King Kaka’s spoken word is bold, but does not elicit pertinent public conversations

In Summary

• King Kaka’s spoken word has been acclaimed as thought provoking and to be honest, some of us are still trying to figure out what is thought provoking.

King Kaka.
King Kaka.
Image: FILE

Music and musicians are very critical in the society and like literary artists they have a greater role in not only moralising the society, but also exposing the injustices in the society. Africa boast of giants in the art and literary world, who used the pen to great effect.

Dennis Brutus, one of the world’s finest poets used his poems to fight the apartheid regime and at no point did he slip to attention and publicity that we see among the current generation of poets and artists. In 2007, long after the apartheid regime had come down crushing, he turned down the invitation to be inducted into the South African Sports Hall of Fame. His reason was very simple: folks who had championed racists sports were still in South African sports alongside their victims yet he had seen no apology. 

The consistency of this great poet is unmatched and in one his poems that I consider the best, Sirens, Knuckles and Boots (1963), he vividly captures the police state in apartheid South Africa with such powerful images and finesse. And unlike our shock jocks he does not even mention the police, the oppressors or the victims. For him it was the issue and exposure of the issue and he certainly contributed big time in raising the consciousness.His consistency is underscored by his follow up poem on the same theme titledStill Sirens published 30 years later in 1993.

 Now, juxtapose Dennis Brutus’ work of art and creative conceit with our Kenyan artists turn social activists. King Kaka’s spoken word has been acclaimed as thought provoking and to be honest, some of us are still trying to figure out what is thought provoking. Is it the fact that he abused Kenyans, called out leaders on things that we already know or his inept creativity in the lyrics? And could this be a ploy to get attention and then delve into politics.

The DCI has already pronounced himself on the musician’s allegations and now folks who were jumping all over the place celebrating Kaka are beginning to discern that they are indeed wajinga. Sounds like it was all about attention.

You see, we live in a democracy and it is naïve to think that democracy reasons like Kaka. It does not and to situate our democracy within our African context needs deeper conversations beyond the flippant issues raised by King Kaka. There is a broader context within which the voters evaluate the political class and abusing Kenyans does not address that and neither does it elicit conversations that would illuminate the pertinent issues.

Reminding Kenyans of what we already know and putting King Kaka at the same pedestal as Dennis Brutus and the likes of Ken Saro-Wiwa, like I have seen a few keyboard warriors do on social media, is not only unfortunate, but also despicable. On the one hand we have real artists who used their creative conceit to fight injustices in their societies while our very own is using his popularity to push what is increasingly appearing to be a personal agenda.

The very folks who are busy applauding King Sungura will eventually troop back to their tribal cocoons come 2022 and vote along non issues. Why? Because in as much as the King has loudly repeated what we already know, he has done very little to spur the right public conversations and unfortunately he seems to be offering no insights on the way forward. Even the folks joining the conversation seem to convoluting the very issue and now we are talking about King Kaka. You see, after the release of the track, conversations have been on defamatory suits and as usual the script is taking the familiar trajectory of showbiz.

Pertinent issues have been put aside and now we are talking about lawyers, musicians and all and sundry who have come out in support of King Kaka and as usual there a hashtag to go with it. Expansion of the democratic space in Kenya and the freedom of expression have provided a fairly wide latitude for public conversations, unfortunately the attendant responsibility that comes with these freedoms seems to be lacking. Unleashing the outrage attack on individuals who find the song or spoken word defamatory is in itself denying other Kenyans fundamental rights. Just like a work of art is independent of the artists so is defamation to different individuals. Only a court of law can determine and the social media or news headlines should not be a basis condemning people as corrupt or protecting people who are perceived to have violated the reputations of others.