Micah Maritim, a secular musician was given a warm and well deserved welcome at the just concluded Gotabgaa Conference that was held in Dallas, TX. USA. As he was presented to the multitude that turned up at the conferences, Mr. Maritim turned out to be a respectful man, has a good sense of humor, and a very good public speaker. The very one thing I still remember about his conversation was his closing signature: - ‘ingoberurok Jehova kot kogaenak gei”. I got a laugh out of that as every one else did, at least I could sense that. However shortly after that, it really downed me, how about if that is actually the case about GOD? But I digress.
There were other guests who were invited from Kenya, to address specific issues, such were the high caliber guest as Hon. Samuel Phoghisio ( pronounced - Poisio), the Rev. Kosgei, Emo Chairman Mr. Bett, the singers Rev. Kimetto, Emmy, Maritim and others. All performed very well. As for Micah, he did have his venue all set for his performances, however due to public demand, as I was told to be the case, he did perform ‘Cheplemindet’ in the church. This turned out to be a controversial issue at and after the conference.
There were two things that the host community of Dallas as well the Official of KC Dallas had to deal with. I have no doubt that it was a difficult decision to make, nevertheless, it has turned out to be one of those things you sit back and hope it had not gone that way. I am made to understand that the performance of the secular song at the church was due to the fact it was the only chance some folks, especially the older folks, as well those who were not planning on attending the after conferences parties, could see Micah’s live performance. I also understand that the folks that wanted him to perform at the church were calling for a specific song.
Well as it has turned out, the reaction to the initial performance at the church, the target audience of the song (Kalenjin women), and of course the revelation that the song has a deeper, more sickening exposé of our Kalenjin women (as it was revealed at the beauty contest party), has kicked up a storm of dust in the air. Now the song has a lot of women, and men up in arms with this the artist. These people have a reason to debate about how the song is derogatory, belittling and offensive not only to our women but also to men.
Let me respond to the three reactions indicated above. For many of us who have been up to date on the news and information from Kenya, you will remember that Rev. Kosgei, who was the main speaker, has in the past been critical of this specific song. He has said that the song depicts our women in a way that is not fitting, and is not true of our Kalenjin women and culture. Having said that, two things happened at the church that many people think should not have happened. One is the fact that the song was performed in unchartered territory. “Cheplemindet” together with other secular songs does not belong in the church, and regardless of what the requests anybody would have made, it would have been left to be performed elsewhere other than the church. Secondly, with the type of guests that we had at the time, it came out as disrespect to all the spiritual leaders, and especially to the Rev Kosgei, whom we all knew his reservations were on this specific song. The church, being a holy place, it should not have been used as a platform to insult our women. Our women deserve better than that. It is human nature that all of us do not see things the same way, neither do we all enjoy the same music, but the genre and venues are universal to all, everything belongs somewhere, “Cheplemindet” does not belong in the church and neither does it belong to our culture. It should however be known that the artist belong to us. The people, who really love the song, can get it on CD and be able to listen at a place and time of their own. The goal of KC Dallas together with Gotabgaa was and will continue to be “to promote” the artist and I think with performances at the right place, things will go fine. I should mention that KC Dallas deserves all the credit, as they had organized a venue for him to perform, away from the church.
Secondly the song talks about how Kalenjin women are no match for Cheplemindet in almost all facets of family unit activities. I am not in a position to make a judgment yet, but I belief that his allegations have no merit. If his song was about throwing out a challenge to the women and wives in our community, I belief it would have been done in a better more respectful manner. Our ladies feel like the song is a slap in the face on issues that may be the men, are as equally responsible as they are. The issues that the artist raises do not resonate with our culture and the daily chores of our community. For the few that we do have in common with “Cheplemindet” our women have their own unique way of handling them.
The burning issue that brings me to provide my own take on this subject mater all came about during the performance at the beauty contest. As the rest of you that were there will concur with me, there is the deeper connotation of “Cheplemindet” than meets the eye. It is sad for me to say, but again, the artist did not only belittle our women in areas that we all thought we knew, but in areas that warranty no body’s judgment. As I listened and saw Micah perform, I could not help but ask myself, what are we doing to our ladies?
Let me set it up this way, this was an event we were supposed to be proud of our ladies, as they came to show us that they are not only gorgeous and attractive, but also pretty at heart. It was an authentication that they care about the community, to a point that they could put up a show like that. Those women looked fabulous on the stage, and everybody who was present felt good that our women are capable of owning the stage as they did. Many people have always believed that Kalenjin women are shy, but the myth, at least on that day was debunked. To serenade their performance with Cheplemindet, which is a song that attacks their character, was not right, the artist has many songs that would have matched the occasion, like the one he perform afterwards “Chamyet’ even though he botched that one too. The song has once again proved that it is actually an attack on the character of women, and with all the reactions I have received from various people, it surely is true that just like Rev. Kosgei said, it does not deserve our public airwaves, let those who enjoy it buy it on CDs, and listen in their private.
The fact that we allow this specific secular song to enter the airwaves is a disservice to our women, our mothers and our ladies. I challenge anybody to tell me which other community allows this type of rhetoric about their own women, leave alone one of their own doing that. We do not want to up end like the African American culture where most of their artists produce filthy, dirty derogatory music about their own women, and call that talent. Look at their culture and see how their women are treated and treat themselves. Take a look at how music has changes the way their community operates. Take an even closer look and see how their women affect the well being of their community, they are so far a community with no culture, by far and large it is mostly credited to “their” songs. Music speaks a lot and is an effective way of bringing changes, but it is a collective responsibility for a community to determine the kind of changes they want, music should be censored if it is advocating or carrying the wrong message. Everything thing we say has an impact. Our Kalenjin women are a respectful bunch, if there is anybody who is deserving of respect, it is our women.
To all those men that feel the same way as I do, I want to tell Kalenjin women that the song does not speak for all the men, I know there are other men who feel the same way as the artist does, but everybody is entitled to their own feelings. Regardless of whether he did create the song solely for entertainments purpose and did not mean any of those words, I belief that artists are judged according to what they produce. Kalenjin women have a lot respect for our Kalenjin men, I also belief that they perform uniquely in their capacity as mothers and wives, and as a Kalenjin man, brought up by a strong determined mother, I will not hesitate to differ with the message and rhetoric conveyed by “Cheplemindet”. Let us respect our parents, both mothers and fathers alike!