May 24, 2019

When ‘Raunch’ and ‘Thirst’ took over the Kenyan music industry


By Jeanne Ongiyo

The news that a popular Ugandan singer was arrested in November 2014 over a song that apparently angered the government came as a shock to me as I wondered whether it was a political song judging from the images of the singer online. One ‘Panadol wa Bassajja’ which when translated literally means ‘Panadol for the men’ was arrested alongside her producer in relation to her new music video ‘Ensolo Yange’ that has since received a whooping 200,000 views on YouTube. The Ugandan government was quick to explain that the budding singer breeched the tough new anti-pornography laws prescribed by the constitution in Uganda. The video that landed the 21-year old singer in trouble exhibits scenes of her soaked in soap and dancing in what seems like her under garments. Panadol however defended herself saying that sex sells all music videos picking the examples of Nicki Minaj and Rihanna who she attributes as her inspiration to her sexually provocative video to an otherwise melodious song.

She was detained for 5 weeks as she was unable to raise money to bail her out and she awaits prosecution in June. It is sad to hear her say that she only wanted to capture the attention of the audience by donning short skirts and a bikini and raise the ratings of her music video. She also added that the authorities have trampled on her freedom of expression and she expects that she will not receive the 10-year sentence behind bars as expected. In a move to avert further incidences that will seemingly taint Uganda’s image, the country’s Ethics Minister, Mr. Simon Lokodo explained that he was shocked by the music video and that the government was keen to make further arrests in relation to the production and release of vulgar and obscene content for both public and private consumption.

Closer home, the music industry has significantly taken a turn for the worst as erotic-scenes in music videos are perceived to be the bait that sells music. We would probably blame the rise of socialites who are craving for attention hence turn on outrageous ways like shooting profane music videos to get the much desired attention. Two of such music videos that caused ripples in Kenya in recent years are Money Maker by Blaqy, a befitting name for a relatively dark, middle aged man and Pombe Bangi which was shot and produced by a group confused youth who would be good brand ambassadors for alcohol and all other forms of drugs.

Judging from the video, Pombe Bangi seems to be an impromptu decision to test the functionality of a good camera and maximise the availability of a well-manicured lawn in the leafy suburbs of Kileleshwa amid drunkenness. Blaqy was basically living his dream by mimicking French Montana and creating his own version of Pop That. Now, let’s set the record straight…This is an opinion piece and just as the name suggests, this is an opinion of mine and not a move to attack anyone. If the sentiments expressed in this article pop an artery in one way or another, that was not the intended purpose.

Music should ideally be a form of entertainment that brings an ambiance of relaxation and reflects a sense of belonging. Kenya, among many other African countries is a conservative state that prides itself in the morality of the society. This, however, seems to be gradually eroded by ‘Western civilization’ which in turn influences our modes of dressing and living standards. It would be prudent for everyone in the society to be their neighbors keeper but unfortunately such incidences have proved to be beyond our control as the community. Strict rules and regulations should be implemented by the government and the relevant bodies responsible for the production and distribution of music as a form of gate-keeping and to avoid such music videos from getting airplay and further corrupting the minds of the youth. The kind of music we listen to should also serve as a reflection of our way of life so if we don’t go to work in bikinis and outfits that end as soon as they begin then we have no business including such scenes in our music videos.

Policies that govern the uploading of content to the internet should also be made strict and if worse comes to worst, we should take it upon ourselves to push for the banning access to sites like YouTube where such music videos are readily available. Borrowing a leaf from Uganda, any singer or musician whose music video is believed to have sexually explicit content or lyrics of that nature should be as well be arrested and prosecuted for the distribution of immoral content. We do not really need to resort to such strict measures but if that is the only way to ensure that Kenya is free from moral decadence then let it be so.

For the youth being dragged into this menace, remember that you will at one point in time seek employment when all the hype of shooting music videos has already died down. With employers getting more tech-savvy, it is pretty easy to dig up dirt that separates you from your dream job. Some might argue that they will be self-employed, I get that. More power to you if you come from this school of thought but no man is an island and either way interactions with customers will soon trigger feelings of guilt and regret from the past.

Bottom line is if you are engaging in something that you would not publicly admit to or you would logically not include in your Curriculum Vitae then it’s not worth it. Style up and save the crumbling music industry before it is too late.

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