‘Hatuna deni ya mtu’: When a song turns the political world upside down


'Hatuna deni ya mtu': When a song turns the political world upside down
President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto during the groundbreaking ceremony of Thiba dam in Kirinyaga County on Thursday (November 23)

In Summary

  • In an industry dominated by the likes of Sauti Sol, Nyashinski, Diamond, Mercy Masika and Bahati, it is crazy that a little known song has caught the attention of the political bigwigs starting with Deputy President William Ruto.
  • The song, called; "Hatuna deni ya mtu, kitaeleweka" (We are in nobody's debt, let it be known) entirely done in Kikuyu - has gone viral and caused a political hullabaloo that saw Mr. Ruto stand in a church pew and say; "Nobody owes me anything."
  • A section of leaders from the Kikuyu community have been heard saying, drawing as far as far back January, that they do not owe anybody (Ruto) anything.

Until last week, the biggest song in Kenya was without a doubt Kwa Ngwaru by Tanzania’s Diamond Platnumz and Harmonize. But that has all but changed thanks to a song that is driving up temperatures in the political dance floor.

In an industry dominated by the likes of Sauti Sol, Nyashinski, Diamond, Mercy Masika and Bahati, it is crazy that a little-known song has caught the attention of the political bigwigs starting with Deputy President William Ruto.

The song, called; “Hatuna deni ya mtu, kitaeleweka” (We are in nobody’s debt, let it be known) – entirely done in Kikuyu – has gone viral and caused a political hullabaloo that saw Mr. Ruto stand in a church pew and say; “Nobody owes me anything.”

The second in command in Kenya even turned to the Bible to drive his point home; “I want to remind leaders what Paul says in Romans 13:8; owe no man nothing except the debt of love for one another.”

Say what you want, but how many artistes have forced their prey to quote a Bible verse to defend themselves?

Now the issue of political “debt” is all the rave with politicians talking about it whenever they stand behind a mic and in front of their adoring supporters.

The song has elicited strong emotions among a section of leaders from the Rift Valley community who have termed it as hate speech.

The artiste tells Deputy President William Ruto that the Kikuyu community does not owe him anything for forming an alliance with one of their own, President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Let us backtrack a little bit on how the whole “deni” thing started:

Before Jubilee Party, there was the United Republican Party (URP) and The National Alliance (TNA); independent parties led by William Ruto and Uhuru Kenyatta, respectively.

The two parties were, however, dismantled and brought together to form one, Jubilee Party, which makes up the country’s ruling government.

The narrative being whispered within Jubilee circles is that the agreement was for Ruto to support Uhuru’s presidency for two terms, after which the man from Gatundu would back the hustler” from Sugoi in his quest for the seat, for two terms, as well.

Ruto has since denied any reports of such an agreement.

Following President Kenyatta’s re-election into office for his final term, however, it would appear as if some leaders from Central Kenya have changed their minds.

A section of leaders from the Kikuyu community have been heard saying, drawing as far as far back January, that they do not owe anybody (Ruto) anything.

“Kikuyus are in nobody’s debt,” that was Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro’s remark during a public function in April.

In the subtly concealed attacks at the DP, they coined the now popular phrase ‘hatuna deni ya mtu, kitaeleweka.’

Now, going back to that song, and I want you guys to walk with me here, there are very high chances that the artiste’s “creative juices” were flowing extra fast that day.

In my head, I can see the guy waking up that fine morning, had a warm breakfast and, as he was applying cologne on his sweaty armpits, the cartoonish “bulb” lit up from within and, right there and then – with a nduma in hand – the idea for ‘Hatuna deni ya mtu, kitaeleweka’ was born and he run to the studio.

Or – and again, walk with me here, slowly – that morning, still with that nduma in hand, he received a call from one of the region’s most vocal politicians who pitched an idea to him about a song, probably even contributed to some of the lyrics, wired a few bucks to his bank account and sent him off to the studio. And ‘Hatuna deni ya mtu, kitaeleweka’ was born.

Both are hypothetical scenarios that just keep running on and on in my mind, and I don’t know which side to lean to.

Songs about political slogans in Kenya are most certainly always sponsored, and that is not something I’m making up today. Onyi Jalamo was paid for his ‘NASA’ song, although he says it wasn’t enough, and Ben Githae has been reported to have bagged quite a chunk from his ‘Tano Tena’ hit mostly from performing it in political rallies.

So, was “hatuna deni ya mtu” sponsored? That remains to be known.

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Story By Ian Omondi
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