There was a blast from the past at the 2018 Headies, the nostalgic return of Zule Zoo and their pelvic-thrust banger Kerewa.
Performed by one half of the duo Ibrahim Hassan, Kerewa was galvanising on the Headies stage as it was back then in 2005, when the song was released.
Zule Zoo rose to fame on Kerewa‘s outrageous popularity, which centers a child’s eyewitness account of their parent’s infidelity. The details are sexually sketchy but the message isn’t hard to miss.
Though banned by the NBC for its sexual content, Kerewa had so much crowd-pleasing appeal that the song evaded proper lyrical analysis.
This was the mid-aughts, a whole decade before the Harvey Weinstein scandal and powerful zeitgeisty movements like #MeToo.
What was Kerewa trying to say beneath all that percussion and near-acrobatic flair? Were we even listening?
Against the backdrop of consent in our new social climate, Kerewa is suspect. Preceding the song’s sexual pivot in its chorus, there’s a case of a struggle between the child’s mother and this nameless man.
“And he sit upon mummy’s bed,” the child narrates to the father, “person push mummy. Mummy push person. Person push mummy. Small time, mummy fall yakata for bed.”
The man then proceeds to have sex with her. He’s someone close to the woman, otherwise, he wouldn’t be in the house during her husband’s absence.
But Kerewa is conveniently elliptical, chunks of events removed to serve the damaging narrative of a woman’s unfaithfulness.
Isn’t it possible that the woman withdrew consent but was ignored? In proximity to her child, sex would have been awkward. But it happened. The lyrics below describes the man actively performing the sex act, ignoring the woman’s plea.
The man just dey do kere wawa
To the right, kere wawa
To the left, kere wawa
Round round round round
Every angle he do am o
Mummy beg tire
But he no fit leave am o
As I watched this re-glorification of rape by a lone singer from a long-extinct group, I was slightly horrified at the social media reactions that shielded Kerewa from scrutiny.
If you listened to that Kerewa song, heard the lyrics and concluded it’s a song glorifying rape, your brain is filled with soot.
— Ikenna Ronald Nzimora (@ronaldnzimora) May 5, 2018
How is kerewa (a song I hate btw) a rape song? Make una take an easy oh. A song about a child reporting his mother’s affair. How? How?
— Remi Ibinola RIO (@reminola) May 5, 2018
These tweets are almost reprehensible, and further shows that our society is yet to grasp consent. Didn’t #MeToo teach us anything?
Are we unteachable and incapable of decolonising old thoughts and worldviews in relation to sexual boundaries and consent?
In 2018, we are still giving Kerewa a pass because we are drunk on its nostalgic brew, and therefore normalising the insidious ways rapey pop songs contribute to rape culture.