The Longomba brothers are leading the change on HIV awareness with their new single 'Vuta Pumz'. Caroline Nyanga finds out why they and other artistes are dropping 'party' songs to get on message
For a long time local musicians have been accused of churning out lewd lyrics in songs like 'Keroro', 'Manyake', 'Kamata Dame' and 'We Kamu Remix' just to name a few. Unlike their bongo flava counterparts, who sing about real life, Kenyan musicians have been seen to glorify sex and booze, a trend considered by parents and a section of media to be bad influence on the youth. To a large extent, their songs can be said to have continued to promote drug use, alcohol consumption and premarital sex, despite the fact that HIV/Aids continues to wipe out a generation.
But people want to hear more than just music.That is exactly what the Longombas are doing with 'Vuta Pumz'.
"It's no secret that many people and even musicians are losing their lives to HIV/Aids," says Lovi Longomba. It's high time us musicians use our position as role models to educate others."
Unlike the Longombas, a majority of artistes still maintain that singing 'party songs' is based on honesty on about what happens among the youth. They, however, insist that they don't practice what they sing.
'Vuta Pumz' describes the complicated relationships between young men and women and how they are often mired into more lies.
"This song is meant to create awareness among everybody else to enable them lead a moral and righteous life and avoid being hypnotised by a persons charms and looks," says Lovi.
The Longombas say the song explores the need for each of us to be careful with the decisions we make in life, that in most cases are bound to land us in big trouble.
"We want to educate and sensitise people on HIV/Aids so that they can learn to accept and care for those infected and affected, while at the same time taking control of their lives." They add that the song took them only two hours to write.
"We knew the song would work for everyone the moment we visualised it," says Christian.
The duo's new direction might finally land them their long - awaited recognition in the Kisima Awards.
Although they are without doubt energetic secular stage performers whose infectious music and stage-craft has got even the most icy audiences to shake off their inhibitions, the duo say they have never been nominated for the Kisima Awards. They see the snubbing of hits like 'Dondosa' as a conspiracy theory.
"It's unfortunate that there are people in the music industry who don't consider us Kenyans and, hence, they will do anything to bring our efforts down," says a bitter Lovi. Christian adds that they were born and brought up here, but there has been a misconception about them being Congolese. I ask them the rumours doing rounds that they actually bleached their skins.
"Nay man," says Lovi looking very perturbed indeed. "Why would we bother doing so when our mother is a half-caste (half white half Congolese) and our late father was a light - skinned Congolese man?"
This is not the first time the duo have had to respond to criticism. In 2003, Tanzanian artiste Professor Jay accused them of stealing his 'Makofi' song. The Longombas see this as a ploy to finish them through bad press.
"Let me clarify one thing," says a stern Lovi who is also the song's producer. "We never stole anybody's song nor are we close to doing so." Professor Jay, Lovi explains, did a song by the name 'Makofi' which has a similar name to their 'Piga Makofi' but has different beats and a different message. The Longombas further point out that it is not unusual for artistes to do songs based on the same theme but this doesn't mean that they are the same.
It seems their theme of the moment is HIV/Aids awareness and they want other musicians to follow the same path. "Although Aids is real, it's unfortunate that there are personalities in the local celebrity circles and many other people out there who don't seem to care about it judging from their manner of conduct," says Christian. They say the words of the song came to them after getting fed up with the going-ons around them.
"We realised we had to do something about it. By putting the problem in the form of music, we felt we would be better able to reach out to many people. Besides, we wanted to establish a reputation for keeping people dancing to our music right from the start and thereafter having something to think about when they return to their homes."