Ethic has a problem, censorship isn’t the solution


Ethic has a problem, censorship isn’t the solution

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Popular boy band Ethic has released their latest single, aptly named “Tarimbo”. As usual, the group is trending and maybe this time they need to stop and listen. Understand that we are not imaginary haters when we call out awful content. We all want Ethic to win because they are essential for the future. The group is one of the most seminal figures of Kenyan music of the 2010s. This is despite them making their debut just right before the end of the decade.

Music has a tremendous effect on the listener and can impact them in profound ways. We become highly suggestible and pliant when listening to music. After all, we were responding to sound before light while in the uterus. The way music is received doesn’t depend on whether the artist is aware of it or not. Nor whether or not they intend it to be received in a particular way or the other.  It is therefore important that the artist becomes responsible for their art.

A good hook is important

Reckless, the X factor for Ethic is one of the iconic voices of the new wave. He has the catchiest hooks and Hip Hop artist Wangechi has co-signed him on this. He has also established himself as a good emcee with a fire verse on Khali Kartel 3. So what happens when your favourite musician records cringe music? When the song is bouncy yet the hook encourages rape culture? Well if a song has a bad hook, which is like that one line except it repeats, it means we definitely should call it out. Having a good hook is important.

Lack of Ethic

Their March 23, 2019, release Pandana contains the lyrics: “Banana/ ninayo bas tunabakana/.” Those are the opening lines of the song. “Tunabakana” is literary talking about raping people. But since the beat is dope, 4.4 million views later and very few people have raised questions on this one. It wouldn’t be wrong to assume that there would be more filters in their future releases since they signed to AI Records, a subsidiary of Universal Music around June 2019.

However, it seems it’s only getting worse with their new hit song tarimbo containing the lyrics: “Bas bas jo kama ana maringo/Mi upenda chapa chapa na tarimbo/Mi uchapa chapa na nakanyaga/namwaga bila ata permission.” It is time to call out Ethic on their problematic lyrics.

Government is not your friend

One of the functions of Kenya Films Classification Board is enforcing the Programming Code. This comprehensive document outlines what needs to be done in such scenarios. What it doesn’t say though is the dangerous talk that has been going around of arresting artists. Government censorship is dangerous especially to content creators.

The right to express what some consider offensive speech is the price Kenyans pay for the freedom of political speech and we cannot afford to risk losing that freedom. The problem, as our country has painfully learned in the past, is that a little censorship goes a long way – toward imposing someone else’s arbitrary standards on all of us, toward removing any controversial material from the public eye, and toward erasing precious Article 33 they are claiming.

Rehabilitation vs. Retribution

Rehabilitation is the most valuable ideological justification for punishment, for it alone promotes the humanising belief in the notion that offenders can be saved and not simply punished. Ethic still have more hits in them and jailing a bunch of youth over lyrics seems a bit over the top. Utilised well, this can be a learning moment.

Ethic’s management team need to be on top of the music creation process. They have failed the group that the lyrics went through writing, recording, and production to publishing. Holes in the camp need to be sealed considering that the group’s last two songs were pulled down for infringement issues. They need to step up to avoid such blunders.

Others too can help. For instance, Chukua Selfie campaign can launch pro-social modelling programmes to educate these artists on sex education (including the topic of sexual violence). The math of imprisoning 5 young men versus the cost of mentoring them to become sex-positive ambassadors is clear.

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