08-06-2022 by redazione
In 2018, Kenya's Ministry of the Interior and National Security banned late-night funeral celebrations throughout the country that turned into full-fledged discos, with music that was anything but traditional, religious or requiem, and with the proliferation of alcohol, drugs and all that goes with it (commodification of sex, rape, fights, and so on).
The crackdown had been decided considering dramatic statistics and numbers and starting from the coastal county of Kilifi, where early pregnancies, drug dealing and other criminal practices had risen to alarming levels. In particular, baby mothers, who were then forced to drop out of school, had risen from 13,000 a year to 17,500 in January alone.
Not everyone had taken the ban on so-called "disco matanga" well: not so much relatives of possible future dead, but alcohol dealers, boda-bodas, prostitutes and young local nightlife enthusiasts. Parties lasting up to 4 nights, a boon to the country's cross-industry!
Now with elections, not only national but also of the counties, the political camps go in search of votes and to do so they launch into various promises, not all of them obviously implementable and as always very few that will be kept.
These include the reopening of the "matanga discos."
The current governor of Kilifi County Amason Kingi, hunting for endorsements after being sidelined by both sides running for Kenya's leadership from August 10, 2022, in proposing his successor to the citizens declared that he would reactivate the "creative" funeral ceremonies. Idea immediately panned by Prefect Kutswa Olaka
"Disco matangas are a source of livelihood," said Kingi, hailing the initiative of disco owners who came together to demand a solution, "and if we continue to be tough on those who organize them, everyone who plans such events will suffer.
According to Kingi, it would be enough not to let minors participate in matanga discos.
Olaka sent the proposal back to sender.
"You cannot agree with those who by setting up disco matanga play with our children's lives and destroy them," said the county commissioner, "these discos have almost totally compromised the transition from primary to secondary school to 12-, 13-year-old girls.
The local church has also raised the alarm, because with the end of pandemic restrictions, many have resumed the practice of late-night vigils that turn into full-fledged "rave parties."
According to Bishop Reuben Katite. the events have returned and families are taking bodies from the morgue and holding late-night vigils. "My appeal is to the people of Kilifi," Katite said, "to stop participating in the disco matanga that has brought so much damage to our community. For the uninitiated, during the fundraising that takes place in disco matanga, a man offers money to "buy a girl" to dance with.
The "highest bidder" gets the opportunity to dance with a girl of his choice. But that is not all.
The two may decide to "close the deal" elsewhere. Many participants end up engaging in unprotected sex, others abuse illicit alcohol, and still others smoke pot and take hard drugs. Unruly youths resort to nearby bushes or friends' houses to perform their intimate acts.
Another area of concern is the involvement of teenagers in crime: some of the youths who participate in night dances are usually armed with axes, knives, and machetes.
There have been fights among teenagers in the past, ending in other mournings to be celebrated with other matanga discos, such as an epidemic.
On the other hand, county MPs side with those who would like to return to disco matanga, considering them traditional events. According to local politicians, "Their purpose is to help the bereaved families get through the grieving process by keeping them company and raising some money for burial."
None of them, however, are suggesting a return to the truly traditional funeral wakes, those that were consumed from the dawn of time until sub-woofer amplifiers and techno music were invented.
Folk singing and costumed dancing all night long, orations and true participation for those no longer of this land. Shamans, traditional rituals, stories and memories of the deceased. Every region has its own funeral culture, but none of them includes the excuse to party and break every law and moral rule.
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