On Camp Mulla

I have been watching a lot of music videos, thanks to fast internet , my own laptop and a lot more time – especially since I shut down my Facebook account (finally).

So in my youtubing, I happened upon Camp Mulla  ( I already knew them though). Camp Mulla’s music makes me  happy, it makes me feel like clubbing in Nairobi, it sounds like holidays to me- lazy, laid back and fun at night. It’s a bit disturbing though, that the girls in the videos are probably 16 so I feel creepy like Andrew Onyango and his camera.

I have also happened upon videos like Jackiewa’s, whom I was surprised a lot of Kenyans don’t know. How can you not know the superstar from Matasia.

For those of you who know her, you might be as shocked as I was to find out that Jackiwa Matasiastar is not a joke. She is a real star claiming real talent. The only thing that seems quite unreal is her story, mad loopholes- geographic and otherwise.

Anyway, back to Camp Mulla videos –  a lot of people have faulted them for their style.

They say it’s fake, that it’s wannabe.  They make snide comments about them being rich or going to ‘mzungu’ schools. They talk about how they are imitating Lil Wayne etc, that they should do genge. And then there’s the all time favourite ‘enlightened African’ internet philosopher that dramatically points at Camp Mulla’s style of music and clothes and makes a super-dramatic appeal that  ‘Kenyans/ Africans need to stop imitating the West and be more like PSquare and Nigerian artists blablabla.

I think  there is some truth in these comments. It’s true that these kids went to uptown schools. Probably a significant part of their success can be apportioned to having supportive, financially capable parents and privileged access to systems  that have allowed them to succeed.  Support and systems here is not all about money, a supportive system could simply be parents that allow kids to dream of being a musician, parents who will allow you to express whatever you are expressing by growing dreadlocks, parents who will allow you to spend hours at the studio when they don’t see anything coming out of it – that kind of support. So it’s not a surprise that Marcus (the producer aka K’Cous )has musical folks. But giving credit where it’s due, Camp Mulla has talent.

Back to the dodgy philosophy, that hurriedly says this is another case of the ‘black man’ aping ‘the West’. The only response I can think of to this is simple, and already much talked about already, that ‘the world is flat’.

I currently live with 2 Germans, a Spanish guy and a Frenchie. It’s interesting that the 5 of us all know who Harry Potter is, we all know who Barney is (How I Met Your Mother). We all know or at least have heard of Breaking Bad and we all know/ know of the Beatles and the Bee Gees.  We even expect each other to have seen the same movies.

On a deeper level, we all understand sarcastic humor and we all make racist jokes. We all appreciate similar forms of art- which is why we all enjoyed the musical we went to see and we often watch movies together. To me, that we share these commonalities is really fascinating- because we are so different. We come from such different societies and have such different expectations of people and different ways of relating with each other, yet we have these similarities. Why?

The world is flat. It’s flat because we all consume the same media. We all watch the same movies, we are all on social networks, we all find memes funny. We all consume a lot of US of A media (only because it’s what is most exported) thanks to Hollywood. (Shout out to my brothers behind UTorrent, movie2k, piracy etc.) So we consume this media, and the values portrayed over and over again.  Whether we like it or not, this media influence us to some extent. It shapes our worldview, what we consider funny, what we consider fashionable, what we consider appropriate.

This is not a new phenomenon though. My folks wore hipsters, afros and microminis in the 70’s- a global trend – so even before the Internet the world was getting flat. My German housemate’s parents also wore the global 70’s look for white people.  So no mr.philosopher, this wasn’t another case of the ‘black man’ aping ‘the west’, it was and still is simply global convergence based on media consumption.

Ever heard of Bee Gees? They were American right? Nope, English/Australian

Ever heard of Abba? They were American right? Nope, Swedish

Ever heard of Modern Talking? They were American right? Nope German

Maybe Beegee’s American sound can be due to the fact that they worked with US of A’s Atlantic Records in the 70’s and producers often influence the musician’s sound-so arguably their sound might have been ‘Americanized’.

Abba and Modern Talking sang in English, why? I assume it’s because they were influenced a lot by American music, and probably because singing in English made more commercial sense.  But whatever the reason, they were influenced by the global trend, they were not neccessarily trying to be un-swedish or un-german.  Bringing it home, Camp Mulla are not being wannabes, they are simply being influenced by global trends in their chosen genre of music.

However,  this doesn’t mean wannabes don’t exist, because they do. Seriously, wtf was this video? Tony Montana? Guns? Silk gowns? That’s not influence, that’s just forcing issues.

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2 thoughts on “On Camp Mulla

  1. wayward foe says:

    i agree with this point of view and often i wonder hoe people call these things unafrican as if the last 200 years of our history didn’t happen, as if the culture that’s african now isn’t influenced by what came before by who did what and the effect it had, and i wonder how they can call it aping the west and being unafrican when they say it in engish(irony of ironies.) i think the fact that a lot of kenyans can relate to what they do says enough about it.

    racist jokes are fun though, some of the best humour

  2. WairimuM says:

    yep, the world is flat. And there is really no way of winning this African culture argument thing. On the other side of the fence is Blankets and Wine (these are the words of Biko btw) who are accused of being uppity middle class people using their native names because its trendy and listening to afro soul.
    So…no ‘superficially’ going back to your ‘roots’..and no ‘imitating’ the west. What’s left then?

    Besides, culture is preeetty strong. Just because we watch American movies doesn’t mean that we aren’t african. Your cultural identity pops up in the weirdest ways, and it’s definitely there, like a little puppet master influencing your world views and actions.
    Watu waimbe chenye wanataka: but am not watching that bad pass remix ever again!!

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