control the consumption of the songs since other East African countries like Kenya and Uganda had still allowed the songs to enjoy mainstream media plays.
This has grown bolder with time as star artistes like Diamond Platnumz have continued to capitalize on filthy music to make money and increase their popularity. His latest controversial release was ‘Mwanza’ which had a lot of sexual refrains to an extent the government had to impose a ban on the song.
This has however not been effective since he still relays the same content in his songs in coded language. Songs like ‘Kwangwaru’, ‘Tetema’ and ‘Jibebe’ have also been dominated by such content. The question is, has this defiance also inspired Kenyan content?
The truth is, Kenyan content has always been a bit obscene only that it’s been coded for some time now. Unlike the past generation of Kenyan musicians who used to mask vulgar language with slang, this new generation has taken a different modulation of language to fit the modern generation audience.
If you understand their language, you would find out how more direct they are about sex and activities surrounding this topic.
The ‘wamlambez’ vibe exploded when Ethic, a group of young musicians from the ghetto broke the internet with their ‘Lamba Lolo’ hit song. The artistes capitalized on the popularity that surrounded the phrase to make their breakthrough into the industry.
They received massive appreciation from the public and earned themselves interviews and shows within a fortnight. It was an instant success that can only be likened to Lil Nas X’s ‘Old Town Road’ success. They had scaled the ladder of success faster than any other artistes had done it before in our country.
Ethic then sustained the rhythm by releasing more club bangers while maintaining the same obscene nature of their content. Projects such as ‘Pandana’, ‘New Position’, ‘Instagram’ and ‘Saba’ have all upheld this high level of profanity. This has inspired many other artistes from the ghetto to create even bigger hits following in their footsteps. Sailors, a musical group consisting of Miracle Baby, Shalkido, Masilver, Lexxy Yung and Qoqosjuma have been the other breakthrough group after Ethic. They are the creators of the famous ‘Wamlambez’ hit.
They also use this same style of sexual content to satisfy their fans. Even their other hits like ‘Pekejeng’ and ‘Queen B’ have received massive airplay despite their sexual content.
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Other artistes inspired by this wave have also been the likes of Ochungulo Family who haven’t been shy at all to shoot raunchy videos and post sexually lyricized songs. They show just how bold young artistes have become with their content or should we say sexually immoral?
Zzero Sufuri, another young upcoming artiste from the ghetto, has also gained from his ‘Zimenishika’ hit which seems to encourage more youth to smoke what would appear to be bhang. Being that his song comes at a time when the weed debate is gathering pace, his song has received huge recognition. Other notable songs also include Alvindo’s ‘Taka Taka’, The BoyBleezy’s ‘Matako’ and Wanati’s ‘Get a Tako’.
When you observe the kind of massive views and streams these songs are getting compared to other quality and morally clean songs, it becomes a question of – is it the people who are the problem?
After Ezekiel Mutua banned Wamlambez, there was a wide public outcry directed towards the ban as the public defended the song. This hasn’t been the only profane song the public has defended though, there are many more even worse songs that would receive the same reaction if they were to be banned.
However Kanali, a member of the Floodout Gang and a close partner of Gwaash, the Wabebe hit maker says, “Music and sex has always been the same thing. Even history has it that music has always been a tool for luring the opposite sex therefore we are doing just the right thing.
Even veterans kama kina E-Sir walifanya mbona sisi tusifanye?” Charles Darwin, a revolutionary scientist argued that music as a form of expression was first acquired by mankind for seduction purposes, thus implying that those who did not make beautiful music stood little chance of winning mating partners.
Therefore, is the new wave of Kenyan music that has been hugely credited for reinstating Kenyan songs in clubs and street nganyas getting too obscene or is it part of an evolution? The answer simply lies with the people, the public that has otherwise opted to ignore what would be profane and accepted it as part of the country’s culture and voice. You ask Kenyans today, which song they would identify with quickly, I bet ‘Wamlambez’ wouldn’t miss.
Ezekiel Mutua, CEO, KFCB
Tetema and Wamlambez songs are strictly forbidden outside of clubs and bars. It’s embarrassing to see even national leaders singing and dancing to the obscenity in public. The lyrics are dirty and not suitable for public consumption, especially children. Both songs are pure pornography. While we may not ban them because they are coded, it’s important for the public to know that they are dirty and unsuitable for mixed company. Let them be restricted to clubs, for adults only!
Dr Tom Odhiambo, a literature lecturer at the University of Nairobi recently commented in an interview with Standard
“People always do these things and for every rap song from the US being played in Kenya there are censored words which people do not listen to but when you go to Youtube you will listen to them. It’s not strange at all.”
Gwaash, an upcoming artiste
“I am from the ghetto and everything I say in my songs is from actual experiences in the ghetto. This is the reality, let’s just stop pretending and speak for the youth. Ngoma yangu ya sponyo ni from personal experience maze, hawa madame wanatusumbua huku mtaani so lazima tujisemee.”
Khaligraph Jones, Rapper
“Watu wanasema ati ooh hawa vijana wanaimba mavela ooh content, hiyo ndiyo yao, iyo ndiyo yetu and the views don’t lie. Go to Youtube right now! So stop hating and let’s accept them, support them and mold them. In due time, they will be the best in whatever they do. That’s what it means to support our own.”
Popular Profane songs
Ethic – Lamba Lolo – 3.8 million views
Sailors – Wamlambez – 3.8 million views
Ethic – Pandana – 3.4 million views
Sailors – Pekejeng – 2.4 million views
Zzero Sufuri – Zimenishika – 1.6 million views
Ochungulo Family – Na Iwake – 1.4 million views
Boondocks Gang – Rieng – 1.3 million views
TheBoyBleezy ft Madra – Matako – 990,000 views
Boondocks Gang – Mboko Haram – 505,000 views
34 GVNG – Poko.t – 272,000 views
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