Introduced to offer consolation and raise funds for a bereaved family, disco matangas have turned to the ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’ of Kilifi.
The night vigil, also known as usiniriche from the popular Mijikenda gospel song Usiniriche by Dickson Nyamawi, has greatly been abused.
Education stakeholders and area leaders say disco matangas have done more harm than good.
Today teenagers dominate these night vigils. In yesteryears, teenagers and children were not allowed in burial ceremonies and night vigils.
County commissioner Magu Mutindika said disco matangas are the major cause of early pregnancies and dismal education performance.
During the night vigils, drugs and alcohol are abused, especially by teenagers.
Palm wine is also in plenty.
Young girls are scantly dressed to “spice up” the night vigils. Both old and young men turn up in large numbers, targeting the young girls for sex.
“Boys throng these functions to seduce girls and have sex with them in bushes. In most cases, they do not use protection and this explains the high rate of teenage pregnancies. This is a threat to this generation,” Ganze Sauti ya Wanawake chairlady Judith Uchi said.
Uchi said they have tried to speak to the young girls on the dangers associated with casual sex.
Data from the county Health department show that by October last year, 13,000 teenagers were pregnant.
Kilifi county hospital medical superintendent Eddie Nzomo said, “We should prepare to receive shocking statistics come February and March. Most of these pregnancies are recorded after school holidays. We seriously need to do something.”
In the Mijikenda setting, sexual activities during funerals are prohibited, but due to the large number of people who attend and lack of monitoring structures, the practice is rampant.
After the funerals, families perform rituals to stop any calamities that may befall the family as a result of the sexual activities that happen during mourning.
Early last year, Kilifi governor Amason Kingi banned disco matangas while imposing their ban. Kingi said the county was losing a whole generation because of the disco matangas. “Disco matanga is not our culture. We have our own traditional dances specifically for condoling with the bereaved. These dances are attended by the elderly due to the language used,” he said.
Kingi said because of disco matangas, funerals and night vigils had been left to teenagers because that was their centre of attraction.
Since the ban was imposed, at least three chiefs have been attacked. Last year in November, a chief was hit with a stone as he rode his motorbike in Kinani, Kaloleni. He had just condemned disco matangas. Last week, two chiefs and four police officers were attacked when they tried to stop a disco matanga.
On Monday, Interior CS Fred Matiang’i said disco matangas in Kilifi must end by 11pm. He said they have become excuses for criminal activities. He spoke when he visited chief David Kahindi who was attacked as he tried to stop a disco matanga in Shariani.
Mijikenda Kaya elders chairman Mwinyi Mgwisho blamed disco matangas for the moral decay in the area. He said they were also a security threat, especially to the elderly. “We cannot contain the early pregnancies menace if we do not stop disco matangas. The government should press on until this thing is weeded out from society,” Mgwisho said.
Anglican Church of Kenya Malindi Bishop Lawrence Dena said the clergy fully supported the ban. He said the church discourages burials on weekends to keep young children away from these events.
“We should seek God’s intervention on this matter because we are losing a generation,” Dena said
Disco owners and the youth have, however, faulted the ban, saying it is a ploy to kill their businesses.
They blamed early pregnancies on lack on parental care. Some musicians have made songs, saying discos do not impregnate girls.
“If parents were strict enough, no kid would be seen in such places. During our childhood in the 1980s, no teenager was seen misbehaving in discos and keshas,” Nasty Odhiambo of Studio B Sound said.
Before the introduction of disco matanga in Kilifi, Mijikendas had a book to record contributions.
Family members contributed in a fund specifically for the family (Lukolo). This is a flat rate agreed by the family where every married person was supposed to pay.
There is also a contribution by other members of the community called Midzichenda.
Kingi said the culture of disco Matanga was copied from upcountry, especially from Nyanza. “Because of the huge expenses involved in transporting their loved ones from the Coast to Nyanza, they used to organise disco matangas to source funds. They would fund raise for weeks,” he said.
Kilifi North MP Owen Baya said disco matangas are business ventures to milk community members.
“The disco owner brings the equipment for the night vigil. He hires a DJ and and master of ceremonies responsible for collecting the money. In the morning the owner takes the money and shares it. This is a ripoff,” Baya said.