Growing up I enjoyed listening to mainstream music, where as a young girl, I was encouraged to “drop it down low,” value myself by how much skin I show, how much of a “bad b*tch” I could be, and how many men I could attract with my “sexy booty.” This kind of mainstream music was what boomed through the speakers of the minibuses, which is the main mode of transportation in Kenya and commonly known to the locals as matatus. Every time my dad would walk in to the living room and find me listening to or watching videos of that derogatory music, he would proclaim sternly, “I don’t like this matatu music you like listening to! Can’t you find better music?”
At the time, I saw nothing wrong with the music I was listening to of course. I mean, yes, sex, drugs, alcohol, and violence was glorified. “But it’s just music,” I would respond. To which my father in a rather irritated tone would say, “No, it’s not just music.”
He would then change the channel and begin explaining to me what was wrong with the music I was listening to. Most importantly, he would explain why as a young lady growing up in a patriarchal society, it should not be something to celebrate: “Rise above it. You are better than that,” he would say.
It took me some time to “rise above it” and think of myself as being “better than that.” Honestly, I cannot fully say that I have risen above negative music. I still find myself singing along to “Candy Shop,” but then I stop and snap back, saying to myself, “Sanna what was that you just sang?”
Apart from mainstream disruptive music, the matatus also played reggae music. I was still young and did not quite understand the revolutionary nature of reggae, but nonetheless, it soon became my favorite genre.
Roots reggae is a genre you will usually find playing in the market place, at hair salons, and in the matatus of Kenya.
I believe reggae resonates with many Kenyans because of the everyday struggles depicted in the must that connect with the common man due to constant marginalization and oppression in our society.
Subsequently, during my undergraduate years, I began to understand the effects negative music has on both men and women and how what we consume affects us. As a result of this understanding, I always try to listen to positive, uplifting, and conscious music as much as possible.
In an attempt to live up to that challenge, I want to share a review of Randy Valentine’s (pictured) recently released E.P entitled “Break the Chain” with the Face2Face Africa audience. Valentine is a Jamaican artist who resides in Britain.
Regarding identity, Valentine says, “If I had a choice, I’d choose not to be identified by where I’m from, but who I am. And I’m not a country.” Indeed, that is an interesting viewpoint that transcends the artificial boundaries man has created. The E.P can be purchased on iTunes for £3.99. In my humble opinion, this nine-track E.P brilliantly summarises life and its struggles as well as beauty and our society at large.
“Dear People“ addresses kindness and humanity:
“The little time God give me on earth, I’d rather use it and love you. I still see you as my brother, or my sister, even if you have no love for me. ‘Cause they say who knows better, does better, that’s why I write this song and you can take it as a letter”
“Dear People, I know life is unfair dear people, I know the future unclear dear people, I know there’s problems everywhere, but trust me one day you’re going to get your fair share”
“They say no music’s out there, they say something’s missing. I say music out there. It’s just people that don’t listen”
Check it out here:
Track 1 – “Dear People” (Intro)
[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/151261181″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”450″ iframe=”true” /]
In “Sweet Reggae Music,” Valentine gives a shout-out to those who “support the dream,” adding, “If life was a reggae party, everybody would have been happy.” “Sweet Reggae Music” is such a feel-good song that I cannot help but agree that for all those who do music “for the money in the pocket, it’s a dirty habit, you have to stop it [because] the people need more of that, more of the realness, more of that, good music with feeling.”
Track 2 – “Sweet Reggae Music”
Another creatively written, feel-good tune, “Lock Me Up” is the only love song on the EP.
“They can’t call me thief, and this is not a murder scene. It’s only loving of the first degree, so if you see the love police just tell them to lock me up, and dash away the keys – because I’m guilty, of loving this lady.”
Track 3 – Lock Me Up
[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/151261182″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”450″ iframe=”true” /]
“Break the Chain” is something we all need to do. We need to break the chain of “captivity” and break away from complicity with a system that is threatened by truth. Where if you “take a trip in the slums, all you see are daughters and sons fighting over crumbs.” Valentine declares, “Babylon, your kingdom falling”; a notion well-entrenched in Reggae music with its roots lying in biblical history, where “Babylon” serves a representation of systems of enslavement, exploitation, marginalization, and the oppression of a people.
Track 4 – “Break the Chain”
[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/151261184″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”450″ iframe=”true” /]
With an opening from poet and spoken word artist LionHeart, “Sound the Alarm” is somewhat an extension of “Break the Chain.” It is a song about the frustration with the aforementioned systems and a people who are “tired of living in hell,” so they rebel and rise up to defeat the systems that are in place today.
“Sound the alarm, run for door, the rebels are coming, this is a warning.”
Something we are all familiar with is the silencing of independent and revolutionary voices to which Valentine says the power lies with the people as opposed to a system of individuals. Therefore he says, “You can jail a revolutionary, but you could never ever jail a revolution.”
“Sound the Alarm” also comes with a video on the EP not just an audio.
Track 5 – “Sound the Alarm” feat. LionHeart
“Carry On,” as the title depicts, is a song about perseverance, strength, and refusing to give up in life despite the difficulties.
“So if there’s a mountain in my way, it’s got to move. I’ve got to be a champion in life’s race, so I refuse to lose. It might get hard, it might get rough, just remember that the little that you have is enough, to carry on. You’ve got to carry on.”
Track 6 – “Carry On”
[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/151261186″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”450″ iframe=”true” /]
I bob my head to this song on my headphones countless times. Although this song talks of a woman who falls in love with the pocket instead of the man, I constantly find myself generalizing it to people who turn their backs in your times of struggle and need but want to build a relationship when you overcome your struggles.
“Loving, but I don’t need it, if it’s counterfeit, your future plans keep me out of it.”
Track 7 – “Golddigger”
[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/151261187″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”450″ iframe=”true” /]
“Nuh Sell Out” is a message to those who are elevated from the struggle and then forget where they came from. Similarly, it is a message to those who are elevated from the struggle but remember where they came from and work to uplift those left behind. It is also reminder that you need to work hard to not only betters yourself, but your people too.
“Don’t you dare switch on your people.”
Track 8 – “Nuh Sell Out”
[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/151261189″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”450″ iframe=”true” /]
They say, “Save the best for last.” Luckily, I did not need to save it, because “Inna Di Ghetto” is the last song on the E.P. Inna Di Ghetto is my personal favorite. The song encapsulates the constant frustrations and predicaments faced by the people at the bottom of the pyramid economically, socially, and politically — all in under four minutes: From the young who turn to vices to escape reality because “they can’t find comfort in the sufferation” to the “leaders” who steal from a nation’s poor then “offer donations” to those left hungry wishing they “could make bread out of stone” to the “mama blow[ing] wood, [until the] fire burn[s] off her eyelash.”
“SOS THIS IS A CODE RED, GIVE ME A ONE WAY TICKET TO THE FOUNDATION, WHEN WE WERE KINGS AND QUEENS SINGING SACRED SONGS.”
Track 9 – “Inna Di Ghetto”
[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/151261190″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”450″ iframe=”true” /]
Disclaimer: The quotes have not been directly written in patois, not with the intention of misrepresenting the message or undervaluing the language as “less articulate”, but because I am not articulate in it myself. Though some would argue patois is a dialect, I call it a “language” as I find it ridiculous how we are led to believe, and accept, that some of the languages we speak do not count for languages and need be relegated to “dialects”. After all, what is the definition of a language, and what method was used to spread some of the languages widely spoken today? That alone is reason for me to believe that no language spoken by any group of people is superior to another.
On that note, in the spirit of supporting positive music, make a point of purchasing this or any other artist’s music that is meaningful and contributes positively to our society, and share them with Face2FaceAfrica too, so we can show our support.