HYPERGAMOUS: THE ANATOMY OF ODONGO SWAGG MUSIC
Forget about Odongo Swagg’s salacious dance hall craze chant of Igoyo gi Nyundo. Young Odongo is jathum. And jathum is jadhum so we should expect messages from beyond the supernatural. Odongo Swagg high riding ohangla star is not only onto social commentary like the likes of our only Golden disc winner Gabriel Omolo. But young Odongo Swagg is giving us a soulful testimony with global narratives. Odongo Swagg is reminding us how far we have wandered away or how far back we have to go. And beyond this Odongo Swagg in his hour of solitude reached our cultural conscience when debating with his maker about life.
First, let us get rid of this salacious chant of Igoyo gi Nyundo. Personally I don’t find anything unusual with such a fad. It is alright. I will tell you why. In mid-1984 a boat carrying 27 football players crossing the gulf of Namlolwe drowned when strong waves or something made the boat capsize. At the onshore mourning as is customarily ritualised, a grandmother came mourning and bleating for the loss of her grandson at a tender age. How the Lake has once again swallowed a young life? Her repeated wails of “to Nyathi yom nang’o, to nyathi yom nang’o to naythim yom nang’o”. (How young and tender my child) was very clear and pierced the lake side waters echoing in everybody’s memory and especially the nearby fisher men boat people that had converged to retrieve the bodies.
What followed is that in comic relief it became a line when yom was twisted from youthful lingo to the Luo equivalent of foxy lady by market lunatic to describe young pretty ladies of the market. In market kidology it lost its origin to a line to be thrown at a chic lady passing by. By the time it reached the bus stops all over the Luo centres it had lost its meaning and all manner of simile like nyathi ywak nang’o, nyathi ber nang’o had now replaced the original lakeside wail. And as usual anytime lady sex rears her ugly head in anything she never goes away.
It is the same with how Odongo Swagg explains igoyo gi nyundo. It was just a word play at a building site that strayed. We all have had them. I remember my recent one was “put the flowers where the sun does not shine”. I can accept Odongo Swagg explanation. How he milks it is a personal choice but I was once young. I am not too old to remember how young people behave. What I know is that it is not even 1 % in vulgarity compared to western songs in the Kenyan market today. And we have had them from the Congolese Sundama e Sunda to the explicit US songs. Any legislation of youthful kidology is therefore not justified and such discussion cannot be merited. Its youthful to be left alone to flow down like muddy waters.
ODONGO SWAGG EARLY YEARS.
In his own words, the young man was born about 30 years ago in, Rarieda constituency, Uyoma of Siaya County in Kenya from very humble beginnings as Collins Otieno Owigo. Odongo is an ancestral name as Luos culturally have 5 names like the Aztecs of Mexico. Apparently he got the Swagg nickname because of his laid back and easy crusing lifestyle. To the naked eye he was just not a music star but just another person going through the paces of life unhurried, unperturbed and without a care in the world of the pace that life puts people through. So to his mates it was like “this guy is too cool to be uncool. Life is just a swagger to him. Nothing unruffled him”.
After staggered basic education and some stints in rural life he moved to the urban centres to try and pick up a career in carpentry. Disillusioned by the none rewarding apprenticeship life, he quit and shifted his life elsewhere. Trying to train as a musician from scratch became very challenging as promoters, instruments, attachments became hard to find and he succumbed to working at a building site as very unskilled labour basically doing menial labour intensive hard labour.
To make a long story short he stumbled into dancehall performance after making attempts after the Kisumu working site was completed. Some of his current hits were previous released during the difficult times. Under the tutelage of another Ohangla star Onyango Jakadenge he arrived current Odongo Swagg in the stables of Promoter Wuod Fibi.
The Anatomy of Odongo Songs.
Odongo Swagg eloquence reminds me of 1960s rock star Jimi Hendrix eloquence. When he answers questions at an interview and before long he has taken over and seamlessly directs the interview picking the salient and key points in the subject without being ruffed. So why did I pick on such a rookie to write about. Is it only the anatomy of his songs?
Odongo Swagg testimony is very convincing. Take Madharau for example. Briefly Madharau tells the story of a relationship that has gone bad and the way the strong party usually ejects the weaker party with so much fault finding. And Odongo Swagg does not refuse to own up to his own blame. He accepts it and the full persecution like the wrong party. And true when he lays his case in the song he comes with clean hands and accepts blame. It is when the wrong spouse follows the defeated spouse to try and snuff any chance of them rising that Odongo takes a final stand of take your best shot at wounding me. Madharau to ang’iyo godo.
I like the song very much because like in life it teaches us that blackmail and terror can hurt only so much. And when a terrorist or a bully is dared by refusing to negotiate, “madharau to ang’iyo godo”, the terrorist folds and eats up themselves. It is an everyday life situation that the strong spouse more than likely has a readiness to use their power. The power corrupts them to over persecute the weak. It is a normal situation whether you are in Kanyada Kenya or Canada, North America. And you see it mushrooming every day in NGOs set up to level the playing field, in global bodies to simply give a helping hand to a disadvantaged group. Only of a sudden the yester year oppressed arise like sphinx and start to marginalise the yester years' oppressor. All of a sudden we have a new oppressed to deal with like the swing from girl child to boy child. It is not only in groups. Is that all about Odongo Swagg songs?
On New year I was discussing the current lifestyle with some youths around the unmarried and marrying young’s dating and whether my project of a Luo dating site is a feasible project for the young Luos in the diaspora. And it dawned on me that Odongo Swagg songs are yoked around hypergamy, “the action of marrying or forming a sexual relationship with a person of a superior sociological background”. If we move away from Odongo Swagg’s Madharau song, the next song is even a starker graphic of hypergamy.
In Nyar Agweng’ Odongo laments being removed from the Luo culturally conservative lifestyle to an urban lifestyle which has moved very fast. The song resonates with a larger population of this audience because of the way he has described the youthful life in the lake basin and more or less in many rural setting in Kenya. I for one faced this cultural shock as a young person in the Americas in my teens. I could never conceptualise a teenaged couple kissing openly in front of their parents. I never even had orientation of what to expect in the extremes of living half an hour’s drive from the sultry permissive life of Los Angeles California, USA. If Odongo Swagg is lamenting 50 years later in Kisumu, then he should hear my experiences. What is Odongo Swagg narrating.
Nyar agweng to ahero
Nikech oonge hasara
Nyar agweng’ oloyo u
Sama obiro wendo ni kata fare ok okwa
Nyi town ojoga
Sama obiro wendo pes piece nyaka ichiw
Sama obiro wendo ni pes chips nyaka ichiw.
And it is not just the transactional relationship that we must pay attention to. In my time it was even a measure of chastity if a woman refused expensive gifts. Chastity was not only preached it was practised. No young lady lived the life like a gold fish that can be seen by all. It was all about privacy and confidentiality. And this was the life Swagg was used to. The teen life is held away from the grownups. But that is not all.
In the new year laid back chat hypergamy in modern era among the new generation of black people was decried. It is not that they want fare or money for chips. The farther away we moved from Nyanza it became apparent that dating became a challenge to the younger generation because of hypergamy. A young lady wearing a £5 Tesco dress, £1 earrings from Boho and shoes from St Elsewhere expects a young a college age mate to take her out to Funky Budha to mingle with young football apprentices on £50K per week salary. And the minimum they want to settle for is a 3 course dinner of £25 per person yet the total dressing she is wearing costs less than £25. However, if she is treating herself, then KFC fast food outing sharing Uber on the way back is the standard. This is exactly Odongo Swagg’s sermon. And it is universal among black women, not only Kisumu City or surrounding urban centres.
What is the aftermath of new order? Easy. It means that our black women are draining men who trying to live up to rap stars’ false lives. All the time premarital days are used eating up the wealth creation times. Do other races experience this culture? I am not going to compare but Hypergamy or the antonym that Odongo Swagg laments about is turning all our youth into consumerism. The money poured into hair piece, wigs, is limiting the young man’s propensity to save and move on to a married life.
In Odongo Swagg tribulation several things come to light. Lakeside is like the California of USA. It is only right that the youth are given the environment to chart out a career there. Anthropologists are heading there in swathes the way they are heading to Kinshasa. The difference is that the Lakeside music industry is untainted and is attracting all the academic researchers from the west interested, in Benga, Nyatiti, and the new trends that Namlolwe keeps on throwing out like Ohangla.
This means that even before team sports venues like Siaya stadium. Homa Bay stadium, Migori Stadium, the county governments should have considered recording studios and auditoriums. Why so? because a music studio lifecycle is shorter than a team sport. A music investments results are within reach. A music investment is not labour intensive and more or less runs on its own after the initial investment. Many high schools in Europe have taken this path with regards to performing arts with wonderful results. And this goes for NGOS interested in uplifting the youth, the willing diaspora groups and even interested individuals. The narration by Odongo Swagg of how he hunted for a promoter and the ensuing discrimination is painful to hear. Behind every Odongo Swagg’s narration of Nyambita shifting whatever she was shifting is the realization that such talent was on the brink of disappearing to oblivion.
The next one is the issue of appropriate technology. As Odongo Swagg puts it, he abandoned carpentry because at that moment an apprentice in carpentry would not compete with the fishing vocation that he had left behind. As an apprentice he was working for nothing and possibly witnessing at first hand his boss labouring for hours to get what they could not even share. School Career guidance could go along away before the young are made to embark on ill-fitting careers. May be in the words of Odongo Swagg in Igoyo gi Nyundo, “prepare the young properly before they embark on the career”. If not so the whole nation will end up with half-baked technicians. Or simply experts who just give-up on distant dreams and wander onto other ill-fitting expertise like in our days. In a personal testimony I have a cousin who regrets not pursuing history because of the limited career guidance he was given about history and geography. Me on the other hand ended up on a life lifetime career and yet even a blind man can see with his stick that I should not have ended up here. I remember this Italian colleague once teased me when I was 30 years old that I should have been a pastor. When I pointed out that I could not be a pastor because I am from Umira Kager, Ranieri Sabbatucci my friend answered, “It is ok Steve you can be an African pastor”.
Maybe Odongo Swagg in his swaggering and calmness will be an African pastor one day because unlike me, he has time on his side.