Friday, June 12, 2009


I must admit, I am not a sheng person. But Don’t judge me, I am not snobbish.

I have a perfect (and real) explanation.

I was born and bred in Kitale, where the closest to making literary alterations was a strong inclination to the Bukusu dialect, and examples of such words are nipeeko, unaendanga shule, kiketi (chair) and others.

And when to my utter shock and dismay (I had to use these words) the Eldoret express bus arrived in Nairobi, I experienced culture shock, ok to overstate it a little.
I lived in Buru then, with my Aunt and her family, and then the sheng began. "Njumu zako ni fresh"and me wondering what vegetables we could be talking about, in Kitale, we would say Viatu. Period.

Fast forward to several years later when I said bye to my 20's

I listen to Ghetto Radio in the mornings, By Choice.

It was a coincidence at first, but I am not a fan of several fm stations, I like good music and no talk, but of course that never happens.

Slowly I started to follow the channel, and in traffic, "the Hustle", which is a segment that brings on young people from the "hood" or mtaani as they say, share with the ghetto youth what they are doing to uplift their living standards. I have never experienced such a strong conviction on the impact this show has on the young people who listen to the show.

It’s about 3 minutes long, and goes something like this

ROBO:(Ghetto Radio): “ Vipi Kama, hustle yako ni gain?”
KAMA: (Hustler) :“ Mimi hukinda majale pale shauri”
ROBO : ‘ ulionaje uanze hii bizna
KAMA : Maze nilikuwa na kaa pale jobless corner, kuchana veve, na kuspend the whole day kulaze around, nikaanza kujiuliza, is this all that life has to offer, sa kutoka hapo, nikaanza kutafuta doe, juu nilikuwa nataka kuanza kuuza majale ya camera kutoka gikosh, nikaanza kuosha magari kwa kibanda ya beste yangu, na pole pole nikasave doe kidogo, nika buy majale stylish za ma smatta pole pole, bizna ika grow, na sasa niko na stall mpaka mtish na pia hapa shauri.
ROBO : challenges gani wo u face kwa hii hustle yako?
KAMA: wateja ku lost sana na pia bei ya mngaro pale gikosh, lakini after budget naona, biashara labda itakuwa better.
ROBO: Hi hustle yako inakubali u save doe?
KAMA: kuna times biz huwa low, kusave ni ngumu, lakini ma time zingine mi husave especially kubuild na kuongeza stock.
ROBO: advice gain unaeza wa gei vijana wa mtaa ju ya Ku hustle?
KAMA: Kile mi husema ni, vijana, we can get out of our situations, tuwache kuchagua majob, put your mind on something and make hiyo decision to better your own life, hope yangu ni, wasee waji respect na waji give credit, tuko na talent kibao, we can do it.

There is nothing more powerful than a voice of reason that has been in the same situation as the listener on Ghetto Radio, I applaud the show, and I hope, in the wildest ways that this show will transform the lives of Ghetto Youth. Such initiatives should receive the utmost support.

Ghetto radio team, you are the light at the end of the tunnel for Nairobi’s youth, keep your head up!


  1. You can thank me later ;-)

    Welcome to my world. Half the time i was workign with the youth in Kibera, i had a permanent blank look!

  2. Enyewe hapo umeifloisha venye tunaifeel! Anyway great post sheng has always amazed most of us shagz mondoz but you are right Ghetto radio has hit the right button on the youth!

  3. I have so laughed. I tell people that I was brought up in shagz for like 5 years before I came to start nursery and they laugh. I knew no English, no Swa (wacha sheng). I practically called everything in my Kisa tongue.

    @ Even Angels Fall, I so feel you on that. I have helped a bit with the youth kwa ghetto before I knew the value, and the youth their 'entrust you with their future'. They believe in you to pull them up, saa hizo, you have no idea what you are doing and if at all you'll do it well.

  4. am impressed terry, i feel you on this. i was brought up in shags all my life until high school when i came to nairobi. i cant even pronounce some of these words even if my life depended on it for fear of mixing my many mother tongues....

  5. heheheheh
    i know what u mean. esp for some of us who grew in the shags....

  6. I feel you coz i also grew up in Elty!!