The element of Humour in Kenyan Music

Humour is an artform that people across age and cultural boundaries easily respond to. When it comes to music, humour is a necessary spice, and has been utilized in the many genres of Kenyan music, be it kapuka, genge, hip-hop or gengetone. This is evident in the lyrics, dramatized music videos, use of funny titles and parody versions of favourite songs. Essentially, artists use humour to connect with the listeners at a more personal level and the success of this new generation of Kenyan artists has increased its application.

An example is the song “Utawezana” by Femi One and Mejja (posted above). It is, basically, a woman asking a man if ‘he can handle if given the chance’. Filled with sexual innuendos, the use of humour in the lyrics makes the song more resonant with the younger audience, in particular. Nowonder, the song has surpassed the 5 million views mark on Youtube in just one month and also propelled a Tik Tok dancer to fame.

Another instance of humour occurs in Sauti Sol’s “Suzanna“, where Savara can be heard singing ‘And I you see China, with the latest designer’. This is, of course, ironical: a poke on those who wear fake designer brands so as to impress others. Such catchy punchlines are relevant to social conversations.

Shrap artist Boutross, in his song “Story Ilianza”, narrates his experience with a girl whom he took home from a party only for her to steal from him. It’s a funny story, especially considering that there’s no shortage of similar encounters.

The usage of funny (and sometimes cringeworthy) song titles is a trend that is being popularized by the rise of gengetone, a youth-driven sub-genre which is heavy on sheng, a local slang. Beyond such titles, the content can be awkward, and to older audiences, outright vulgar (there’s an ongoing public debate around this). Still, many people are gravitating towards this style.

Comedians like Kajairo, Eric Omondi and Padi Wubonn have made a name from releasing parody versions of hit songs. These versions, as per YouTube numbers, can get as popular as the original songs. The humorous flipping of the lyrics is something so interesting that the fans can’t get enough of it.

With an artist’s personality being of increasing value in building an audience, humour is one way they are using to endear themselves with the fans.

Which are some of the instances of application of humour that you have identified while listening to music?

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