“Kaskie vibaya huko kwenu!” A retort. Witty. Acidic. It stings. Go cry at your home. Go be in your feelings at your home. Go be in your emotions at your momma’s house. Go feel bad somewhere else. If you are not familiar with the phrase, you might be the only Kenyan who isn’t.

I heard it on the radio in a matatu. It grabbed my attention. How rude, how so very rude. Kaskie vibaya huko kwenu. Rudeness is a rarely acknowledged Kenyan virtue. In matatus I read stickers with messages like:

Kama una haraka shuka ukimbie. If you are in a hurry get out and run.

Kama hujanunua hapa usikulie hapa. If you didn’t purchase it here don’t eat it here.

Karau alipe gari! No free rides for cops!

Bishana tukudent. Cause a ruckus, we’ll beat you up.

Hatujasema wewe ni mnono lakini ukikalia viti mbili lipia zote. We aint saying you are fat but if you take up two seats pay for both.

Dere tuangushe tuonekane kwa news.  Driver, crash the vehicle, we will appear on the news.

Hii kazi ni ngumu lipa bila fujo. This is a hard job, pay up without controversy.

Such stickers, ode to a rude and violent matatu culture, are familiar to every Kenyan. The rudeness and violence goes beyond the verbal. In May this year a 17-year-old boy was shoved out of a moving bus on Outering Road by a tout. The bone of contention: Sh20 fare. The same bus ran over him and killed him. This was not an isolated event. News of Kenyans shoved out of moving matatus over insignificant amounts are common. Unbelievable but in Kenya it happens.

Violence and rudeness is the language of the Kenyan society. We live in a country where political leaders regularly sling insults at each other to widespread celebration by their supporters. Such behaviour seemed uncouth to American media coming from Donald Trump but in Kenya it is the mark of political aptitude. In Kenya when we say a certain leader lacks political acumen, what we really mean is they are mature and don’t do mchongoano. Politicians who don’t insult rivals are boring, they are detested and branded as weak and spineless.

Rudeness in our politics goes way back. Tanzania’s founding President Mwalimu Julius Nyerere once remarked that “Kenya is a man-eat-man society”. The rude retort by Kenya’s Attorney-General Charles Njonjo was: “And Tanzania is a man-eat-nothing society.” A penetrating insult glorifying the mammon of capitalist greed as a virtue.

Why are Kenyans so rude? Why do we glory in verbal dehumanization? Why is rudeness a celebrated virtue in Kenya? When a Kenyan tells you “I’ll deal with him”, chances are “dealing with him” means they plan to intimidate the person with verbal violence.

Kaskie vibaya huko kwenu. Rudeness and intimidation are part of the language of rap. Hip hop and its local children fit well on Kenyan soil. Kaskie Vibaya is a popular Gengetone song.  Gengetone is a child born of a mother known as Genge and a father known as Dancehall. It resonates heavily with Gen Z while Millennials cast a disapproving glance at the genre, considering it inferior to the Genge they grew up listening to.

Gengetone burst into the limelight circa 2018/2019 and decisively hijacked the zeitgeist, creating new stars, until coronavirus hit in 2020. Perhaps because it was a dancehall offshoot and dancing was out of the question when people were trapped in their homes, Gengetone suffered a decline that year. Clubs were shut. The world moved on. When restrictions were lifted, it slowly became apparent the Gengetone moment was over. Many pioneering Gengetone groups began to implode due to internal wrangles.

It seemed to be the end of a brief but glorious era. But did Gengetone really die? It didn’t. The genre continued to produce major hits such as Cheza Kama Wewe, Kuna Kuna and Sipangwingwi. The latter deserves special mention because it arguably won the 2022 election for Kenya Kwanza the same way Unbwogable won the 2002 election for NARC. For the song dominating a presidential election to be a Gengetone hit suggests the genre never went away. In fact, Sipangwingwi was so popular it was hijacked by both political camps. The song featured three artists: Exray, Trio Mio and Ssaru (who is also on Kaskie Vibaya). The Azimio party worked with Trio Mio while Exray became the Sipangwingwi mascot for Kenya Kwanza. Ruto’s team took up the phrase “sipangwingwi” as a clarion call urging their supporters to reject the micromanaging dynasties and the mythical deep state. So while Azimio hired Trio Mio to sing a song, Kenya Kwanza hired Exray to chant a political slogan.

Ruto went on to become the symbol of Sipangwingwi even more powerfully than Exray, Trio Mio and Ssaru. It was his song. He even commissioned a remix; on YouTube the song is titled Sipangwingwi Remix by Exray Taniua ft President William Ruto. The remix is a campaign song and its video is a Kenya Kwanza advert. Today William Ruto is the President of Kenya. A Gengetone song propelled him to the highest seat. Of course other factors are equally important but a battle chant plays a big part in buoying warriors. The song provided the slogan, the language and the rhythm. Ruto took it, owned it, and ran with it.

Genge was pioneered by Jua Cali, Nonini and producer Clemmo at Calif Records. It was called Genge because it was the music of the people (juxtaposed with the Kapuka genre seen as the music of the middle class). Ruto ran on a people-power platform. The people versus the dynasties. It is fitting he rose to power on the back of a people-power musical genre, Gengetone. If Ruto was fighting political dynasties who disdained what he stood for as a “hustler”, Gengetone rose to prominence in spite of the disdain of middle class music lovers and older generations. It was a marriage made in heaven. The revolution was a Gengetone song.

The phrase “kaskie vibaya” was not invented by Fathermoh and Ssaru. Like many Gengetone titles it was sourced from a phrase already in circulation. They are not even the first artists to use it in a song. On the song Aroma, Sewersydaa of Wakadinali raps, “Sidai makasiriko, kaskie vibaya na huko.” A song on Ndani ya Cockpit 3, the Wakadinali album released late last year. Fathermoh and Ssaru didn’t release their song until three months later. Kaskie Vibaya was uploaded on YouTube on February 27, 2023. At the time of this writing, the video had garnered 9.1 million views.

For a Kenyan song, 9.1 million views is a phenomenal number. Mejja’s four-month-old video for Punguza Ego is at 2 million views and his one-year old Kanairo Dating is at 5.3 million views. Mejja is one of the most popular hitmakers in the country. Wakadinali’s three-month old video for Sikutambui, a song that became a viral sensation on TikTok, is at 2.3 million views. Khaligraph Jones is the biggest name in Kenyan hip hop; his six-month-old video for Kwame is at 2.3 million views. Octopizzo’s nine-month-old Eau De Vie is at 3.2 million views. The ten-month-old video for Bien’s Inauma is at 7.8 million views. Bien is a member of Sauti Sol, Kenya’s biggest boy band.  Spider Clan’s three-month-old Rieng Genje (or more popularly Kaveve Kazoze) is at 3.2 million views.

At 9.1 million views, Kaskie Vibaya is a Kenyan hit. Of course things are different when you leap over Mt Kilimanjaro into Nyerere’s country. Zuchu’s video for Honey released under a month ago already boasts 6.1 million views. Diamond Platnumz’s one-month-old Shu! has 6.1 million views, and his six-month-old video for Yatapita is at 35 million views. The comparison gets even more humbling when you fly to the land of Afrobeat and Chinua Achebe: Rema’s two-month-old video for charm is already at 32 million views, while Ruger’s six-month-old video for Asiwaju has 61 million views.

Fathermoh is a former member of Mbuzi Gang, a Gengetone group responsible for major hits like Wagithomo and Shamra Shamra. The latter, a 2020 song featuring Mejja, is at 10 million views. Fathermoh was also part of another major Kenyan hit, the ten-month-old Kuna Kuna which boasts a locally impressive 20 million views.

Farthermoh’s partner-in-crime Ssaru is no stranger to hit-making herself. As mentioned earlier, she was featured on the election banger Sipangwingwi. The 20-month-old video for Sipangwingwi has 9 million views. Considering the timelines, Kaskie Vibaya might become Fathermoh and Ssaru’s biggest hit song.

The song occupies the same cultural realm and popularity if we compare it to Gengetone classics like Matata’s Mare Mare – the 2019 video is at 6.5 million views. Ethic’s Pandana – also from 2019 – is at 7.4 million views. 2019’s Kaa na Mama Yako by Ochungulo Family is at 4.1 million views.  Boondocks Gang’s Mboko Haram was released in 2019 and has 2.9 million views. One might argue Gengetone was still in its infancy in 2019 and was yet to be truly embraced by a wide audience. One would then wonder why the mentioned Gengetone groups did not go on to make songs bigger than their initial offerings but were later seemingly eclipsed by newer groups like Mbuzi Gang and solo artists like Trio Mio.

Is Kaskie Vibaya the song of 2023 so far? Every few months a song captures the Nairobi zeitgeist and indeed Kenya as a whole, especially on social media, and becomes a national anthem. Kaskie Vibaya is the successor of recent anthems like Sipangwingwi, Kuna Kuna, Pombe/Above the Head, and Cheza Kama Wewe. The question is why. What explains the popularity of these songs?

Most pop culture national anthems are similar in theme and vibe, but beyond the repetitive rhythms, memorable hooks, and strategic arrangement of beats that characterize a party/club hit song, most of these hit singles are propelled by the shameless celebration of Kenyan rudeness, the worship of mammon and disdain of those without it. No song captures this phenomenon more than Kaskie Vibaya.

The song starts with Fathermoh mocking Ssaru: “Niko na pesa kushinda babako – Kaskie vibaya huko kwenu.”  I have more money than your father – Go be in your feelings at your home.

From this initial salvo it is already clear to the listener what matters most. Money is the only currency. It buys you social value. If you have it, you can brag. You can insult those who don’t have it. A Gen Z chap can mock a man in his fifties or sixties, a man his father’s age, simply because he, Gen Z chap, has more money. He can mock the man’s daughter to humiliate her.

But Ssaru has a hidden weapon. She retorts, more devastatingly, reminiscent of Njonjo’s cutting response: “Niko na pesa na ni za babako – Kaskie vibaya huko kwenu.” I have money and I got it from your daddy – Go be in your feelings at your home.

The response is controversial. Ssaru has money. Even worse for the boy, she is in a relationship with his father. This early in the song we don’t know what kind of relationship it is but we live in Kenya and we know our society. We infer it’s a sexual relationship between a man and a girl young enough to be his daughter. In the next verse Ssaru tells Fathermoh how she came to the city and met his father who assured her he doesn’t love the boy’s mother: “Nilifika jiji nkakutana na budako, akaniambia ka ni vako hapendagi za mamako.” In the next line we learn she’s been dating the boy, and even worse, had a tryst with the boy’s father in the boy’s house, in the boy’s bed: “Kisiri siri tukakutana kwako, ni click, click bang tu juu ya kitanda chako.” The song is now dancing in immoral waters. A father sleeping with his son’s woman is taboo everywhere in the world. Why would such a song be so popular with the masses? If our society still contained any shred of its sacred values pertaining the relationship between parents and their children, a song like this would be rebuked not celebrated.

But just like the titles of Gengetone bangers are drawn from slogans already in circulation, so are the contents of the songs. A popular meme among young women these days goes: “I’m at the age where I can date you or your daddy. Stop playing.” Another one goes: “He played me so I’m dating his dad now. We’re getting him disinherited tomorrow.” The phenomenon of younger women dating older men is as old as time, but its normalization as a public culture in Kenya started in the 2010s. Various linguistic inventions helped to soften these hitherto despised and questionable pairings. New words such as “sponsors”, “blessers”, or the Nairobicized “sponyo” de-stigmatized the practice. Middle and upper-class women now prefer the more glamorous “silver fox” to describe the intricate allure of an older, stylish, and fit gentleman.

Two months ago Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) CEO Ezekiel Mutua, Kenya’s reigning cultural moral cop, a role he seems to relish and indulge in with a missionary-like zeal, wrote about the song on social media. Ezekiel Mutua is a fascinating man. He would be at home in biblical times. One imagines him as King Josiah, the 16th King of Judah, a reformer who set out to destroy all idols of worship in the territory of Israel. Mutua bursts with indignation at the immoral content society allows to flourish. When he was the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) boss he relished in banning what he considered immoral music and films. In his new role he lacks such powers and must be content with airing his views on social media like everyone else. His voice is strong and resounding though, due to the clout he amassed during his terrifying (for artistes) reign at KFCB.

Two months ago he castigated Kenyans for defending immoral content, referring specifically to Kaskie Vibaya. He wrote:

The crap these people are defending in the name of a song is glorifying incest, cheating and promiscuity. In the song, a young girl was dating a boy. Then they broke up and the girl started sleeping with the boy’s father. Now she’s taunting the boy that the father is better in bed and that she’s swimming in his money. The beats are great. And the ‘Kaskie vibaya na huko’ has become a catchphrase. But is the message right? If it is, then we can as well have content glorifying drugs, murder, rape, corruption etc. It’s what’s happening in the society, isn’t it?”

Like him or hate him, we can’t ignore his question. Should art uplift a fallen society or should it merely mirror it? Should we take songs like this at face value and enjoy them or should we consider them a wakeup call? If Kaskie Vibaya is a mirror, do we like what we see?

Three issues stand out in the song: the worship of money, gender war, and generational war. Money is the source of social value in the fallen Kenya depicted by Ssaru and Fathermoh. The song begins with Fathermoh’s attack on Ssaru, mocking her about her dad’s poverty. Later in the song he implies she is a prostitute and rains more misogynistic insults on her. In a time when gender wars are rife on social media, the song’s portrayal of this gendered verbal violence is accurate. Generational war is reflected first by Fathermoh’s desire to humiliate the girl’s dad, and secondly by Ssaru’s desire to humiliate the boy by sleeping with his father.

It’s a cycle of humiliation Olympics. Young men earning more money humiliate older men. Young men having money use it to humiliate young women. Old men with money humiliate younger men by buying access to young women. They offer the girls money and lavish lifestyle the young men cannot afford.  Young women use money they got from to humiliate their poor age mates. Older women, long hidden from the equation, are also now emerging from the citadels of economic empowerment to join the humiliation Olympics (they humiliate their husbands by getting into transactional sexual relationships with younger men). Money spins the humiliation wheel.

It brings us back to Nyerere and Njonjo. By the 1970s it was already clear Kenya was becoming a cutthroat capitalist society where money was the only currency and source of social value. Writers like Ngugi wa Thiong’o condemned the trend in their prophetic novels. Politicians like Pio Gama Pinto and J.M. Kariuki were killed for questioning the greed of the ruling class. Hundreds were detained, exiled and persecuted. The greed took hold and over the years it trickled down to the masses. Sixty years after independence the greed is now alive in every Kenyan class, age and social category. Our pastors are money-grabbing wolves in cassocks. The less said about our politicians the better. Schools exploit parents. Hospitals exploit patients. Conmen and robbers await us at all corners. This is the message the Kenyan society passes to every young man and woman. This is what they too have become.

On Sipangwingwi, the 2022-election-winning song, Exray goes:

Unataka mtu simple humble, rich young ndo upeane number

Unataka mtu mdark, mlight mtall, Babe tafuta wababaz

Unaplan future yetu kumbe uko alone

Maisha ni safari mi na ride along

Labda mi niomoke nikuitage form

Ama labda we uomoke nikujage home

Mi nayo pombe siwezi onja (aai nakunywa yote)

Na akiamua kukupatia (aii chukua yote)

The translation:

You will only give your phone number to someone simple, humble, rich, young

You are looking for a tall, dark and handsome guy. Babe get yourself a sponsor

As you plan for our future, turns out you’re alone

Life is a journey, I’m only riding along

Maybe if I get rich, I’ll take you out

Or if you get rich, I’ll come over to your place

But I can never just taste alcohol (I drink it all)

And if she decides to give it to you (take it all)

Here is a young man who is not doing well financially and knows it. Knowing the country he lives in, the young man harbours no romantic illusions. No romance without finance in Kenya. He cautions his love interest to get herself a mbaba, a sponsor, an older man, because while she is deluding herself planning for a future with him, he can’t envision a positive future and has embraced nihilism. He is here to enjoy himself, to have some sex, to have some fun, and most importantly to get drunk. Because how is an educated youth to survive a life with no financial prospects if not by getting regularly inebriated? Drugs and alcohol are a common theme in Gengetone, reflecting the hopelessness felt by Kenyan youth in an economy without jobs for them.

The theme is reinforced in another Gengetone hit Cheza Kama Wewe:

Buda form!

Manze si utuitie sherehe

Leo tupige kelele

Raha unajipa mwenyewe

The translation:

Mister, what’s the plot?

Call us for a party

We must be rowdy today

Enjoyment is your responsibility

The last line is poignant. Raha unajipa mwenyewe. Enjoyment is your responsibility. You don’t need to let anxiety and self-loathing make you miserable. Take your own enjoyment into your own hands, do something! Look for a party to go to. Join your friends. Drink and party. A few years ago when Gengetone was a young music form I remarked it was the kind of music people would dance to at the end of the world. As the world disintegrates around them like a sinking Titanic the people would dance themselves silly and drunk to Gengetone hit after Gengetone hit.

The chorus of Pombe/Above the Head is clear on this:

Pombe! Leta pombe

Pombe! Leta pombe

Siwezi bila pombe

Leta pombe, leta pombe



Alcohol! Bring us alcohol

Alcohol! Bring us alcohol

I can’t survive without alcohol

Bring alcohol, bring alcohol


Isn’t this a chant? An incantatory pleading with someone unnamed, perhaps the bartender or the powers-that-be to please intoxicate them. The youth are begging to be intoxicated. The youth want to forget their terrible lives. What is so terrible about their lives? Lack of money. The youth do not see any value in themselves. Money is the source of value. They would rather drug themselves to death than endure their empty lives. Elsewhere in the song, the musician reminds us there will be no alcohol in heaven, so the youth are drinking alcohol now while alive: ”Mbiguni hakuna pombe. Ndio maana tunakunywa pombe.”

In December 2012, Sauti Sol released Money Lover. It was an extremely popular song. The boy band was now a household name. It was the last year of the Mwai Kibaki government. We didn’t know what was coming. But even in that now seemingly idyllic time, Sauti Sol sensed something troubling in the zeitgeist. Something about money. They sang: “Do you love me baby? Do you love my money?” And Savara went on:

Do you believe in expensive cars?

Do you wanna play with my heart?

Do you believe in love or money or money plus love?

He added insecurely:

Remember the promise at the alter

That you are gonna love me for sure

Unconditional loving for richer for poor

They summed it up:

Heri ulie kwenye Range Rover

Ama ucheke kwenye boda boda

Ukose usingize Runda

Masaiba yanakufuata


Is it better to weep in a Range Rover

Or laugh riding a boda boda?

To be sleepless in Runda

While troubles follow you

As if to ensure we got the message, they serenaded money in the clearest example of mammon worship, comparing it to the loveliness of flowers: “Pesa ni maua, ooh tena inapendeza”. But they were quick to point out the treacherousness of this loveliness, it can kill you: “Pesa inaua, ooh itakumaliza.”

Kaskie Vibaya focuses on the worship of money and the sexual immorality of Kenyan youth. Almost a decade after serenading money while warning Kenyans of its evils, Sauti Sol released N.A.I.R.O.B.I. A song about the sexual immorality of Nairobians. Nairobi is the new Happy Valley and a popular Nairobi saying goes: “Nairobi is one big bedroom.” Sauti Sol sang:


Yule anakupea pia ananipea

Akikuletea, ananiletea

Wanakula fare, sote tuna-share

Ogopa sana NAIROBI!



She who gives you also gives me

As she brings it to you, she also brings it to me

They all “eat” our money, we all share each other

Be afraid of NAIROBI!

Let’s backtrack to the opening lines of Kaskie Vibaya. Fathermoh brags he has more money than the girl’s father. Where did he get the money? How is the character in the song, a young man in his early twenties, doing better financially than a man who is fifty? And why is the girl in the song comfortable dating a man old enough to be her father? It’s the economy, stupid!

April 5 this year, Business Daily ran an article by Constant Munda. Allow me to quote it:

“Around two-thirds of jobless Kenyans have given up looking for work or starting businesses, disheartened by lower opportunities in a tough economy that has seen many firms freeze hiring to survive. The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) data covering the quarter that ended December show that 2.01 million out of the 2.97 million jobless Kenyans aged between 15 and 64 – and who qualify for the labour force – were not actively looking for employment.”

The article goes on to say:

“The majority of those who have given up on employment are aged between 20 and 24 at 580,281, followed by 25 to 29-year olds at 351,125. The 20-24-year-old demographic consists mostly of fresh graduates whose job-seeking efforts are hurt by a lack of experience and a mismatch between skills and job openings.”

Early twenties. The hitmakers of Kaskie Vibaya, Fathermoh and Ssaru are 21-year olds, and their songs capture the prevailing attitudes of the youth. They worship money not out of greed but deprivation. Businesses are reluctant to take on more workers as they recover from the economic doldrums caused by Covid-19 and exacerbated by the Russia-Ukraine war. The Business Daily says more young people are jobless yet not actively looking for jobs. How do they survive? Broke, restless, hopeless, they seek all means to make a coin. For the young girls, older men are a source of income. What about the young men?

In 2019 the then Interior CS Fred Matiang’i declared up to 76% of Kenyan youth were involved in gambling, a damning number. In 2022 he reiterated there was need to regulate betting and gaming firms because some of them were being used for dirty activities such as money-laundering, tax evasion and financing many criminal activities.

When Fathermoh tells Ssaru, “Niko na pesa kuliko babako”, is his character, a mouthpiece for Kenyan young men, boasting of ill-gotten wealth? After all, how else would a 20-year-old in Kenya accrue a fortune big enough and flashy enough to humiliate a fifty-year-old man?

In May last year Fred Matiang’i famously warned the country of a high risk of the 13th Parliament becoming a haven of criminals who would buy their way into office. The claim seemed extremely bizarre yet perfectly plausible. What can’t money buy in Kenya? It will buy you political office, yes. It will even buy you absolution from God – or at least from his representatives.

In his famous essay Raffles and Miss Blandish, a book review of James Hadley Chase’s crime thriller No Orchids for Miss Blandish, George Orwell wrote perhaps the finest indictment of American society to date. He wrote: “It is implied throughout No Orchids that being a criminal is only reprehensible in the sense that it does not pay.”

Sound familiar? Elsewhere in the essay he writes:

In America, both in life and fiction, the tendency to tolerate crime, even to admire the criminal so long as he is successful, is very much more marked. It is, indeed, ultimately this attitude that has made it possible for crime to flourish upon so huge a scale. Books have been written about Al Capone that are hardly different in tone from the books written about Henry Ford, Stalin, Lord Northcliffe and all the rest of the ‘log cabin to White House’ brigade. And switching back eighty years, one finds Mark Twain adopting much the same attitude towards the disgusting bandit Slade, hero of twenty-eight murders, and towards the Western desperadoes generally. They were successful. They ‘made good’, therefore he admired them.”

George Orwell, a British writer, was talking about America in the 1940s but I swear the passage could easily be about our 2023 Kenya. If you think I’m kidding check Kenyan social media every time someone robs a bank. The robbers are hailed as heroes, celebrated by Kenyans from all walks of life. This is our country. Maybe Nyerere was right. And Ezekiel Mutua. Kaskie Vibaya is telling us the truth about ourselves. The youth are telling us the truth about themselves. But we are not listening. We are dancing.

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