Did you know that only 17% of Kenyans have access to clean drinking water? Me neither, until I watched “Mteja,” a collaborative rap video by Kenya artists Wahu, Juliani, Roba (Kalamashaka), Lyn, Wenyeji, Kanjii Mbugua, and ICJ. Where, asks the Swahili-English track, are the millions of dollars budgeted for rural development as part of Kenya’s Constituency Development Fund? The track complains about shoddy infrastructure and corrupt politicians, arguably most African nations’ major problem, and demands answers. (Try to imagine a similar coalition of American musicians demanding accountability for a trillion dollars in TARP funds.)
I learned about the track from this CNN article about young African artists “who are borrowing a page from groups like U2 and using their songs to address social issues, a clear indication that a fear of authority is waning.”
The article focuses on gospel-influenced singer-songwriter Kanjii Mbugua and Eric Wainaina, who blends Kenya’s benga rhythm with Western harmonies, and links them to Nigeria’s Femi Kuti.
Here’s “Mteja,” followed by Eric Wainaina’s lovely tribute to mothers, “Ni Kii Kiega.”