Yes, I know that this is an unexpected review. Considering this is a Christian blog targeting Christian readers and aiming to glorify God, your surprise is justified, but hold off your judgment and cool your jets… at least until the end of the review. Thank you.
Now, the reason why I chose to do a review on a secular song is because the message in the song is bound to reveal several things about Christianity and Christian music. The song “Color kwa Face” by Nonini is basically a protest against the discrimination aimed at Albinos in Kenya and Tanzania. This message comes against a backdrop of news reports about Albinos being abducted and killed, and their body parts sold to witch doctors to be used as recipes for charms and other similar concoctions. Here’s a link to one such news story if you need to familiarize yourself with the issue.
I believe that the message in the song is self-explanatory. I will translate and summarize the lyrics for purposes of this review. The first verse basically says; “Allow me to go off the usual topics for once, guys. There seems to be so much ignorance in the society. I don’t know why anyone would want to discriminate against me. I am a human being like you, and I am here to stay. But I have a rare skin condition and my skin cannot be subjected to direct sunlight. So I need to use some lotion and sun screen so that I can face the day. However, in the night innocent people like me die everyday, and this is reported like just another normal news item. I know that I stand out in a crowd, it’s okay, you don’t have to be afraid of shaking my hand. This is not a disease. I am not cursed as many people presume, no one gets to choose how they will be born. I was created in the image of God, as it’s written in the Bible book, but they call me an Albino in their own books.”
The second verse has a similar theme and I will not outline all of it here. The verse is basically calling people to break out of the primitive traditions such as believing in witchcraft. It is such mentalities that are causing Africa to lag behind. Albinos are normal people with normal abilities and mental faculties and should therefore be regarded and treated as such. Irrespective of our different races, we need to learn to celebrate our diversity.
This is a song that one would describe as a positive song. It is a voice for the voiceless in the society. It speaks against the injustices shown towards Albino’s and other people who are negatively discriminated against on the basis of their race, disability and other forms of “unpopular traits”. The message is positive as it calls for tolerance, unity and celebration of diversity. I however have a pressing question (which is the reason why i wrote this review), is this a Christian (or Gospel) song?
I know that many who are reading this will think, at first blush, that the answer is obvious, but is it? Many will definitely say that it is not a Christian or Gospel song because Nonini is not a born-again Christian (at least he has not publicly claimed to be one, and the fruits of his public life often confirm it). Others will say that this is not a Christian or Gospel song because the singer has not classified it as such and has not claimed that it is one. Those of us who are more critical will say that it is not a Gospel song because it is not directly giving any glory to God and the message is simply urging us to celebrate our diversity as we strive towards equality. But wait, Nonini does make a bold assertion that the reason we are equal (or we ought to regard ourselves as such) is because we are made in the image of God. He even goes to the extent of inferring that the Bible has authority over other human books. What do we make of this? Isn’t this a Christian message? Why can’t we therefore classify this song as a Christian or Gospel song, irrespective of what the singer believes?
These are questions that demand serious introspection as we (Christians) consider them. Such questions may even raise flags about the criterion we use in choosing what songs and artistes to have in our music libraries (whether they should be exclusively by Christian artistes). Personally, I do believe that the song does glorify God even without the singer’s intention. I believe that this is an example of God’s nature being revealed even through the unconverted, as Romans 1:19-21 puts it:
“What may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”
Nonini knows (about) God, but he neither glorifies him as God nor gives thanks to him. Yes, he may say words to that effect and even give thanks to God when he wins an award, but any true believer knows that the only heart that can truly honor God is the truly converted heart. So, the song makes reference to God and communicates a message that appears to be Godly, but the foundations of such knowledge of God are not from a direct experience with God, but from a traditional indoctrination of Christian values while growing up. To a certain extent, the message is Christian, but does that make the singer and the song Christian? It may seem like I am splitting hairs (and to a certain extent, I am), but it was necessary that I do this now because the next lyrical review I will be doing will be on a song that has a similar (positive) message, but this time, sung by a confessed believer.
So, even before I sit down to write the next review, I would like to leave us with some questions that press upon my own heart: does it matter if no one can tell the difference in the messages (lyrics) being preached by a believer and one being preached by a non-believer?
What (if any) are the marks of a biblical message? Would Nonini’s “Color kwa Face” lyrics qualify? I hope, by the help of the Holy Spirit, to develop and add meat to this issue in my future reviews.
And finally, a controversial one: is it okay for believers to listen to and publicly appreciate a “secular” song whose message does not contradict the biblical worldview?
In His service and for His glory,