Should Sheng be Recognized as a Language?
By Colin Stanley
Sheng has evolved from the then disregarded secular music that was listened to in the early 2000’s to being ingrained as part of Kenyan urban culture. Back in 2000 the classroom disdained it: teachers upheld Kiswahili and asked their students to shun ‘street music’ from the famed Juacali, Nameless, E-Sir, and Nonini just to name a few. Despite facing all out war in schools, singing those tunes was made easier thanks to the Sunday Nation newspaper printing lyrics together with the picture of the artists. I remember how cool our elder brothers and sisters who cut those pictures and lyrics to stick them to books looked. This was at the start of the millennium when the Internet and its bountiful recourses on song lyrics was novel.
Sheng nowadays is the norm in the streets. I don’t know about offices since I seldom go to offices. I guess that is the reason I am behind a computer typing words and more importantly, why I stand for the sheng culture. 21 years later and sheng is in the streets of Nairobi is evolving rather than dying out :it seems it is here to stay. Evolution is better than revolution in the case of this language. It is clear that Kenyans have spoken sheng for 2 decades and it is quite evident with artists like Mejjagenge, the music industry is just starting to create and express themselves perhaps for the twenty years the country has spoken Sheng. Academia too is diversifying and adopting competence-based equitable learner centered education. It is in this where culture comes in and Pan Africanism comes into play.
It is in these times the second generation of African elites filled various conferences across the globe airing the need for the inclusion of Africa in international matters and delegations. I saw a picture of elite man from Swaziland wearing African attire. A crown made from feathers bare chested and a horn covering his manhood. It was a true symbol of Pan Africanism; a journey that we as African people have walked since the start and end of the slave era. As our dressing portrays our culture, so does our language. As such, sheng could be validated to be taught in institutions of higher education, like Swahili: A thin line that one.
Whether Sheng should formally be recognized can be a comprehensive case study. If Africa is to unite, we surely do need the goodwill of our people and their blessings as we take on this journey our ancestors before us walked so gracefully. It could be an interesting subject in a class of higher learning Could the CBC be the foundation of such a time where communication is responsive enough to unite our people in different countries across our continent? It could be a marvel to celebrate the morphing of a language grown in the streets of the capital spreading throughout the country, talk of an evolution.