Dealing with the Gengetone storm

Despite its growing popularity among teenagers, experts reassure parents that there is no need to panic over this music genre

Ezekiel Mutua, the CEO of Kenya Film Classificatin Board (KFCB)

The new wave of music known as Gengetone has gained an audience and taken the music industry by storm. Back in the day, there was the Genge genre but Generation Z artists have taken it to other level that includes explicit content in which they unapologetically champion drug abuse, disrespect women and disregard the lowly in society. Still, experienced artists and radio personalities such as Jua Cali and Rachel Muthoni (famously known as Mwalimu Rachel) have defended Gengetone, saying it is the youths’ way of dealing with frustration.

Right: Rachel Muthoni (famously known as Mwalimu Rachel) with NRG Radio DeeJay Kace

According to research by the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB), 88 per cent of teenagers, mostly those in high school, subscribe to Gengetone – a single release can get up to 1.9 million streams on YouTube. This is quite a worrying trend and raises the question: How can parents ensure that their teenagers remain upright amid the Gengetone wave?

In a Facebook post last February, Ezekiel Mutua, the CEO of KFCB, demanded the arrest of popular Gengetone group, Ethic Entertainment, over the release of their song, Tarimbo, which advocates the raping of women and also promotes violence. Dr Mutua also revealed that he had spoken to Google to bar the group’s music from its platforms.

Tabitha Susan, a counselling psychologist, says parents should not be worried as children mostly hold on to what they have been taught during their upbringing. Instead, parents should make sure that they set good examples because they are the first books their children read. She also insists on parents’ active presence in their children’s lives.

“Yes, times are tough and parents today need to work a little longer, harder and extra to make ends meet. But it is important that they make time for their children instead of leaving them at the mercy of caregivers,” says Ms Susan, adding that time spent with children results in stronger bonds that in turn create honest and open communication.

“Parents must realise that they have a great influence on their children once a good relationship with them is developed.”

Once a parent develops a personal relationship with their child it becomes easy to talk about issues without fear of judgement. Susan also says parents should not just ban the music but explain the issue with such music.

“Becoming aggressive and issuing orders like a dictator will result in the children shutting down thereby making it difficult to have open and honest relationships in the family.”

Rhoda Rhioba, a primary school teacher and youth pastor at Christian Glory Empowerment Church in Langas, Uasin Gishu County, agrees, saying as much as the world is corrupt, parents should not worry about the outcome of their children but instead focus on raising them right because children will not depart from that which has been instilled in them during childhood.

“Parents must instil values in their children as values influence how children behave – how they interact with their peers and develop ethical standards that help them develop a sense of right and wrong.”

Echoing what Susan says on parents being the best role models, Ms Rhioba emphasises on parents watching their own behaviour.

“Your children will always model your mannerisms,” she says, adding that parents should not shy away from disciplining their children and taking a common stand on disciplinary measures.

Most importantly, she says, parents must teach their children to develop self-discipline because they are by nature impulsive.

“A child who is armed with self-discipline has a tremendous asset for addressing any challenges in life and also has a stand when it comes to ethics,” says Rhioba. “Self-disciplined children are also better able to make good decisions when it comes to peer pressure and self-care.”

While she concedes that it can be quite challenging to control teenagers, especially with the internet so readily available, she urges parents to put ground rules in place such as a limited time for the use of their gadgets and the internet. She stresses that rules are very important in establishing boundaries around what is acceptable and unacceptable, and teaching children that privileges also come with responsibilities.