NAIROBI, KENYA. Three weeks after Tanzanian megastar Diamond Platnumz debuted his smash collaboration, African Beauty, with American artiste Omarion, a trusted poll shows that 98% of Kenyans who’ve listened to the song are still trying to decipher the meaning of the Swahili chorus the American sings. The 3% who understand the meaning of the chorus disproportionately live along the Kenya-Tanzania border and along the Coast. Only a paltry 1.2% of those polled in the Nyanza and Western regions seemed to understand the meaning of phrases like “penzi nitalipamba ngonjera” while the number was even lower in Central and Eastern Kenya, with the regions polling at 0.7% and 0.5% respectively. When Habare hit the streets of Nairobi to verify the study by interviewing people going about their business, we were met by uproars of “we need the fees we paid for Kiswahili lessons returned” and “what happened to having subtitles to some of these songs?” A hoodie-clad teenage even challenged a Habare reporter to ask Omarion if he knew what “huba kama Tanga Segera/ Kwa viuno vya baikoko” means. While Omarion had not responded by press time, Google Translate was recording a surge in the number of Kenyans seeking to translate the chorus to a Swahili “more in touch with a Kenyan sensibility”.
– Mharere Mkare, Founder and Editor of Habare Inc.