The ‘80s music that we could access consisted of off-cuts from Top of the Pops, a German music show on VOK (remember that video they were obsessed with about Kylie Minogue in a spacesuit), an all-American music show (I think the Mickey Mouse Club or something), and VOK also used to show music videos in-between progis. I remember Stephanie Powers singing “The Power of Love” between Habari Kwa Ufupi and Vituko, and “STOP! In the Name of Love” before Leonard Mambo Mbotela asked us “huu ni ungwana?” in his progi.
There were songs which embody the ‘80s like that song with the lyrics “pump, pump the jam, pump it up, why your beats are stumping..” There was also that song “Back to Life” (1990 I think) which was particularly poignant on the last day of the holls. Remember that song “teretetetere.. I love your smile,” and of course there was MC Hammer and that ‘running man’ craze. There was also ‘Take My Breath Away’ from the movie Top Gun, a Euro-pop song involving sailors, more Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan (singing “Too Many Broken Hearts in the World”) – anything they came out with was a hit because they were in Neighbours and personally if I missed even 5 minutes of a Neighbours episode I would raramika.
Kienyeji songs included Mariru, Mumunya (both by Sam Muthee), Kamaru songs, Benga (like Daniel Owino – mnakumbuka that song “Shauri Yako.. shauri yako eeh”), and I remember a song on Music Time by an elderly man singing “(something) (something) theremende.” Yvonne Chaka Chaka was also very popular, I remember Uquombothi (“wema sameni, wo uqombothi”) and a song about a DJ (“please, Mr DJ, I need you”). Aah then Lingala tokead. There were so many Lingala songs that I can’t remember them now, but I recall Kwasa Kwasa by Kanda Bongo Man. Other Lingala artists included Professor Namaan – that guy reportedly ate 30 eggs everyday. I also remember Tshala Mwana and Mbilia M’Bel; Lingala dancers used to be gymnastic and they followed that craze whereby women shaved off their eyebrows and drew a line starting above the eye and ending up in the forehead like antennae. I also remember Queen Jane and Them Mushrooms.
At some point people’s music “collections” in the ‘80s (these being pirate cassettes) shifted from general or Europop stuff to RnB. I kumbuka Gladys Knight, Luther Vandross, Mariah Carey when she was shy (I still love that song ‘Always be my baby’), Chaka Khan, Boys II Men (wooii remember when their music hit Nai). Rap was also becoming popular – those were the days of Public Enemy, NWA, Heavy D, Kid & Play, Salt & Pepa. As the ‘90s ingiad hip hop and RnB became more prominent but in the ‘80s any song from America/Europe was considered to be okay. I kumbuka some weird robot-type electro/techno type songs.
MJ dominated (“aauu”) as per kawa, as did people like Stevie Wonder (“I just called to say..”), Michael Bolton, Prince (Purple Rain, 1999), George Michael (that song “never gonna dance again” always reminds me of those days in the mid 80s). Kulikuwa na saxophone obsession kubwa sana. Kumbuka Cyndi Lauper (“girls just wanna have fun”), Whitney Houston with rainbow makeup (“wanna dance with somebody,” “one moment in time”), Tevin Campbell of course – every chick had a crush on him, Will Smith/Jazz’s collabos “Boom, boom shake the room” and “summertime.” Aah those were songs we loved.
When KTN ingiad there seemed to be an outburst of Kenyan musical groups. Kina Jimmy Gathu’s group (it had like twenty members) sang that song about road safety, Five Alive tokead, as did a group who sang about how “sorry depleted the mzungu’s ngombe;” there was also Swahili Nation. Oh and remember VOK/KBC bringing Taraab music on Sundays? That music was heavy on the ear with those accordion-type instruments and those mathes imploring us in conk Swaha, then the people in the audience would weka Ksh 20 notes on her. On Music Time there were Kienyeji songs involving a one-man-band: a guy would play a nyatiti, a percussion instrument, and also a flute at the same time. Talk about multi-tasking.
Yenyewe I can’t really remember music being that great in the ‘80s. I think that Nai people our age only really began to get into music in the ‘90s when, everywhere you turned, kulikuwa na ‘ziki hata kwa mathree. Kina SWV, Jodeci, TLC, Bone Thugs N Harmony, R Kelly were big names. By then everyone was obsessed with the “latest music” (latest in as far as it arrived on that progi at 6pm KTN, or on Fred Obachi Machoka’s ‘Music Time.’ Hakukuwa na any radio stations for teenies as far as I can remember). I kumbuka kids being told ati “you don’t know who Keith Sweat is? Haujasikia the latest Babyface song? Aah weh mshamba kabisa.” We were also obsessed with dance moves; the last one I bothered learning was the “shuffle.” There was also a dance move which involved moving the shoulders pekee, another one involved twisting the feet on tip-toes.
Woi how could I forget Kriss-Kross – what happened to them? Remember that song “Jump jump, mack daddy’ll make ya.. jump jump, Kriss-Kross will make ya.. jump jump.” They were pendwad by chicks sana. Aah- and New Kids on The Block!!! “Candy girl..” I think they sang. Also we didn’t consider Vanilla Ice to be uncool as a matter of fact “ice ice baby” and I also remember a male group called the “Spin doctors” singing “if you want to buy me flowers/ just go ahead now.”
Rock in the ‘80s was quite prominent. I recall Def Leppard, Sting, Bryan Adams “everything I do..” (from the Robin Hood movie) and some song about “living on the edge” until there were storos in the press about Rock being the devil’s music and ati there were hidden messages hapo ndani so Rock kinda became unpopular in Nai. Also we were told that playing such records backwards reveals hidden, sinister messages??
As a matter of fact we were also warned against rap (too violent), RnB (too suggestive), Country music (erm Kenny Rogers had a beard), Lingala (too excitement-inducing), Kienyeji songs (too Kienyeji), so I guess our only recourse ilikuwa to hum our own music.