Kenya: regulatory board bans 'obscene stage names and lyrics'

The CEO of Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB), Ezekiel Mutua seeks to take legal action against two local artists Alex 'Katombi' Kasau and Alphonse 'Kithungo Raha' Kioko over the use of obscene stage names and lyrics.

Ezekiel Mutua. Photo:
Ezekiel Mutua. Photo:

In a letter dated 19 December 2016 and addressed to the Kenya National Union of Musicians (Kenum), Mutua who in November issued a seven-day notice for compliance, gives Kenum two weeks to discuss the issue with their members and provide a report on the same.

This happened as the KFCB CEO lashed out against a new controversial gospel release, 'Nyonyo' by SBJ (Saved By Jesus). The lyrics Yesu nipe nyonyo (Jesus breastfeed me) have attracted criticism and added fuel to a recent debate about the validity of Kenya’s gospel music, with some claiming that most Christian musicians are out to entertain in order to make money, and don’t care about spiritual nourishment in their songs. They make the lyrics and the beats ‘cool’ enough to attract young people and to be popular in clubs.

“Some of the things that are happening, it’s because people have realized that unless you’re controversial or you’re saying obscene things or crazy things, your content will never be shown, and they are doing it for the purpose of circulation. If you compose a song like that… defame or blaspheme religion or religious deity, that content is being looked at,” he warned while speaking to journalists.

Mutua, who has been on a spirited crackdown on ‘inapproriate content’ has in the past targeted broadcasters, online platforms, films, parties and even stage performances. In November 2016, he declared on his Facebook page that ‘use of obscene stage names and music titles is banned in line with the Film and Stage Plays Act Cap 222 of the Laws of Kenya.’

He went ahead to castigate musicians who resort to vulgar language in order to sell: “Musicians and comedians do not have to use obscene or vulgar language to be popular. The idea that ‘oversexualising’ content makes it cool is a lie. Music is a powerful tool for building values and must be used for such – to promote, not undermine values.”

In May 2016, Mutua banned a music video for ‘Same Love’ by Art Attack for its alleged graphic sexual scenes between people of the same gender as well as depiction of nudity and pornography. The board, which also got YouTube to flag the video as inappropriate, argued that homosexuality is illegal in Kenya and the content must be banned.

KFCB  is a state corporation under the Ministry of Sports, Culture and the Arts. It is mandated by Films and Stage Plays Act Cap 222 of Laws of Kenya to regulate the creation, broadcasting, possession, distribution and exhibition of films in the country.

Here is a video of Mutua speaking about SBJ’s song ‘Nyonyo’



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