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Gangnam Virus

By - | Published Fri, October 19th 2012 at 00:00, Updated October 18th 2012 at 19:56 GMT +3

The path to fame is not always the same; some are caught doing ordinary things while others are outlandish. PETER NDORIA looks at the world of these viral stars

Bonoko [Photo: Standard]

Depending on your sensibilities, Jackiwa’s music will either incinerate your musical palate or tickle your funny bone. To her credit, she has a style of music aptly named Probox — whose symbolism she explained in a recent interview with an online magazine. Like the Probox vehicle which landed on the Kenyan shores and onto our roads, she too has landed on our musical scene. Like the imported vehicle, she usually comes in from abroad to do her music.

So gangnam

Quite like the Gangnam style, currently enjoying world-record success, Probox style is so unconventional that any further analogy with a motor vehicle would be tragic.

In Trust, a song advocating for safe sex — but which sounds more like an advertisement — she holds packs of condoms in her mouth as her friends pack them in their cleavage. In one scene, there is an inflated condom.

Her stake to fame though, is Life History, a largely inaudible song with no harmony but with lyrics like unajifanya asali ulambwe na nani? and unajifanya kunguni, unyonye nani damu? Damu ni yangu!.

It is this song that thrust Jackiwa into the centre of the showbiz industry, with interviews that other artistes would salivate for and over 85,600 views on YouTube — not a mean feat on our music scene.

Her next song Wacha Stress was a highly anticipated affair and it did not disappoint. This time she had a passable dance troupe but the usual retinue of bad harmony and weird lyrics such as; under 18, under 18, mbona stress? Si maisha inaanza ukifika 40? Please, please usikunywe drugs... and ya ulimwengu isifanye ubebe punda. Ya ulimwengu isifanye ubebe ndovu, reigned. It enjoys a respectable 20,200 views on YouTube.

Like Rebecca Black in the USA, you can be sure Jackiwa will remain on the scene, one Probox skid after another.


One year ago, Francis Maina Kimani  (officially) started his training as a presenter with Ghetto Radio. It was a culmination of a journey that started with a dazed street urchin giving a sluggish interview to a news reporter after some suspected criminal was shot in Ngara. He alleged that the person who had been shot was not a thief, but an innocent mutura vendor on whom the police planted a fake gun.

The street lingo for a fake gun was bonoko, and Francis used the word unwittingly.

DJ Nick Styles took the interview and gave it a danceable beat, which combined rather well with the sluggish delivery to create the hit song Bonoko.

After the song enjoyed good airplay, voices began calling for ‘someone’ to look for the original interviewee and reward them, instead of just using their song and voice. That someone turned out to be Ghetto Radio’s CEO, Majimaji, who offered Francis a job. Francis Kimani Maina the street urchin became Bonoko the radio presenter, thanks to a dazed passer-by account on TV.

Just a band’s makmende

Few people can identify the Just-A-Band trio of Blinky Bill Sellanga, Dan Muli and Jim Chuchu. Even fewer knew them before the 2009 release of their sophomore album with the song Ha He, whose video starred the greatest fictional character in recent history, Makmende. Makmende quickly caught up, becoming the first viral sensation in Kenya and ensuring that Kevin Maina — the man who played as Makmende — remains a recognisable face in the entertainment and social circles.

Another person who bumped into the annals of fame was one Samwel Gitau. During the auditions for this year’s Tusker Project Fame, Samwel took on arguably the greatest song in recorded human history and gave it a rendition that ensured we would remember him for the longest time.

His guts and passion as he performed Save Life, a song otherwise known to us as Michael Jackson’s Thriller, ensured that he was summoned for the season finale to perform, with his performance being beamed on television screens across six different countries to millions of homes across the region. Maybe he should not try to sing that song again (ever!), but imagine him on a comedy show?

The worldwide craze that is Gangnam Style started on July 15 when it was posted by its singer Psy on YouTube. The song is a satirical look at posers and wannabes who would like to be associated with the Gangnam district of Seoul, South Korea, where people are trendy, hip and exude a certain supposed “class”.

The song’s addictive catchy beat, Psy’s comical horse-riding dance, distinctive suits and black sunglasses create a combination that says  “dress classy and dance cheesy” and one whose success is unprecedented.

On September 20, 2012, Gangnam Style was recognised by Guinness World Records as the most liked video in YouTube history. As at Tuesday this week, the video had 474,915,766 views on YouTube.

Through his12-year music career, he never had any success beyond South Korea until Gangnam Style, which has been hitting number one in charts in more than 20 countries worldwide.

He has had interviews with CNN as well as copious space in media outlets around the world including Time, Reuters, New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, BBC and a host of many others.

Rebecca black

Rebecca Black also has the Internet to thank for her music career. The 15-year old’s song 2011 Friday became the most-talked-about topic on Twitter, garnering mostly negative media coverage when music critics and viewers derided it as “the worst song ever.”

The video received around 167 million views, causing Black to gain international attention as a “viral star”, before being removed from the site on June 16. Black re-uploaded it in her own channel three months later. It now has over 40 million views and more than 3,190,000 dislikes. Eerily, she even began receiving death threats. Not that it stopped her, with digital sales of her single hitting good highs and the song peaking on the Billboard Hot 100, New Zealand Singles Chart and on the UK Singles Chart. Within no time, she was appearing in Katy Perry’s videos, hosting shows as well as being invited to talk shows; all thanks to that one bad song.

Tay Zonday

Tay Zonday has that geeky star look and a unique baritone. Yet his big break came as a result of the video to the song Chocolate Rain, a song that was so profound in metaphors, poetry and lyrical depth. What made the video — and Tay Zonday — famous was the weird way he ducked from the condenser microphone in the music video where he was recording the song in a studio. A caption explaining this movement states; “I move away from the mic to breathe in.”

When he posted the song’s video online, viewers logged in to parody his ducking action with smartass comments like; “I move away from the mic to see if the cops are coming.” The song went on to be the subject of numerous parodies, tributes, remixes, and covers on the Internet as well as commercials and TV shows, thereby cementing Zonday’s career as an actor, singer, musician, announcer, voice artiste, comedian and YouTube personality with over 84,400,000 views.


Sister Deborah

Regionally, Sister Deborah’s Uncle Obama has very overt sexual innuendo (Uncle Obama, I like the shape of your banana) that some find offensive, and others funny. The timing is also strategic, with an election looming in the USA. Within days of being posted online, the Ghanaian damsel’s song had over 304,000 hits and is still counting.