The last thing on the mind of musician Exray “Taniua” (Tony Kinyanjui) when he composed the song Sipangwingwi was that it would become part of political messaging.
But that did happen.
“Sipangwingwi”, an expression Exray corrupted from what would have been “huwa sipangwi (no one makes plans for me)” in proper Swahili, is now firmly part of political talk, same as it is being used in everyday conversations and social media posts.
It was used by no less than Deputy President William Ruto at a function on Monday to illustrate his claim that he is a self-made man.
“Vile Wakenya wamesema hawapangwingwi na mimi nataka niwaambie, mimi kama hustler sipangwingwi. Wao wanaweza kupangwa na deep state, wapangwe na system, lakini sisi hatupangwingwi,” said Dr Ruto, to mean that him, being a hustler, has no one to order him around unlike his opponents whose plans may be the making of the deep state.
Exray says he wrote the song, which was released in late October, to be a feel-good tune. He adds that he was inspired by the questions he was receiving as an artiste.
“People kept telling me, ‘When will you release your next song? When will you do this and that?’ So, there was some pressure from the questions from people. So, nikaamua basi, mi nitatoa ngoma siku ile nataka; so sipangwingwi (I decided to release music when I want, not as per anyone’s plans),” he says.
“I didn’t expect it to be that much of an anthem. But I knew people would love it because no one expected me to do a song with both Trio and Ssaru,” he adds.
Trio Mio (TJ Mario Kasela) and Ssaru (Sylvia Saru) are the other artistes in the song done in the gengetone style.
The song has garnered over a million YouTube views, and on TikTok, 50,600 videos have been done with the song’s chorus as the background — making it one of the trending songs on TikTok.
Exray wrote the song about four months ago and shared it with Trio Mio and Ssaru. The former was in school and they could only complete the song when they took a break.
The success of the song on YouTube, TikTok and streaming sites like Boomplay has left Exray a humbled young man.
“I usually check TikTok; I scroll down to find that everybody is on that challenge,” he says.
He goes on: “When the song first came out, it didn’t have so much traction. I think guys were waiting for the other anthem to die down a bit; the Usherati song I did with Mejja and Ndovu Kuu (released in September). When that faded, this one blew up. I feel very grateful to the fans for their support.”
Being quoted by Dr Ruto, he says, makes him grateful that the song has resonated with a wide section of society.
“Someone called to tell me: ‘Your song has been played at a Ruto event.’ I think it was at a women’s meeting. I was sent a video of women singing along to the song, and I was very happy. Then I saw Ruto in the news using the term. I’m very grateful that the song has reached everyone from both genders and across all ages,” he says.
At the core of the song’s catchiness is the chorus, which can be translated as: “My life is mine, mind yours/I like the things on my side, mind the ones on your side.” Then the “sipangwingwi” refrain follows.
“It will obviously be a big tune before and after the election. But it’s not a political song. It’s just a feel-good song for everyone from every tribe. I don’t know anything in it that is related to the 2022 elections but I know it’s a feel-good song,” says Exray.
Asked whether the song has brought a return on what he invested in it, he replies to the affirmative.
“It has already brought back (the initial investment), because there are lots of projects we are doing with the song like live shows. There are also YouTube royalties and there are also streaming platforms,” he says.
Exray has been a mainstream artiste for three years now, getting his breakthrough through the 2018 song Rieng with the Boondocks Gang, a gengetone group he founded. The three-member group, which is still recording music despite its members doing separate projects, is behind songs like Mboko Haram and Stingo, among others.
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