• Gengetone has helped Sheng take root in pop culture, be embraced by corporates
Sheng is one of those languages that grow every day. What you know today may be the meaning of something else tomorrow.
This Kenyan slang has been adopted and embraced by pop culture, hence the rapid rise of the Gengetone genre, which brought fresh, young artistes, who came with new Sheng phrases.
Gengetone has turned around the meaning of many words, and to some extent, we shall be having a language barrier if we do not keep updating our sheng dictionary.
Musicians such as Ethic Entertainment, Mbogi Genje, Wakadinali, Boondocks and rapper OG are among those who make use of the Sheng revolution through their lyrics.
Early this month, Kiss FM presenter Jalang'o hosted the famous Gengetone group behind the popular phrase “kama unajinauwo”.
The group, Gota City, has been trending for a while, and the hilarious group had some new words to teach Jalang'o.
Kenyans feel they have their own language, which basically no one understands and is far from the usual sheng we have always known.
But the group maintains the language has always been there. When they first came to the limelight, fans could barely understood what they were singing.
Although some people disregard the use of Sheng, saying it is not an official way of communication, the language is gradually taking over and its use is rampantly being accepted not only by the young but also the older generation and corporate world.
Politicians have also joined the bandwagon and are using Sheng as an easy way to connect with the youth.
Speaking to the Star, Murang'a Senator Irungu Kang'ata, who was once a DJ, said the reason he does not use Sheng is because of the people he represents. "If politicians are in an urban setting, using Sheng can assist them to garner a huge following."
He says as a politician, when using Sheng, it is also important to consider the people you are addressing because if the audience does not understand the words, they will consider you as being snobbish.
"The Sheng we used in our days is different from what we are using nowadays. Even with the kind of music played by our young generation, it depends on the audience," Kang'ata said.
For example, a youth born and raised in Murang'a county will be interested in Mugiithi songs, as opposed to those born in the city. "Many times, you have heard our President using the term 'wasee' when making his speech in rallies," he said.
Impeached Nairobi Governor Mike Mbuvi is now popularly known as 'Sonko', a Sheng word for a rich man. Sonko joined the crop of young leaders when he first became the Makadara MP in 2010 through a by-election.
Youths called him Sonko because of his lifestyle. He ended up adding Sonko to his official name. Also, former Nairobi woman representative Rachel Shebesh branded herself with a Sheng slogan. She opted for 'Manzi wa Nai', Sheng for a 'Young woman from Nairobi'.
Peter Kenneth caused a buzz when he became the first politician to use a Sheng slogan, 'Tunawesmake', meaning 'we can make it', in his presidential campaign.
Sheng' is also adapted by the matatu industry to run the business effectively. Kevo, a tout at Zuri Sacco, told the Star he has used Sheng for six years. He understands the language so well and he says that has helped him.
He started as a 'kamagera', the touts who are stationed at a particular stage to help the main conductor fill the vehicle.
"Sometimes, Sheng helps us so much, especially when we want to hike the prices and we don't want the passengers to understand," he said.
The touts have a language that helps them communicate easily. When 'kanjo' (county government officials) are around, they have a way to communicate with each other.
"Kanjo tunawaita 'majokare', and the police officers we call them ma-rhinos," he said. Young men are called 'mabrathe', while the official, good-looking men are called 'chairman'. "Hao ni wenye unaona wanakaa kuheshimiwa," he said.
Setura is for the driver and the conductor. This is when the conductor wants to signal to the driver to drop a passenger.
Cheza kiwewe, or acha kujikuna ndevu, is when a conductor wants the driver to overtake or use a different route that has little traffic.
Check out a few words you may learn to boost your understanding of this new wave of Gengetone stars that came out in 2020:
Jinauwo – Know/acting like a know it all; Senke – boda boda; Kitu Peng’ – Beautiful girl; Mrenga/Mbathi – Car; Nguna, tibien, marialize – Dem; Wolan – hivyo hivyo/ndio; Miyo- kayole Nyumba- jake; Nauwo - understand/know.
Others: Mwinengris/mwiningri – Mwingine; Ryma- primary; Kukata Mazibri - drinking; Medi - hauna rada/ umekaa tu; kustone Kubuya- kuogopa; Kumwok - kukuja.
Inegris - ingine; Arif- friend; Rima- area; Muok- kukuja; Senke- nduthi; mbwegste - two; Mathigithaga- mashugli/mahustle; Monchoka- kuja; Zing – buda/father; Mroko - mother.
Mongre - brain; Jas- moja; Wabbling- maji; Kanairo – Nairobi; Njege/Sanse – police.