WAJINGA NYINYI

Music’s role in social awakening

It has the ability to rally people behind a cause.

In Summary
  • Music, through popular messaging, has the ability to rally people behind a cause and actually act as a voice through which change can be attained.
  • This makes music the perfect partner for social change.

King Kaka at the weekend set social and mainstream media on fire with his hard-hitting poetry piece, Wanjinga Nyinyi. This is evidence that music is growing from an entertainment-oriented genre to a tool for social change in Kenya.

In Africa we have examples of how music has changed society for the better. There are the anti-apartheid and government-challenging lyrics of Nigeria’s Fela Kuti and South Africa’s Miriam Makeba. Internationally, we have anti-war sentiments of the likes of Bob Dylan of the US.

With modern day’s technological advancement, music has become part and parcel of our lives: We listen to it in our homes, on our way to work, at parties, while we study or exercise. This exemplifies the level of influence music has on individuals and societies.

The combination of the right lyrics, rhythm, instruments and delivery can build group distinctiveness, stir strong feelings, engage audiences and prod people to take action. This makes music the perfect partner for social change. In Africa lately, a variety of NGOs, bands and activists are trying to make a difference through music.

In 1985 a charity song written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, and produced by Quincy Jones and Michael Omartian for the album We are the world sold more than 20 million copies. The song was produced to raise funds for famine-stricken African countries which had been ravaged by a two-year drought from 1983.

Performances are predominantly effective because artists have the opportunity to address large crowds. For social messages to take root, they must be accepted by large numbers of people, and individuals are more likely to accept these messages if their peers do.

Music is a vital part of popular culture, it entertains and as such is a great platform for debates on societal issues. Performances are predominantly effective because artists have the opportunity to address large crowds. For social messages to take root, they must be accepted by large numbers of people, and individuals are more likely to accept these messages if their peers do.

King Kaka has rattled the natural order by evoking deep feelings among listeners with his Wajinga Nyinyi (You Fools) single. It addresses a myriad of issues from political conmanship, corruption and the forgetful nature of Kenyans in the political process, which is mainly affected by ethnicity.

Music, through popular messaging, has the ability to rally people behind a cause and actually act as a voice through which change can be attained. When music is played over the radio, people hear and sing along, repeating the messages. This gives people an opportunity to understand what messages the music holds and to speak about them.

During the ’60s, popular white singers such as Bob Dylan and Joan Baez lent their names and talent to the American Civil Rights Movement. In actual fact, music had long aided those fighting for civil rights for African Americans. Freedom songs, often adapted from the music of the black church, played a critical role reinforcing courage, stimulating participation, and fostering a sense of community.

Robert Nesta Marley, popularly known as Bob Marley, used his musical success to make the richest nations take note of the plight of Third World countries as well as spreading a message of justice and peace during a time of serious political unrest in Jamaica.

 

Some of his songs where tales of slavery or ways of just saying relax and let life take its course. In the song Buffalo Soldier he says “Stolen from Africa, brought to America, fighting on arrival, fighting for survival”, which is basically about the struggles of Africans taken to America as slaves.

In trying to understand and contextualise Kenya’s sociopolitical and economic development, music cannot be ignored. It is a mirror through which a country’s people look at themselves as well as an avenue for passing messages to the authorities.

King Kaka has done his part in social awakening in his capacity as an artist. The ball now shifts to everyone else in society to reflect upon his message. Given the dissimilar ideological differences existing among different people within the country, reactions are and shall continue to be varied. This is expected given that the song, as is composed, criticises some while calling others to act.