Khalligraph Jones, aka the OG of local rap music, may not exactly be the poster boy of love. But his song ‘Tuma Kitu’ captures a whole lot of love’s anxieties if you remix it for Valentine’s. ‘Mresh keja hataki skuma, amechoka na nguo za Gekomba. Kwa mbosho nina rwabe mbele nyuma/ nab ado inafaa nifike Ronga. Niko Railways buda nime-nuna. Najaribu kuskiza madonda ... Tuma kitu, Gathe, tuma kitu.’
If you think of the first sentence of the song, that’s a chap saying his woman is fed up of eating greens, pardon the pun, and also of second-hand clothes from Gikomba. Not a happy Valentine! If you take paragraph two of the lyrics and make the persona a female, you have a plotline. She’s a young woman with only Sh200 in her purse.
Yet you, the man, want her to come to your house in Rongai (where the rent is cheap, and the rooms spacious, never mind that it is a foreign nation). She’s at Railways, listening to those loud louts called Railways’ touts; and she’s sending you a text to ‘send something’ on Mpesa. What’s wrong with this picture?, as asks the excellent song by the rock group Placebo. We need to adjust that statement to ‘tuma fare’ for a taxi service on Driver App, if it’s 2021.
‘Tuma fare’ was the most bigly Kenyan phrase of 2020 because, with lockdowns and curfews, lovelorn ladies delivering themselves like Glovo to the houses and (ungloved) hands of lusty men became a trend, and has stayed one. So ‘TUMA FARE’ for their taxi tabs became a love phrase.
Of course, as one Ahmed Papa pointed out, it also became a huge SCAM across the country. Many men would send that M-Pesa, in response to the ‘tuma fare’ clarion call from females they hoped to bed/devour, then be left holding their blue balled fundamentals in their hands, or in street lingo, ‘kunyonga monkey’ (strangling the chimpanzee).
JP Oduor points out that ‘tuma fare’ often ni ‘kuchoma bet ya bedtime stories.’ ‘Ukitaka kuweka bet ya kichwa,’ he advices, ‘the best phrase from her mouth will be “nichukuwe Uber?” Hio ni sure bet!’ Gloria Madonna dismisses the whole ‘tuma fare thang’ as an insurance scam by the ladies. “In this day n age,” she says, “if she wishes to cum n gerrit, she’ll drive, or even hitch hike to Loitoktok for love or lay of le pipe.”
Okpe Kingdom says that when a woman says “funga mlango!”, you have just reached the Superbowl finals, and Arwings Odera, veteran journalist adds that ‘usimwage ndani’ is the love language of those inside the Super Bowl. For females who eat forbidden fruit, like men with wives or live-in Valentine’s, the giveaway line is ‘uko sure sitapigwa/ chomwa na maji moto?’ That question is asked by lady predators ready to eat the simba inside the den of his lioness!
Every Kenyan woman on social media must have received at least one creepy ‘prickie’ (the selfie of a penis), mostly from anonymous guys who live in South-East Asia. Much more common by our local African (young) men, by way of a love language is: ‘Si you send me a nude/ p**** pic?’
And this fantasy league request is often a chat ender for most women because, WTFDYTYA? Who Tha F*** Do You Think You Are, requesting that, when the lady hardly knows ya? Back in the 1990s, Pulsers then in their teens, were a much ‘slower’ lot, so to speak.
Because the music back then was a heavy saccharine mix of Rhythm and Blues, with all these love songs, young people took a much gentler, slower and winding route in their love language. A look at the top ten Billboard songs the week before Valentine’s has FOUR love songs there - Janet Jackson’s ‘Love Will Never Do W/out You,’ Sensitivity, Give All My Love to You (Keith Sweat) and I’m Not in Love by the cheesily named Will Power.
In fact it was the sickening sounds of such songs that drove a few of us to ACDC, INXS & Nirvana - preferring to be Thunder Struck by Man in the Box, and that Suicide Blonde Alice in Chains, who Smells Like Teen Spirit. If you knew, you will know. Romance back then did smell like the deodorant ‘teen spirit.’
Weeks to Valentine’s, younging guys would get the school poets and pay them in bread to pen letters to females they had met in those first inter school funkies of January. Other guys would struggle with corny lines like ‘only meat in my githeri (wasapere wa Central Boarding) or ‘smart’ lines like ‘you are the Pythagora in my mental calculus’ (wajacka wa Lakeside Fish & Weevils).
But after sealing, one had to give it a spray of teen spirit – Yu or Limara or Brut (but not Bint el Sudan, spray ya maiti) so that it smelled sweet in the nostrils of the girl opening it in boarding. Whom you hoped to see at half term holiday, over the Valentine weekend! After high school, the urban love language may be movies at Kenya and Nairobi cinemas.
And ‘Pulsers’ back then actually all dressed up, especially the women, to go to kina Carnivore. And young men practised dance moves that involved ‘slicing’ each other, id est, jumping in front of a young woman’s nose on the dance floor, so the pal who was dancing with her was completely cut off from her.
And the first time a couple may ‘touch’ each other, back then, was during ‘shika shika’ time. That is an hour of slow music during which a couple held each other and twirled on the floor. (Of course, most of us would jipea shugli at this time, like practice our beer-drinking skills; part of a bunch of men at the disco without women called ‘Breezers,’ which may explain our loath for R & B, but since rock is like heroine, TGFT - Thank God Fer That)!
So that for courting adults, lovers and even husbands and wives, Valentine’s weekend would play out in a long three-part act – Friday, she gets a bouquet of flowers at her workplace. Saturday she’s taken out for a sit-in, or if one had a car, Drive-In movie at Fox in Kasarani. And on Sunday, a candle-lit dinner at the Foresta Magnetica on the ground floor, Corner House!
Then came the Year 2000; and by 2001 cellphones were like confetti, and then the smartphones as porn became mainstream, songs became all sex, and romance and slo-mo dating flew out of the window for an entire generation; and for who ‘Valentines’ is emo-meaningless.
A meme on matatus earlier this week captured ‘love phrases’ for local matatu commuters. ‘Nipee hapo mbele. Nakupea! Nyuma mumenipea? Wacha Nipande. Songa niingie!’ ‘Ukifika mwisho uniambie,’ ‘Donda Simama’ and ‘Ni-mbao hadi tao.’ Laughter has replaced the Lover.