Kenyan gospel music: Why Papa Fololo is a Fraud

September 7, 2015 Music , MUSIC/FILM/TV




James Ouma

Something happened during the last visit by Strathmore University that has compelled the ‘Father’ in me to share about the music that our children and young people listen, sing and dance to. Though we use a lot of music and dance in our mentorship programme there are songs that are becoming a no-go zone as I keep on exploring what the lyrics and dance moves mean.

A few months ago, I wrote about Willy Paul’s Tam Tam song where he is asking for ‘marital’ advice from Size 8. I mentioned that Size 8 isn’t the right source of advice since she had just gotten married while the other marriages mentioned in the song were highly questionable. When you listen and watch the video of the song you realize it is simply a play of words and use of rhymes that ends up spoiling the intended message.

Like I said before, I am either becoming too old school or am purely ‘hating’ on Kenyan contemporary gospel artists due to my lack of musical and dance talent. But sample these lyrics from the song Tam Tam:

Willy Paul: Nieleze siri ya mapenzi dada (Tell me the secret to being loved my sister)

Size 8: O Willy wewe Willy, usitafute wawili, muombe Mwenyezi, usijitie kitanzi. Ukisahau Mwenyezi, utajipiga mateke (Willy o Willy, don’t look for two, ask God, don’t commit suicide. If you forget God you will be kicking yourself).

Willy Paul isn’t the only culprit. There is Papa Fololo.


Why Papa Fololo is a Fraud

My search on YouTube for Papa Fololo brought lots of videos which include Papa Fololo Tchoumakaya from Cote d’Ivoire, posted six years ago. The second video is Daddy Owen’s Kupe de kalle, posted three years ago. Then there is Koffi Olomide, the master of all Papa Fololos. Judging from the first two Papa Fololos, you can tell the relationship between the dance style, beats and name.

In fact, a friend of mine walked in while I was writing and listening to Papa Fololo Tchoumakaya. When I asked her about her thoughts concerning the song, sound, beat and dance she mentioned Daddy Owen’s Kupe de kalle. These two songs have an identical beat, tune, dance moves and what’s more, the artists share the same stage name! Since the first song was posted before Daddy Owen’s, I think Kupe de kalle was inspired by Papa Fololo from Cote d’Ivoire.

Either Daddy Owen doesn’t know the meaning of Papa Fololo and Kupe de kalle, or he does but he doesn’t care about the implications of what he is singing to those who don’t but need to know. In fact all the songs that have been sung by the Papa Fololos and posted on YouTube aren’t about good things or worshiping God.

In our Luo narrative we have apuoyo, the hare, who is tricky and uses his intelligence to get away with things that the other animals don’t easily get away with. ‘Papa’ is a respectable Congolese name that is given to a man while ‘Fololo’ is a flower. ‘Papa Fololo’ in our context right now is associated with a man who is unfaithful, a cheater and trickster who gets away with cheating on his wife without being answerable to any authority. That is what Koffi Olomide refers to when he calls himself Papa Fololo. It is like he is proud of doing what he wants and getting away with it because he is untouchable.

The word ‘tobina’ means ‘let’s dance together’ while ‘kupe de kalle’ means ‘to cut or part in the middle’. Since most Congolese dance moves are heavily laced with sexual gestures, you and I know what kupe de kalle means.

Even if Daddy Owen doesn’t know the meaning of Papa Fololo, which I strongly believe he does (because you have to call yourself what you know), why would he choose to call himself Papa Fololo? Is it because he can use Lingala beats, lyrics and dance moves that Kenyan youths don’t understand and use his talent to get away with it without being answerable to anyone?

Is it that Kenyan Christians are ready and willing to allow their gullibility and love for Lingala music to cloud their moral judgement of what should and should not be allowed in gospel music? Or is this just a reflection of the kind of results that manifest itself in Kenyan schools, marriages, politics and Christianity?

Music is powerful. It has potent power and those who know are able to use it to influence lots of things that are mostly not geared towards the good of any given society. Music has resulted in teens committing suicide, unwanted pregnancies and broken marriages at home and in the political arena.

By singing in a language that no one understands, Kenyan contemporary gospel artists end up misleading youths. Though most Kenyan hip gospel artists such as Size 8, Daddy Owen, Willy Paul and the likes include God and Jesus in their songs, it doesn’t make their songs Christian. That is why Papa Fololo is a fraud that all parents need to be aware of.

The fact that an artist can sing songs that our children and young people easily associate and relate with doesn’t mean we should let both the artists and our children get away with it and do as they wish. As parents, especially fathers, we need to sieve our children’s playlists on their smart phones, laptops and computers. We must also influence Sunday School and Teens Church choice of songs. This is the bottom line. It doesn’t matter how you look at it. As a father you must supervise your child’s choice of songs.







James Ouma

James Ouma is a freelance writer and founder of Lifesong Kenya, in addition to being a children’s TV producer at the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation.

1 Comment

  1. christopher Okello February 01, at 09:07

    It is high time someone exposed all the fraudsters calling themselves "gospel artists". Most of them are crooks, drunkards, wife beaters and wife cheaters - wolves in sheep's. Most of them are into gospel music just because it pays hugely and not because they love Jesus. Gospel music to many of them is not a call but an occupation.


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