The Gengeton wave swept through Kenyan youth like a more contagious version of corona. Lamba Lolo was the breakthrough song of the Gengetone genre. When the song was released in May 2018, it had a poorly done video and made Ezekiel Mutua feel like hanging himself. But it went viral among Kenyan youth.
At the moment, the song has 5 million views on YouTube yet it’s not even the most viewed Gengeton song. There are respected people in the Kenyan music industry who claimed that Gengeton would come and go, that it would die soon. But like the virus, it is still here, 3 years later. However things go, Kenyan music will never be the same again after Gengeton.
Gengeton sparked a revolution in Kenyan music. It renewed our youth’s interest in local content. Getting to 1 million views on YouTube is no mean feat for a Kenyan song. Getting to 5 million views on a single video is something that most Kenyan musicians will never achieve in their lifetime. Below are the ten most popular Gengeton songs on YouTube, each of them with at least 5 million views.
1. KALALE – 6.7M views
Citizen’s Ten over Ten show is one of the biggest entertainment shows in Kenya. Willis Raburu, it’s ever-interesting host, has made it his duty to promote local music as much as he can, including Gengeton. He is a legend in the industry or as the gengeton generation would call him, a Bazenga. He cemented his Bazenga status in Kenya’s music industry when he released Kalale in collaboration with industry giant Mejja and three of the biggest names in Gengeton: Breeder, Ssaru and Reckless of the boy band Ethic.
Niulize kanakaa vile kanakaa kwa picha, au toto ni mafilter, na nikitokea na hako katoto katachachisha, au itabidi nimekaficha, kanaweza pika chapo na vyombo safisha, au form zake ni mapizza, (buda boss) kila saa baby can we take a picture, au katachoreshwa gizaLyrics from Matata’s song, Mare Mare
In just 8 months, Willis Raburu’s Kalale has garnered close to 7 million views on YouTube, a remarkable feat by any standards. Not only is it the most watched Gengeton song, it’s also one of the most watched Kenyan songs. It’s in the same league as Otile and Sanapei Tande’s collaboration – Aiyana, which has 7.8M views and Pombe Sigara by Nviiri with 7M views.
2. CHEZA KAMA WEWE – 6.3M views
Trio Mio is the 16 year old high school kid who took Kenya by storm. He came into the scene in 2020 and about 10 months later, he’s a household name. He has collaborated with some of the biggest names in Kenyan music. Despite juggling music with secondary school, he has released multiple hit songs that have been received extremely well.
Barely one year old, his YouTube channel has more than 10 million views. His most famous song is Cheza Kama Wewe. After it’s initial success, he remixed it and featured Mejja and a representative each from two of the biggest Gengeton groups in the country: Exray from Boondocks Gang and Nelly The Goon from Ochungulo Family. The result is 6.3 million views on YouTube in 5 months.
3. PANDANA – 6.3M views
The group that released the first truly viral Gengeton song back in 2018, Lamba Lolo, goes by the name of Ethic. 3 years later, they have enlisted more polished video vixens, have a professional director for their videos and dress remarkably better. In other words, the amateurs have gone pro. Despite the many changes, they’ve still retained the ability to raise Ezekiel Mutua’s blood pressure.
In addition, there are millions of Kenyans who still can’t get enough of their songs. Whether it’s because of the funny and captivating sheng’ lyrics, the vixens with bubbling behinds or the relatable drug and sex experiences they sing about, Ethic is an immensely popular Gengeton group. Pandana, released in 2019, is their most popular song, with 6.3 million views on YouTube.
4. PEKEJENG – 6M views
Pekejeng should be a meaningless word but thanks to a hit song by Gengeton group Sailorz, it has a clear meaning to millions of Kenyans. If you’ve not met Sailorz, here is their modulus operandi:
They start all their songs with screams, literally. It hypes you up, infects you with an energetic vybe. Their songs are made in such a way that at some point, you’ll feel the need to scream out some words, for example “Wamnyonyez” or “kulewa kuchuchumaa” or “ngai ngai ngai.” In relation to that, they are very good at taking meaningless words like “nyandusa” and “chunduka” and give them meaning.
Their most popular songs shamelessly make allusions to sex. They also normalize and glorify the use of drugs like alcohol and weed, much like most Gengeton groups. Clearly, what they are doing is working because Sailorz, led by Miracle Baby, are wildly popular. It’s not easy to get two songs to cross the 5M viewers mark on YouTube within an year of joining the industry but this group has done it.
Click on the link to watch Pekejeng on YouTube https://youtu.be/ggNBVhQKX8Q
5. WAMLAMBEZ – 5M views
How do I present the Wamlambez phenomenon in all it’s glory? I’ll start with the history making football match between Everton and Kariobangi Sharks that was organized by SportPesa in 2019. I’ll talk about the 60,000 screaming fans shouting “Wamnyonyez” at the top of their voices in response to the call “Wamlambez.” The song was so popular that Sailorz, led by Miracle Baby, were invited to perform it at the Kasarani stadium, alongside Wyre and The Kansoul. As shown in the tweet embed below, wamlambez was a viral infection.
It is no wonder that the video had over 5M views on YouTube before it was pulled down in 2020, after a dispute between Sailorz and their manager, Mwalimu Racheal. Sailorz have since created a new YouTube channel with 55.5k subscribers and moved on to new management. Click here to watch it on YouTube.
The song, by Kenyan group Sailors, is so popular that the words “wamlambez” and “wamnyonyez” – a corruption of words meaning “lick” and “suck” – have become commonplace greetings among many young people.BBC on Wamlambez
6. POSITION – 5.3M views
A month after releasing “Lamba Lolo,” Ethic entertainment released “Position.” They collaborated with Mejja and Madtraxx, members of the Genge group, The Kansoul. The Kansoul have been making music for more than a decade. Mejja is a living legend. Such a collaboration served to legitimize the new Gengeton culture. It didn’t matter that older Kenyans were criticizing the likes of “Lamba Lolo” as obscene trash. Ethic were collaborating with industry legends and their music videos were going viral so whatever their haters said was just old people’s talk.
Geuka nikubeng, geuka nikubeng, new position, gal a new position… Janta ni janta, doo ndo ina matter… Ganja farmer ni ya wale wajanja…. Kulia kushoto wanachora number saba…. Shugli bagli shugli bagli dendenden, nasema shugli bagli shugli bagli dendendenA sample of lyrics from the hit song Position by Ethic Entertainment and The Kansoul
Honestly, numbers do not lie. Position currently has 5.3M views on YouTube, which is testament to just how many people love Gengeton. However, even among the youths, there are those who feel ashamed of Gengeton. One look at the lyrics will tell you why. At the beginning of the Gengeton revolution, there were many who listened to the songs in private. But that is now changing. You’ll find Gengeton songs being played even on major radio stations.
The group Ethic has 312k subscribers on YouTube and 40M views since 2018. For context, Khaligraph Jones has 449k subs and 54M views since 2012. Avril has 84k subs and 10M views since 2009. Sauti Sol has 740k subs and 185M views since 2012.YouTube
7. MARE MARE – 5.1M views
Matata can be described as the version of Gengetone that “went to group of schools.” When it comes to effort, they get an A+. Their videos have concepts that are clearly thought out. They also do serious choreography, and each of their videos has dance moves that are fun and contagious. Their drip during shoots is classy and their tracks are always well produced. In short, they stand out.
Ni birthday hii ni party ni yako, na maji tunakata juu yako, macookie na makeki ni zako, we kam tu na Karo pitanga ukikata, kata, kata kairetu kata, kata usiogope, leo tunaparty watuokote…
Leo leo leo ni leo leo, ile siku dudu hugeuka kipepeo, ile siku paka huswing na kibembeo, ile siku hadi dogi zihuwika meow meow, nina doo za kuthrow form ni how how, mr luku luku swag ya kibao wow, si masoo ni mangiri yeah mathao thao, so bash make a wish blow hio candleLyrics from Kata, another one of Matata’s hit singles.
If Gengeton ever was to go international, this would be the group to take it there. It is therefore no wonder that one of their most popular songs, Mare Mare, has over 5M views on YouTube. The group’s YouTube channel has 105k subscribers and 12M views. If you haven’t checked out their videos, do so. It will be a treat.
8. WABEBE – 5M views
Wabebe roughly translates to “carry them” in English. And that’s what this song did – it carried us all. There was nothing special about the lyrics or the video. Even the video vixens were average. But that didn’t stop Gwaash’s song from getting to 5M views. And for the record, the song goes, “Wabebe, steal all” and not “Wabebe… skilo” as numerous people have been heard singing loudly in public.
9. LAMBA LOLO – 5M views
Today though, everything has been digitized and sectors that were traditionally regulated by a few players have been liberalized. With a laptop and some software, you can come up with a high quality track. With a couple of good smartpones, the internet and creativity, you can shoot a good video. And with YouTube and social media, you can get your content to the world without having to get the permission of gatekeepers like Ezekiel Mutua.
Buzling dispo ni ya kibla, nditni dibla ile genje, inigri mi hurieng ka dishoklem, mambeko zinamuok ni mogatha, kanairo govana ni mjamo, lagunya skomo ni makibre, iladinya nimemuok ka palma, nikipaa kila yut ni dangulo, kwa ngife baroda imemokre, matpn kuwabambua mashasken, kamilien kimsmadi pocha nyaglu, militan mihuwaria tu frontlineMilitan’s verse in a Mbogi Genje hit song, “Zimepanda”. Though it seems like gibberish, every word in there means something.
Lamba lolo is where it all started, back in 2018. The video was poor quality yes, but the lyrics and the track clearly belonged to musicians. I see it as a big “F**K YOU” to the system. Traditionally, to make it in music, you had to jump through a million hoops with industry players. If the Willis Raburus of the day didn’t like the way you looked, then your song would never get airplay and you would be relegated to irrelevance.
That is the spirit of the Gengeton generation. They are using technology to achieve freedom. Thanks to twitter, the president can be criticized if he does something stupid. More young people are migrating from traditional television screens and into YouTube channels and Instagram lives. Newspapers and radios can no longer monopolize information…
Personally, when I see Gengeton thriving, obscene or not, I see the youth rising. And that’s a good thing in my book.
10. LEWA – 5M views
Lewa is probably the biggest club anthem of 2020. It spread like wildfire and was being played all over, especially on Fridays in radio stations and clubs. It has garnered 5M views in just 7 months.
It is unclear where Gengeton will be ten years from now. At the moment, it is a force to reckon with and within three years, it has only grown stronger.
For all the goodness or badness that Gengeton has, one thing is certain: It has breathed life into the Kenyan music industry. It has made local content relevant to Kenyans. It has brought most of us back from Nigeria, Tanzania and the West. It is ours: made by Kenyans for Kenyans.
And as far as the accusation that Gengeton breeds immorality, I have this to say: Gengeton artists don’t make up scenarios involving drugs and sex and sing about them. They sing about their lives and those of other Kenyan youth. Before Gengeton, sex was commonplace in universities and among the youth. So was weed and alcohol. And art only makes sense if it reflects the society.
Ezekiel Mutua should accept the truth: Gengeton shows the real state among the youth. If he thinks we are rotten, then fine. But he should not kill creativity in a senseless attempt at defending a view of morality that was relevant in the 1930s. He’s living in a different world. He and others like him should catch up.
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