‘Ni doshi’: Ingenuity of sheng for Kenyan music


'Ni doshi': Ingenuity of sheng for Kenyan music
Kenyan musician Nameless, whose real name is David Mathenge. PHOTO | COURTESY

In Summary

  • "It’s so interesting how sheng uses words or products that we are familiar with to create emphasis."David Mathenge aka Nameless
  • "The use of sheng in the industry has given youth back in the hood a sense of belonging and hope." Nick Chege alias Kartelo.
  • "Sheng has good base within social circles and working along such lines takes the content closer to them." Sheila Wanja

Times change and so do people: it reflects in how we dress, what we eat, who we interact with, the things we buy and even the places we go.

More often than not, change also finds its way through to the language we speak. In Kenya, sheng, has been around for years. It is slang popularly used in what many refer to as the ghetto.

It keeps on evolving: words that were used five, ten years ago are rarely used these days but the language remains rooted deep in Kenya.

Majority of youth in the country are conversant with the intended meanings of sheng words.

So much so that advertisements are even aired on prime time TV with the message produced in sheng.

In entertainment circles, sheng is the preferred language for artists and their audiences.

Think about Gengetone – a genre of music very popular among the youth.

It is loaded with sheng words such  as doshi which loosely translates to strong and durable.

Gengetone has surpassed its initial predicted life span because of many factors that are at play.

Key among them is the penetration of the internet hence easier access to social media.

In recent years, an increasing majority of Kenyan artistes have taken to primarily posting their new releases on their social media platforms.

They do this knowing well that they can reach their targeted audience through these platforms. Sheng continues to be their prime medium of expression.

David Mathenge, popularly known as Nameless, says sheng emphasises certain words that audiences are already familiar with.

‘’Well for me, it’s just the ingenuity of sheng and how it has used an already famous phrase like chuma ya doshi that represented quality and twisting it to emphasize a statement of quality. It’s so interesting how sheng uses words or products that we are familiar with to create emphasis by combining English and Swahili,” he says.

“The phrase ‘ni doshi’ must have come from the fact that doshi is used in reference to anything that’s of good quality. Something that depicts quality ni doshi while that of low quality si doshi, it’s as simple as such,” he adds.

Nick Chege alias Kartelo, a Kenyan comedian, says: “The use of sheng in the industry has given youth back in the hood a sense of belonging and hope. Right now, young people are confident they can make a career with their talent without compromising who they are. You can be you and still make it to great heights on the industry. This has created a certain wave in the streets whereby the youths are now staying away from crime and engaging in art.”

Asked about the use of sheng and what it means for youth, Sheila Wanja says drives the message home.

“Sheng resonates well with the youth and it’s in their system through and through… something easy for them and doing a message or music in a language they like most is the drill. Slang has good base within social circles and working along such lines takes the content closer to them. For instance, Mbogi means squad or a group of friends and Doshi means something good or of value,” says the entertainment blogger.

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Story By Tony Owori
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