‘Tano tena’: Kikuyu musicians now turn against Uhuru
Mt Kenya artists who were in the frontline drumming up support for President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election bid through their music have turned against him and are now composing songs castigating his governance.
This is in stark contrast to the period just before the 2017 General Election when Mr Kenyatta effectively used music to propel his political messages and harness votes in his Mt Kenya backyard.
Due to the influence local Kikuyu artistes wielded in the Embu, Meru, Kirinyaga, Nyeri, Murang’a and Tharaka-Nithi counties, they appeared on every template of meeting agendas organised during Jubilee’s campaigns, singing vernacular songs laced with pro-Kenyatta political rhetoric.
Now, less than three years later, their tunes have changed and none other than the president himself is the casualty of their musical stylings.
For instance, Ben Githae, whose song Tano Tena became the Jubilee party national anthem, is one of the artistes who has signalled his unhappiness with the current status quo.
Along with his other popular song ‘Wembe Ni Ule Ule’, his music would be played in every political function before and after politicians made their speech while every pro-Jubilee convoy had the song on rotation.
They became so popular that Mr Githae himself would be invited during rallies to perform the song, a move that brought him closer to the President and became friends.
He has changed tune and has now composed a new song that seeks to advise Mt Kenya leaders to meet ‘behind the tent’ to know where they went wrong and to mend their ways before it is too late.
In a new song dubbed ‘Thutha Wa Hema’ (behind the tent), Mr Githae cautions that due to failure of leaders coming together, the region risks exclusion from future governments.
‘Naithui umuthi ni tukunyane, tuhehanirire thutha wa hema, kwaria ni kwendana tuthii twi kariko. Nitucoke Magomanoini tuone haria twahitiirie, twiyurie turorete naku na tugukinya atia, tutigatharane mugate na bekeri yathire tene.. translating to “We should whisper behind the tent, so that we speak in one voice. Let us go back to the drawing board to know where we went wrong and to know where we are going and how we shall reach there.”
The song appears to suggest that the region is heading in the wrong direction and that there is need for leaders to speak in one voice.
Another Mt Kenya favourite is musician Muigai Wa Njoroge, who in the past was used to drum up support for Mr Kenyatta but has now released a controversial song dubbed ‘Mbari ya Kimendero’ which loosely translates to ‘the clan of oppressors’.
In the song that has since gone viral, Mr Njoroge condemns looters of public resources saying they will not see their generation and that death awaits them in India where they seek medical treatment.
“But the God of Kimathi, Mathenge and Kagia will deliver us from the hands of these inhuman people. You thieves of public resources, your generation will be cut short. Your deaths await you in India. You shall go alive but come back in caskets,” Mr Njoroge eerily warns.
In the song, he also mocks the March 9 handshake between Mr Kenyatta and leader Raila Odinga.
“The maize farmers are wailing and the coffee farmers are uprooting the coffee and discarding it. Business people are suffering because of debts while all you do is handshake each other and strategise,” he sings.
He is also bitter that during the 2017 presidential campaigns, Mr Kenyatta’s government provided subsidised maize flour at Sh90 but after getting into office, the price shot up to over Sh100.
Mr Muigai has also recently composed a new song dubbed Tukunia, meaning hoarded loyalists akin to the colonial home guards who betrayed the Mau Mau freedom fighters.
The song alludes that those close to the president have failed to tell him the plain truth about predicaments of the Mt Kenya region and vows to tell him the truth however painful.
“..The President needs people who will tell him the truth to rule the country with wisdom,” he said.
What is interesting is that even artistes who got into legal trouble at the height of the electoral period in 2012 due to ethnically charged content in their music are also joining the tide against the current administration’s leadership.
Benga artiste Kamande Wa Kioi, who in the past was arrested by police over his hit song ‘Uhuru ni witu’, has now changed tune and released a tune dubbed ‘Jeshi ti genu (the troops are not happy).
Together with the late John De Mathew and Muigai wa Njoroge, they were charged with incitement to violence and hate speech through their music.
Mr Kioi had claimed to have talked with God who directed him to advise Mr Kenyatta’s main competitor Raila Odinga to drop his bid and support him.
But in the new song, Mr Kioi insinuates that Kenyans were taken for a ride by the president who called Kenyan youth ‘troops’ only for him to neglect the region and to wine and dine with his rival.
The artiste told the Nation that he was compelled to compose the song owing to frustrations and resentment in the region.
“We all sacrificed for the President to retain his seat, I recall that when my mother heard that I had been arrested for releasing a song ‘Uhuru ni Wa Ngai, she collapsed and died, but what is the gains? Instead of the President reviving coffee and tea sectors which are ailing, he is wining and dining with a person who he referred to as a mad man,” he said bitterly.
He has now released a hit song ‘Ruto ni muitiririe maguta (Ruto is annointed) and etererai muone Ruto agituika muthamaki meaning ‘Wait and see how Ruto will be the king’.
The move by some Mt Kenya artistes to shun Mr Kenyatta has been seen by many as a revolt as Dr Ruto makes inroads in the president’s backyard.