When she got home from work one evening, Jaqueline Nyangoma found her 12-year-old daughter imitating the raunchy dance moves of a video vixen in a music video on TV.
Not sure how to react, she switched off the TV and tried hard to keep it together. It came to her knowledge that this was the order of the day whenever she was not at home. She then decided that there was no more TV for her daughter, at least during her absence.
Unlike in the past when TV stations were on for a limited amount of time, and aired mainly news and a few light programmes, youngsters today are exposed to a range of local and international content, controversial and otherwise.
With the kind of technology available today, it is easy to get access to music videos and controversial material, given the improvement in media.
Basing on her experience, Nyangoma believes that TV has become a surrogate parent in many households; a substitute children are left with in their parents’ absence.
“Most parents are concerned about what their children see and hear, but as they grow older, parents pay less attention to the music and videos that capture and hold their children’s interest. Unfortunately, the music that is considered ‘popular’ in this generation has a tendency to be inappropriate,” she says.
Gloria Gasana, a primary school teacher, says that singing and music have always played an important role in what children do and say. It affects their behaviour substantially.
If a teenager is persistently preoccupied with music that has seriously destructive themes, and there are changes in behaviour such as isolation, alcohol or drug abuse, it is more likely to affect their behavioural pattern, she says.
“Parents should help their children by paying attention to their listening and viewing patterns, and help them identify music that may be destructive without criticising them,” she says.
And with online channels like YouTube that play a big role in allowing individuals to watch music videos with a simple search and click of a button, the fight to keep youngsters’ innocence intact gets tougher.
In Rwanda, contemporary artistes create songs and videos that can be enjoyed by people of all ages.
However, despite the concern by parents about the influence of some kinds of music, Nina Muhoza of Charly na Nina music duo argues that music videos are essential because they provide artistes the publicity they need to gain success, by presenting the music in a more interesting way.
“As artistes, we have the interest of the audience in mind and being in a more conservative setting, we try to respect our cultural values and at the same time, blend with modernity because we are in a modern world. Our society, however, does not understand the difference between dressing sexy, which people do every day, and being nude,” Muhoza says.
As artistes, musicians sometimes have to challenge the status quo. East African artistes have not been shy to push the limits but when these challenges are considered to be detrimental to society, the government is forced to step in and prevent the art from reaching the masses.
Recently, the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) banned 13 local songs on grounds that they are against the country’s norms and values.
Uganda, in 2014, passed its strict Anti-Pornography Act. The pornographic control committee recently issued a warning to Ugandan recording artiste and dancer Sheebah Karungi over what it called indecent dressing, or else she would have to face the courts of law.
Similarly, Rwanda has in recent years officially banned a number of videos that were deemed offensive to the public from public broadcasting. Some include Urban Boys’ Ancilla in 2014, and Too Much by Jay Polly, featuring several music stars. The songs drew mixed reactions over whether these artistes had gone overboard, and they were banned from public viewership after holding extended talks with the artistes.
Jonathan Niyomugaba, the audio-visual culture monitoring officer at Rwanda Academy of Language and Culture (RALC), says that although pushing the envelope is something all artistes like to do, in a country like Rwanda, which is still conservative in many ways, artistes can sometimes go a little too far and so measures have to be taken to preserve the Rwandan values.
“Rwandans have values and the academy is responsible for protecting them, especially in this era where technology is rapidly progressing. As anyone conversant with these values, even without being told, our consciousness should help us discern what is wrong and right,” he says.
He adds that banning these videos is a process which requires the joint effort of other government bodies like Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA) and Ministry of Sports and Culture (MINISPOC), the media and the artistes through Rwanda Art Council.
“There should be sensitisation because we want it to be everybody’s responsibility. We understand that these artistes are trying to market themselves and that they believe being provocative will get them the attention that will take them to the top, but we have to talk to them and their producers to think about the wider audience and the impact they create because they are role models in society. Sometimes they actually end up pulling down the music videos from their YouTube channels themselves,” he says.
Parental guidance essential
Niyomugaba advises that parents should act more responsibly towards their children and make more time for them to teach them cultural values and provide them with other means of acquiring knowledge, such as books, since they cannot control what is shown on TV.
Alex Mugabo, a father of two, also says that such things are inevitable when parents or guardians don’t restrict the content their children are exposed to.
“We shouldn’t blame the artistes because the stronger the evocation, whether through lyrics or music videos, the higher the chances of scoring a hit. If a child is allowed to watch music videos or films that depict drug use or violence, they will grow up thinking that that’s the ideal situation, and believing that life should be lived that way,” he says.
Mugabo adds that with parental unavailability, however, the effects could come back to haunt both the kids and their parents as the children’s development becomes unruly, determined by whatever medium they are entrusted with.
“Children should not watch TV without parental supervision,” he insists, “Since there will be parts that are not meant for them. Of course it’s impossible to completely shield children away from harmful influences but with extra care, they’ll probably learn to discern.”
If an artiste wants to make money from their songs, they should consider what fans want to see in the videos, just like a shopkeeper will sell what a client wants to buy. However, Rwanda is conservative; we need to have our culture in mind. Being artistes, we need to be creative while meeting the demands of our fans.
Bruce Melodie, Artiste
It is of no use to make raunchy videos all in the name of fame yet the same society you’re trying to attract is going to draw criticism. I think that good songs with meaningful messages that don’t have ‘heavy’ language will always sell because that is what music is all about - food and not ‘poison’. We don’t have to copy everything from the West.
Amos Agaba, Student
I think that artistes should concentrate more on the songs than videos because no matter how ‘great’ the video is, if a song is not good, it will not make an impact. It’s not right to be famous for the wrong reasons, especially because artistes are role models.
Rita Mbabazi, Hairdresser
I think that it is unfair that our artistes are often criticised yet we promote music videos from the West. We live in a modern world that is greatly influenced by the West and the artistes are simply doing what they have to do. If it is about promoting our culture, then we should discourage Western music and promote our very own.
Cynthia Mukansuro, Businesswoman