Ethic vs ethics: Gengetone group comes under fire, again



Soko is despicable and should be condemned by all right-thinking people.

That’s the verdict, according to Ezekiel Mutua, the CEO of the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB).

And no, an apology won’t be enough – the boys should pay a fine of Sh100,000 or face a five-year jail term for their repeat offence.  

“Now listen guys, an apology won’t just wash. You will have to face the full force of the law as provided for in the Films and Stage Plays Act Cap 222 of the Laws of Kenya,” Dr Mutua wrote on his Facebook page, adding that only the current Covid-19 situation has lessened the punishment.

According to Kenya’s foremost moral cop, whose mission on his Twitter bio is to ‘protect children from exposure to harmful content’, the popular group, made up of Rekles, Swat, Zilla and Seska, is normalising criminal acts in the pursuit of making hits.

“Do these perverted producers have children? How does a sane adult try to normalise rape, prostitution or paedophilia in the name of gengetone hits? The video Soko by Ethic is despicable immorality that should be condemned by all right-thinking people,” he tweeted earlier this week, adding to his many tweets through the years condemning the trending genre.

He then re-posted a video shared by veteran producer Tedd Josiah expressing disgust at gengetone producers and lyrics that point to rape, warning them that “mnachoma picha” (you’re making the industry look bad) at a time when efforts are being made to catch the eye of the government.  

All this happened hours before the offending video was pulled down from YouTube.

It’s a familiar script for Ethic.

When they released Tarimbo in November last year, there was so much heat regarding the content of the song, which many felt glorified rape, that the video was pulled down. The group apologised.

“As Ethic Entertainment, we are truly remorseful for any dolour caused by the lyrics to our single, and for every single person that was triggered to a displeasing memory or emotion by it, receive our sincere apologies. Rest assured that no disrespect was intended,” the group said.

Despite this, the video is still on the group’s official YouTube page and stands at 1.3 million views.

‘Pulse’ reached out to the group’s management, AI Records on Monday evening, an hour before Ethic posted an apology.

“Thank you. I am in receipt of your email and your comments have been noted,” Mike Andrews, the director at AI Records wrote back to us. “The matter is under full discussion with Ethic and we will respond tomorrow.”

On Tuesday, they did.

According to Mike, Ethic’s action (to go ahead with the song) is contrary to their contractual obligations.

“You must get the boys to get details from them and the producer, Motif,” he explained.

He went further to elaborate that when Tarimbo got censure from Mutua, they held discussions with the KFCB and agreed that there was no place for “bad lyrics”.

“When they released the audio (Soko) some time back, we advised them to change the lyrics. We are also shocked that they went ahead to do the video without reference to us,” said Mike, who explained that AI Records primarily works on the distribution of music, not so much on production.

So was the apology released after Tarimbo even sincere?

“That apology was meant. Sam (general manager) and I agreed that bad lyrics are not condoned,” he said.

Ethic’s latest apology, though different, sounds familiar, too.

“We owe an apology to our fans who have been nothing but supportive throughout our journey,” the apology read, and went on to explain the reason for pulling down the video and promising not to repost it.

“Over and above, we sincerely apologise and we are working to release better music content in the future.”

This was quite a climb-down from an earlier response to people who questioned the lyrics.

“People interpret lyrics however they aim to. If that’s what you interpreted it as from listening to the lyrics, then you should evaluate yourself,” was Ethic’s initial response to a tweet by @BravinYuri.

That gengetone splits opinion is not in doubt. Whether it’s the artistry, the lyrics, the quality of the videos or the context, many dismiss the genre – which has been around since 2017 – as a passing cloud. But there is a group that dances to the music every time it plays in clubs, with the artistes’ quick turnaround and use of popular phrases to make mega hits striking a chord with fans.

Despite there being tens of gengetone groups that pop up, Ethic has got quite the bashing from Mutua and netizens. Their lyrics, like those of many other groups like theirs, speak of smoking weed and having sex in ever-changing sheng, with X-rated videos hammering the point home.

Yet, Ethic continues to grow in popularity. It has 230,000-plus YouTube subscribers and more than 18,000 followers on Twitter.