Before embarking on this review, I was praying about it and I was compelled to do a little research regarding the circumstances surrounding the song itself. I hope what I found will help in furnishing my objectivity for the lyrical review. The lyrics to the song are in Swahili and I will therefore generally translate the message for the sake of the review. The song highlights the plight of the disabled and was the public entry point for Daddy Owen into his campaign to “empower the less privileged in the society especially people living with disabilities.” It is also important to keep in mind that I am doing this review as a sequel to the review I did earlier of a similarly themed song by Nonini.
“For seventeen years I’ve been on this earth, I am just the way I am. I do not have a mother or a father, I cannot go far, I have to hide from the public. But I am now tired of hiding and I am going to reveal myself. I am just the way I am. I have packed my things, I am going away, but I don’t know what to do or where to go. Whom should I follow? Whom can I call? I am just the way I am. I don’t understand why you run away from me. I don’t understand why you show me contempt. I don’t understand why you avoid me. I am just the way I am. Why? Why? Why?”
The message is straightforward. It is a call for acceptance by a society that would rather shun and ignore disabled people. The verse explains that the person is not to be blamed for their condition or situation, because they did not choose to be born that way or under those circumstances. There is also a heart cry, “mbona, mbona, mbona” (why, why, why). This is an expression of the internal groaning of the person and a cry for relief from the predicament or at least making sense of it. I have to admit that this is indeed an accurate representation of such a heart-cry. These are words carefully chosen to stir sympathy and trigger empathy.
The second verse (by Denno) reinforces the same theme, but this time, with a reference to God;
“When God created me, He had planned for me to become the way I am. Then why don’t you value me and instead find me unfit for society? I did not choose to be the way I am. You stare at me when am walking in the streets, and quickly rush out of my way. I am just like you. Why? Why? Why?”
This verse acknowledges that even disability is part of God’s overall plan, and we are therefore none the wiser to regard it as the fault of the afflicted person. Daddy Owen wraps up the song by reiterating the last three lines of first verse, asking why people avoid, show contempt and run away from the disabled.
This song does an effective job of expressing the plight of the disabled in society. You can only do so much with less than 4 minutes. It is also clear that the song doesn’t necessarily seek to provide explanations, suggest solutions or even give answers. In other words, it is not a sermon, but a Psalm. There are many times when we find David crying out at the injustice being shown towards him by society and king Saul. We see him groaning as he tries to make sense of his predicament. In this (groaning) sense, then, Daddy Owen’s song has been effective and rightly deserved the accolades it got from both Christian and non-Christian audiences.
Having said that, I’d like to ask a question I had asked when I did Nonini’s Colour kwa Face review, is this a Christian song? What criterion should we use to determine the worldview being expressed in the song? Apparently, the world can’t seem to tell the difference between the two songs. A recent feature on Daddy Owen in Buzz Magazine points out the stark similarities in the concepts in the two songs. A mainstream entertainment website and a Christian entertainment site also put the two songs in the same category and caliber. Is this just a coincidence or is there a deeper lesson to be learnt?
I had noted earlier that Daddy Owen’s plea sounds a lot like that of the psalmist. But the problem is that it only sounds like it, but it is nowhere near the Psalms in terms of the worldview presented. It takes biblical discernment to realize that the song’s cry for the disabled is aimed at the society, not at God. The “why” questions are aimed at the world, not at Jesus – who is the answer. Unlike David’s cry, this is not a cry for help and sense from God, but a cry for empathy and acceptance by society. The song appeals to the internal moral compass that every person has been created with, Christians and non-Christians alike. This is a SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCE, and it’s no wonder the world cannot tell the difference between this song and Nonini’s song, they are based upon the same worldview, which I believe, is a Cross-less worldview.
Finally, I am aware that I have made some pretty heavy claims in that last paragraph. It is only fair that I clarify and justify my views by presenting a clear biblical case for my conclusions. I intend to do just that in my next blog post, so be patient with me. It is also there that we will hopefully find some answers to the difficult questions I raised in my review of Nonini’s song (such as what constitutes a Christian song?). Perhaps we will also be able to theologically explain the feelings we usually have when a Christian artiste appears to be compromising the gospel and exchanging God’s glory for his own (in his videos, celebrity lifestyle and attitude in public). Trust me, these worldly effects do trickle down to the lyrics too (albeit subtly). Please pray for me and with me, that I will stay faithful and submissive to His word in this next important assignment.
In His service and for His glory,