Bonoko originally a Sheng word for a fake gun has recently become part of Kenyan youth’s vocabulary and it is now used to refer to anything fake.
It all began with an eyewitness account of a police shooting at the Globe Roundabout being narrated to a TV news reporter by a street boy, James Kang’ethe ‘Tete’ Kimani.
A producer edited the interview, added beats and produced a hilarious song and suddenly everyone was jamming to Bonoko!
A look into YouTube reveals at least five videos of the Bonoko song all claiming to be original versions but which have not featured Tete. He has also not gotten any royalties from the use of his voice or from the massive airplay the song has attracted.
However the song has opened doors for Tete. He is currently a trainee presenter at Ghetto Radio, Kenya’s official Sheng station who goes by the stage name of ‘Bonoko’.
I caught up with him at Ghetto Radio where in between shows we were able to chat.
Moderate: Tell me about yourself
Bonoko: I am James Kang’ethe ‘Tete’ Kimani from Banana. My dad chased away my mum when I was 6 and I have lived on the streets for the last 14 years.
Moderate: How did the interview happen?
Bonoko: It was in June 2007. I was asleep then I was awakened by a commotion. A man who sold mutura and soup at the Ngara Market had been urinating at an alleyway near Fig Tree. When he saw City Council askaris he opted to run to evade arrest. Unfortunately he ran into cops who shot him, put a fake gun on him and accused him to be a thief. A KTN journalist interviewed me since I was the youngest (15years) of the street people on the scene.
Moderate: When did you first hear the song?
Bonoko: I first began hearing my voice on phone ringtones then I finally heard the Bonoko song on Ghetto Radio and I was overly excited! I could not believe I was on radio. Since I live on the streets and I have no radio I would time between 12-1pm daily and go to a place where Ghetto Radio was aired because they would always play the song and I would be so happy.
Moderate: After the song became popular what changed?
Bonoko: My boys started saying I was rich and I was just pretending to be a poor street boy. They started pressuring me to buy them tea and questioning why I was sleeping on the streets. Unfortunately I have never made money from the Bonoko song.
Moderate: Have you tried to get compensation?
Bonoko: Yes. Since I used to hear the song on Ghetto Radio I went to Ghetto Radio to ask to be connected with the producer of the song and at least get something. I was hosted in the mid-morning show ‘Niaje Niaje’ by Linda and Moha. They called the producer but he did not pick up his phone.
Moderate: What do you feel about the many Bonoko videos online?
Bonoko: When I see the videos I feel good because they are building my Bonoko name. However I would love to do an authentic video. It can be shot at the alleyway near Fig Tree and feature the market people who knew the slain man.
Moderate: How did you start with Ghetto Radio?
Bonoko: When I came in for the interview, the presenters were very friendly; they bought me lunch and made me feel at home. That night Ghetto Radio was having an event at Kenya Poly and they took me along and I even performed the Bonoko song at the gig. That was the beginning of my friendship with Ghetto Radio crew. They have given me clothes, food and most importantly accepted me. I feel at home at Ghetto Radio and I thank God.
Moderate: How did you become a trainee presenter?
Bonoko: The boss Maji Maji told me since I hang out at Ghetto Radio he will give me a chance to train as a presenter. I feature in all shows but mostly co-host with Mbusi on Goteana 3-7pm weekdays and on Madree 9-10am Saturday with Mbusi and Jackie.
Moderate: Your dream?
Bonoko: I would like to go to school. I would like to get myself and my family off the streets. I would like to grow as a radio presenter and voice artiste.
Moderate: Final words?
Bonoko: Ghetto Radio has changed my life! It is a station for real people. It is impacting people positively. The Madree show is tackling issues of drug abuse while Kenyan Tuesday theme is promoting patriotism. Ghetto Radio has good people with big hearts.
Moderate: Thank you for your time and all the best.
GOD BLESS KENYA!