The history of songs as protest in Kenya is as old as time.
There is much that has been said, even documented via a project by Ketebul on the same – I wish they would put the music on the streaming sites. Anyway, the point is, artists for eons have used their art to protest injustice in different ways. In Kenya specifically, even during the time of the tyrant, Moi, music was released that directly criticized the government of the day.
In the last six years, I personally have been waiting for a Kenyan musician to release a protest song that that has the mainstream impact that Nchi ya kitu kidogo had (rewatching this video makes me realise how much Kenya has stagnated as a country. Also, thinking of KJ now?? …… WOW!).
As I mentioned in my review of Dela and MDQ‘s albums, they both had protest songs but Dela did not release hers as a single and MDQ did not gain as much traction as I am referring to.
It seemed that between the government paying musicians to perform for them and others focused on being part of the Safaricom countrywide tours, we would not get a protest song with mainstream traction.
To be honest they were the last people I expected to release what could be considered a protest song. The message in the song: we should search ourselves, all these things are happening but what are we doing?
“Usingizi gani tumelala – tutajua hatujui”
In some aspects, it can be seen as ambiguous (and really this was my first thought when I listened to it) and some of its message may be lost for some as they talk about Instagram captions and twitter feuds and still, the fact is that this song is something that as Kenyans, we needed.
I could sit here and criticise this song for not coming out and clearly assigning blame to politicians and perhaps the lack of context in understanding on the politics of power and why people vote along tribal lines, or even focusing on twitter feuds with no nuance of the work that the platform has achieved, the power of social media for change but the truth is that, there is a message is there.
And maybe THIS is the start we needed for mainstream art and artists to contextually criticise government and amp the citizens to demand for change through their art.
Kweli, tutajua hatujui