Wamlambez…!! I know you’re dying to respond. I get it, it is infectious.
Not too long ago, I saw a tweet from my mentor, asking what it actually means, the responses_____ unfathomable. Now we can’t sleep you know “mbinginjii imekulwa na ndongii!”
This term “Wamlambez” has become a defining facet of Kenyan music scene. This raises a
pertinent question on the role and impact of music in any society. Recently, Dr. Ezekiel Mutua the CEO of Kenya Film Board Commission shared his sentiments on this, and as you can imagine, Kenyans didn’t particularly take the news seriously. Do they ever anyway, unless it is Matiang’i?
Music is, first and foremost, an important societal trait, a reflection of its society and a tool that for ages has played both as a literature function and a universal language with societal interpretations.
Some figures provide a perspective on Tupac Shakur who is regarded as the rapper of all times and the most influential musical figures in the US, and my all time favorite being Dear Mama. A contestable consensus exists on whether Tupac’ s music is of triumph or struggles, he faced while growing up, drugs, penitentiary etc. Ironically, even after his death in 1996, Tupac’ s albums recorded more than 75 million sales. In 2017, he was posthumously inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The recognition is a mark of excellence and distinction.
The famous ‘Wakanda’ in the movie ‘Black Panther’ is also a continuation of the black heritage through music that saw the African-Americans form an identity and celebrate their unique experiences, while agitating for a better future.
Musical scholars argue that music is an ancient non-representational form of human expression which connects human emotions with their environment, and by extension, the universe. No matter one’s culture, melancholy music remains an expression of human sadness. The same threshold upholds in pleasant music. However, this does not close the door on the question on whether similar music can elicit different cognitive interpretation.
Perhaps, the bigger question is on the universality of music.
In this case, can one take our Wamlambez tune and judge it as distasteful? It is an interesting position because if the answer is affirmative, it quashes any inclination of musical language being universal. Moreover, this renders the threshold of objective interpretation of music mute, and thus reinforces the contemporary sentiments on the subjectivity of music.
The Sarafina Band remains a national treasure in South Africa on how it used music to fight apartheid. Can the same be said about Kenya? Maybe I am indifferent or ignorant of the musical sphere in the country, either presently or in the past.
The fundamental definition of music aside, what is the importance of music? There is a
consensus on music and behavior, especially because of how music affects emotion. It has been said that music forms an identity. People are able to define themselves personally and culturally through music. It implies that a musical artist can be seen through a duality ideology.
I sincerely do not have an objective understanding of the Wamlambez music but I have severally succumbed to social pressure. I have sung along, and felt raw emotion of the new musical wave in Kenya. The mantra #PlayKEMusic was supposed to bridge the perceived dormancy in the Kenyan musical scene. Is this the answer to this call? If so, this would mean that Kenya is the‘Wamlambez nation’, a statement that I would personally feel does not objectively reflect our value systems and beliefs.
Another booming hit is the ‘Boko Haram’, and it is receiving aggressive airplay in the Kenyan media and in our infamous transport industry. Like are you serious?The musical heritage in Kenya is losing its compass if it is defined by haram and shabab voices. Should we now start singing about Al-Shabab? If one does not feel bothered by the musical wave gushing in the Kenyan sphere, then our collective moral consciousness needs rethinking.
Creativity should be celebrated. I do not castigate our artists, and hats off to those who have taken Kenyan music to the world. Sauti Sol came, conquered and exited. They should have stayed for longer, but again, what do I know? In conclusion, music is a complex subject, one that neither you nor I can see the top or bottom of it. So, I hope that my sentiments empower our local music composers to bring an objective and universal threshold to perceive the Kenyan music.
Music is an art, let’s not violate its inherent and universal interpretation.
Though belated, hats off to John De Mathew, a person who touched our hearts in almost all social domains. The angels will enjoy this one, may he shine on his way.
Finally, I have been longing to bring this out of my chest…….
Wamnyonyez…!!! Whatever that means!