The half embarrassment and full hypocrisy of the make-it-by-all-means brigade
Chris Embarambamba is crazy. Crazy for the Lord, at least, or so he says.
But above and beyond that, Embarambamba knows something is broken in Kenyan society, and knows that Kenyans won’t mind a good circus made out of their woes.
With his signature colourful albeit colour-clashing suits accessorized with sports shoes, the man who never seems to run out of energy, pun aside, has had a meteoric rise, or seeing that he professes the Gospel, should we say his rise has been an ascension, captured live on the YouTube Mount of Olives.
Charging like a rabid bull, Embarambamba wriggles and wiggles, a man possessed to a T with the desire to get out of poverty, the demons of his past exorcised by his feisty antics.
“Jesus rode on a donkey as a sign of humility, I rode a cow to honor it because it produces milk,” he says in a past interview.
But there is nothing new under the sun, just as King Solomon had predicted, and Embarambamba is no exception. I mean isn’t he doing what Gengetone artists have been doing all along, only that Embarambamba has thrown Jesus into the mix?
Dividing public opinion sharply, here is a man at the apex of his madness, possessed by his music and theatrics, ready to offer himself as the ultimate sacrifice just to get his music out there. The perfect meme, Embarambamba’s tomfoolery and bombast encapsulate the maxim “There is no such thing as bad publicity. Good publicity is good publicity. Bad publicity is good publicity. No publicity is bad publicity.”
The 33-year-old Nyamira County export is showing no signs of stopping, because of—not in spite of—his age. He can dance in the mud like a mad man, he can run around in circles in a banana plantation or he can climb tents—even domestic animals have not been spared his wrath. There is nothing too big or too small to praise the Lord with.
And isn’t that what our generation has been Pavlov-ed to aim for? Get your name out there. You are a brand. The dating game is much worse, you never know where the person begins and the brand ends. The idea is simple – sell your name at all costs, at any cost—a Faustian bargain that lends to our hedonistic culture. I need more followers. The more followers I have, the better my self-image. Besides, even Jesus had followers, in fact, he had 12, 13 if we add Benjamin—and he did this by word of mouth. Imagine if Jesus had a Twitter account? (Side Bar: To Jesus, in case you are reading this, if you ever need an IG Account, hit me up. Kwanza those pictures of yours walking on water? #gold)
In a sense, Embarambamba is slowly but surely becoming one of the cult figures of what I call ‘makingit-ness’. His recognition seems to blow up over his own popularity rather than notoriety. He is not a villain, but rather an antihero, and for some reason we root for him possibly because antiheros are flawed as we are, their mistakes make us think of our mistakes. And it could be exactly for this reason that we root for Embarambamba’s redemption, because he is a reflection of ourselves, flawed like we all are.
Comments on his YouTube channel oscillate between the macabre and marvelous: “Ariel company should use him for advertisements’ (someone already did).”
“Chris is unique, he is a global sensation straight from Kisii. I love Kisii men.”
And it seems everyone has an opinion about Embarambamba. In my sojourns in town, I kept throwing his name in the ring, to test the waters and see if anyone wants to bite.
“What do you think about Chris Embarambamba?” I would bait my unsuspecting targets.
“He will have major back problems in about three years,’’ chimes Ndugu Abisai, a popular writer and closet Arsenal fan. ‘‘He should be stopped.”
Nicole, a 24-year-old University student, only replied to my question with laughing emojis. Embarambamba, it seems, just by a mention of his name, evokes emotions.
Later, just before I submitted the article to my editor, Nicole sent a contemplative text—not edited to preserve the clarity of her emotions: “He’s amazing honestly, talented singer, dancer and recently liar I mean, woooshhands down amazing .”
I posed the same question to my 19 year old brother.
“What do you think about Chris Embarambamba?”
Oops. It seems Embarambamba hasn’t gotten to this core audience of Generation Z. It seems he is probably not #cool.
I was tempted to call Embarambamba and ask him what he thinks about Chris Embarambamba, but just like the disciples on the day of Pentecost, with my tongue on fire, I figured it is much better to talk about Chris Embarambamba than talk to Chris Embarambamba. Besides, aren’t you told never to meet your heroes?
And because it’s my birthday month, I decided to treat myself to his YouTube channel. And boy does he have catchy lyrics. I am hooked, like the Israelites feeding on manna.
“God is goodi, embarambamba, all the taimu, God is goodi..” the lyrics stay with you and catch you off-guard, finding yourself humming to its beats in the gym, church, client meetings… or not.
Hate him or loathe him, all indicators point to a man who is here to stay. He will only get crazier before he gets even much crazier. Chris Embarambamba is a sharp look in the chipped mirror, our spitting image staring back at us, coming complete with the make-it-at-all-costs mantra, the broken and differed dreams of young Kenyans.
And we? We are the chicken thief, condemning the egg thief, sounding like the man wearing a balaclava at the scene of a bank robbery with his pockets filed with banknotes, telling the police which direction the crooks have disappeared to. And Chris Embarambamba knows this.
Besides, isn’t Chris only one letter short of Christ?