Unless you have been living under a rock or simply don’t care about Kenyan music, you are probably familiar with Ethic Entertainments latest song ‘Figa.’ At the very least, you’ve heard the various comments surrounding the song and the video, released this past week.
The rap group, who brought us ‘Lamba Lolo’ and ‘Pandana,’ are staking out a place for themselves in the Kenyan music industry by releasing hit after hit that you can’t help but want to twerk and break it down to. ‘Figa’ is no different, produced by Motif, the song samples ‘Coño’ by Dutch artists Puri, Jhorrmountain and Adje and is an appreciation of women’s figures, curves, and other physical assets. Ethic has decided that our knees, backs, and waists will know no rest.
As with all good things on the internet, there were complaints made about the song, the appearances in the video and even the artists. While complaints about art, music, and culture, are necessary and encouraged, some of the discussions that Kenyans on Twitter were having will not push the culture forward. They dissuade and hold Kenyan creators to standards that punish creating art that does not fit into a particular box.
One of the best things about the Kenyan music industry is the diversity of acts, whether you’re looking for rock, Benga, Mugithi or Afropop, you are bound to find something that appeals to you. Which makes the comparisons between Ethic and Sauti Sol absurd, it’s like trying to make apple juice from pineapples. Sauti Sol primarily creates music that falls in the realm of Afropop while Ethic Entertainment skews more hip-hop, there is really nothing to compare as their lanes - though they may intersect at various junctions - are quite different.
To insinuate the group should not make any music because there is Sauti Sol is ridiculous. There is room for everyone in the industry. There is nothing wrong with a little healthy competition, it spurs people to think about what they are creating and how they can evolve their craft but to perpetuate this idea of scarcity when we have over 10,000 Gospel artists, some who release even more dubious songs than ‘secular’ artists, is as laughable as the government deporting its citizens. Both groups are composed of talented men and to compare one as being greater simply because they have a greater reach and are more recognized is demoralizing. Should other artists cease to create music because Sauti Sol exist?
The Kenyan fun police also objected to the use of Sheng (whew chile, the classism), the impropriety of radio presenter Kamene Goro’s cameo in the video, and the main take away with all things Kenyan, what it will teach our children. What is this country’s obsession with policing morality in entertainment but failing to look at political and religious leaders whose failings are even greater than someone twerking in a music video? Where is this energy when women are being disrespected, embarrassed, and killed in the country?
For a nation that is concerned for the youth, we have a weird way of showing it. We hire octogenarians to run initiatives that are targeted towards young people, we suffocate them while asking they take deep breaths, but most importantly, we tell them that this country is not for them if they dare to dream or think different. While criticism of art is essential and necessary, it should not detract without merit. ‘Figa’ is as the American youth would say, a bop. It has all the elements to shut down the club or any place it is performed. Rekles’ muted and low key delivery of the chorus has all but shut down the thinking capabilities for a number of us out here, we’re doomed to love the song for eternity.
If we can dance to songs in Pidgin, French, Zulu, or Tswana, we can jam to songs in Sheng. We are capable of noting inequality and unjust treatment of women while also shaking our asses to a good song. For me, Ethic Entertainment hearkens back to a time when the Kenyan airwaves were ruled by groups like Deux Vultures, Kleptomaniacs, the Ogopa artistes, and many more. Let’s not stop a groups growth and bag because they do not fit into a fictional mold of what we believe the Kenyan music industry should look and sound like.