The announcement by 17-year-old musician Trio Mio that he will perform at ODM leader Raila Odinga’s event at Kasarani today has drawn mixed reactions.
Trio, whose real name is Mario Kasela, said in a video posted on Raila’s Facebook and Twitter accounts on Tuesday that he will be one of the key acts to entertain delegates at the function.
Trio, who is in Form Three, is expected to perform in front of thousands of supporters.
Debate emerged online as to whether Trio’s involvement in political messaging was appropriate, given he is still a minor, and in school.
The musician’s mother, Irma Sakwa, told The Standard in an exclusive interview that Raila’s handlers approached her, seeking to have Trio perform at the event.
“My son’s music appeals to the young generation. Raila Odinga’s representatives told me that they’d like to leverage on his influence to reach out to the youthful voters,” Sakwa, who manages the rapper, said. “I agreed that my son can entertain guests at the function.”
She added that Trio’s target audience lies in the 18 to 24 age bracket.
She says online users are reading too much into Trio’s announcement. “Trio was only promoting the event in the video. He did not ask anyone to vote for a certain presidential candidate. He only asked his fans to grace the event so as to see him perform, and that’s what artistes do when they’ve been called for concerts,” she said.
In the comments section, Raila Odinga was faulted for using an underage person to “promote his politics”.
Wanjiku Mukuru posed: “Raila Odinga, have you started using school-going children to campaign for you?”
Mukuru’s sentiments were echoed by hundreds of other online users, who questioned whether the musician was still pursuing his education, given the academic calendar is active.
“My son is currently homeschooling. I withdrew him from the high school in Machakos, when it became difficult for him to balance education and talent. The people who teach him at home offer flexible timetables, which allow him to pursue music, even as he studies,” she said.
Child development specialists, however, say talent tends to subject minors to undue pressure when not properly managed amid education demands.
Stella Mbugua, a child development expert, told The Standard that even as talent is being managed, directing children to politics shouldn’t be allowed.
“The teenage brain does not fully mature until one is 24 or 25 years old. A teenager’s component of the brain responsible for executive function (thinking before acting, like adults would) are still tender and sensitive to adversity,” Stella said, and added that children shouldn’t be exposed to politics, given its emotive nature.
“Teenagers have a tendency to act quickly before they can think through. Some term it ‘the raging hormones’ or ‘times of stress and storm’.”
The specialist says that it’s possible for Trio to manage education and music so long as a proper framework is put in place.
“His parents or guardian have a responsibility to ensure that he is protected from possible stress-triggering situations that his young career could expose him to,” Stella said. “Remember, the music industry in Kenya, just like in other parts of the world, is highly competitive. There are cases where young talents were pushed into drug abuse, depression or suicide. Before it gets to that, a proper framework should be in place.”
Sociologist and lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Dr Karamu Kiemo, agrees with Stella Mbugua – that politics, for now, should be a no-go-zone for Trio.