Bongo flava: Kenyans’ love affair with Tanzanian music
Kenyans love Bongo Flava. Our airwaves, TV music shows, local shops and even promotional roadshows play a good amount of Bongo music. And what’s not to love about these Tanzanian songs? The beats are melodic, the vocals are smooth, the lyrics are catchy and some are laced with witty sexual innuendos that we love.
In a nightclub, it is not uncommon for people to scream with joy and run to the dance floor when a favourite Bongo song is played. The ladies twist their small waists and shake their hefty bottoms while the gentlemen grind closely behind them.
The comments we leave under the Bongo music videos on YouTube is more evidence of our love for the music genre. The harmony and co-existence displayed between us and the people of Tanzania in the comments section of a Bongo Flava song (that has been banned by Ezekiel Mutua on moral grounds) can bring diplomatic healing.
The song is not a successful Bongo hit for sure if it is not as popular and well known as a condom and hasn’t played everywhere you go - in a matatu, in a salon, in your friend’s house, in school events or as someone’s ringtone. You will hear people singing (along to) the song. Children in your plot will shout it like a nursery rhyme. The house help washing clothes outside your window will screech it while vigorously scrubbing a pair of jeans with a brush.
A drunkard staggering home at 2am will yell a few words of the chorus and cause the neighbourhood dogs to start barking again. He stops to take on the familiar mongrels locked behind gates. “Kwani unadhani weeh ni nani?” he slurs. BARK! BARK! “Kwendaa! Mbwa wewe.” BARK! BARK! “Si ukuje? Ama ni kunitishia tu kama bibi yangu?” BARK! BARK!
Someone opens a gate. “Baba Mike! Ebu ingia ndani haraka ama niku…!” It is the quiet but firm voice of Mama Mike. Baba Mike obeys and silently careens inside, leaving the excited dogs to further delay our good night’s sleep by giving us a barking and howling performance for thirty minutes, participated by every dog within a two-kilometre radius.
Bongo Flava artistes are just as loved and they frequently perform in the country for hundreds of fans. Matatus have their portraits painted on them. Barbershops now have posters of Diamond Platnumz next to Ludacris. If you claim to not know who Diamond Platnumz is, you are lying.
In fact, male Bongo artistes are known to have a soft spot for Kenyan women and several of them have won the affection of some of our most gorgeous ladies. In showbiz photos, you will see a young, sweet-tongued Tanzanian Bongo music star holding onto the arm of his voluptuous Kenyan girlfriend like a must-have accessory.
A closer look at these (and other) photos will also show you that most of them have a particular taste in women - light-skinned, svelte and stylish babes who can strike graceful poses for their Instagram pages, who look like they bathe in milk and honey and the sun never touches their supple, white skin. They also prefer the same kind of models for their music videos. The more exotic-looking, the better.
Most of the Bongo music male singers also sound alike (at least to me) and one has to be a keen listener of the music to distinguish one smooth crooner from another without seeing their faces. You cannot listen to them passionately sing their souls out to some woman they desire without falling in love and thinking you’re that woman.
They will make you want to take care of their fragile little hearts, which, they confess, have been weakened by the heavy blows of heartbreak, even though they have a string of estranged 'baby mamas' knocking down their doors accusing them of not fulfilling their child support commitments. And as you sing along to that common Bongo song playing from your neighbour’s house, you understand that the singer takes love seriously, but it is love that doesn’t take him seriously.
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