The odd thing about the 2017 election season was the absence of protest songs, given the state affairs in the country. We are in the midst of serious social strife, a depressed economy, toxic tribalism, corruption on steroids, institutional failure and extra judicial killings just to get started. It cannot be too much to expect a bit more reflection in the popular music of the day.
You cannot sing African music in proper English – Fela Kuti
Now, more than 40 years later, it might be difficult to imagine that Kenyan Benga music was associated with freedom fighters in Rhodesia’s Bush War (the Chimurenga) in the late 1960s through to the late 1970s. In the fight to end white minority rule for the soul of a new Zimbabwe, the homeland of a black majority, Benga music embodied the liberation spirit. The music of D.O. (Daniel Owino) Misiani, George Ramogi, George Ojijo, Collela Mazee and Victoria Jazz is what Zimbabweans in the 70s in rural townships stamped their feet and swayed to in the hope of a new future for Zimbabwe.
My favourite Fela Kuti song is, “Water, No Get Enemy”. There is a hypnotic saxophone that awakens dead nerves carrying through the number. It is from the album “Expensive shit”. In Nairobi, water has enemies and owners. I was thinking about expensive water bottles littering the road sides as I rolled back into the city from the December manenos, to be confronted by the disturbing news of an imminent water shortage. I only get the city supply once a week, so this was not good news. News reports warned; Nairobi to face dry months ahead. Panic!