Reuben Kigame: Why I love ‘Nerea’ by Sauti Sol
It is not often that someone interested in Critical Music Discourse comes across something as beautiful and moving as the song “Nerea”, recently released by the group, Sauti Sol!
Sauti Sol is not just Kenyan. It is a coming together of talented young men with as huge a musical background as their future seems to suggest.
I do not enjoy most of their other songs, and, honestly speaking, I don’t even care for them. But, “Nerea” is a Classic and, in my estimation, it will be in the hearts and minds of Kenyans and music analysts for a long time. You know a good song when you hear one, and its latent legacy drives it on. I must admit that the song even made me drop a tear or two.
So why is “Nerea” by Sauti Sol a special song?
First and foremost, I think it is a brave effort by Kenyans to say something nobody really wants to say; certainly not aloud. It is a candid slap against the practice of Abortion.
The boys do not wallow in euphemistic jargon as civil rights groups do. They don’t call Abortion “a choice”, “flashing” or “reproductive health right.
“They use the Swahili word “mimba” whose express meaning no Swahili speaker can miss. “I beseech you, Nerea, not to remove my conception/pregnancy,” the song translates.
POTENCY OF SONG
But it is that particular line that carries the potency of the song. That line will never die and that line will never be misunderstood. In fact, the life of the song is carried in that line. “Don’t remove my pregnancy (sic)!”
The power of this line is a man’s ownership of responsibility in a pregnancy. It is a powerful line in a world where too many a man runs away from social responsibility when pregnancy occurs. “Don’t remove my pregnancy (sic)” is a powerful idiom of love and commitment.
The man is saying, “I am with you and that child is mine.” This is totally counterculture. In our world that is soaked in errotomania, this line may not sell, and indeed, it takes media houses that are proculture for this song to die.
It is the media that may try to kill it, because it might mean someone selling less condoms and that may be bad for media business. It’s exactly the same reason media do not play many songs advising people not to drink, because they might lose alcohol advertising revenues.
It is noble for Sauti Sol to put that line out there, because it will play its role in inculcating in youth the blessing of responsibility when a pregnancy occurs.
Sauti Sol goes a step farther and repeatedly illustrates through the verses of the song that if Nerea does not abort this child, the child might be Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela, Miriam Makeba the great singer, environmentalist Wangari Maathai, Wanyama the soccer player or David Rudisha the athlete, Lupita Nyong’o who brought Kenya the glory of an Oscar, Odinga the politician, Rwanda’s president Kagame, Tom Mboya, Jomo Kenyatta the freedom fighter who brought independence to Kenya, maybe an angel in disguise among us, or perhaps Sauti Sol who brings us good melodies!
The point is home: We are alive because we were not aborted. Every leader or professional you see in the place of responsibility is there because their mother allowed them to live.
There is another reason why this is a big song. At a time when many young people are content with going to a music producer who will give them some Fruity Loops or Ridims and then they sing a line or two over and over again and call it a song, or endlessly fight for celebrity status, awards and airplay, Sauti Sol is all out with excellent acoustic guitar lines, great percussions, bass lines, a great wash of string pads, and, certainly a great melody.
The harmonies are tight and the adlibs tantalizing. The Afro-fusion in the beat is moving and danceable, a good contrast to the serious message. What shall one say of the Lead guitar parts just before the Bridge, whose captivating line at the end of the phrase is harmonized on the higher range to give it real presence, diversity and colour as it crescendos into the Bridge!
And Nerea as a choice of name to represent the average Kenyan girl is not just memorable. It is matched by a creative usage of rhyme on the word “Nitamlea…”. This is quite poetic.
But don’t stop just yet! Sauti Sol fashions a melody that is easy to sing and easy to repeat. It is couched in African passion and “soulishness.” It is an intense melody. It is tearful and entreating. It is sweetly sad. You cannot avoid the melody.
And then they pull out a lyrical trigger: “When God brings a child into the world, He ensures He brings the child’s plate as well!”
PANGS OF POVERTY
In a country where many women are aborting with the excuse, “How will I take care of this child if I keep him/her?” Bang! There is your answer, dear girl: It is not you who has fed yourself to adulthood. God ensured your plate was here. It is not your parent or guardian who ensures you eat and grow.
It is God Almighty, all-knowing! He knows you are alive and if alive He knows, too, that you must eat. “Don’t abort my pregnancy … the Lord will take care of it!” Then again they add, “Lete nitamlea!” (Bring the child to me I will take care of it!) This is both responsibility and love in display. It is like saying, “I am ready for God to use me to raise the child.”
But the power of the “plate” idiom is also the cultural backdrop of poverty. A majority of Kenyans are poor and even having a plate for every child is a luxury. In most cases poor families will share a plate or utensils or use one pan or pot to cook alternately. Sauti Sol are saying that even in that congestion of interests propelled by pangs of poverty, God will provide for the child.
Sauti Sol! Bravo from someone who appreciates that song. May we have more like it in the coming days! Good songs don’t have to be sexy or repetitive. We know a good song when we hear one! Bravo one more time. As you can tell, I can write on and on! Keep it up, and may every local media house join me in making this song as big as it can be.
Reuben Kigame is a blind Kenyan gospel musician based in Eldoret. He is famed for songs such as Enda Nasi, Pokea Sifa and Mshukuruni Bwana.
Copyright: Reuben Kigame/Facebook