UPDATED: Street Phrases You Must Know as a Kenyan.

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Oliver
Reach me via oliver@jujamaica.com

As we all know Kenya’s recognised official languages are Swahili and English but there is the ever-evolving and very diverse street lingo; Sheng. Sheng is mainly spoken by youth in urban settings and a few village chaps who want to look cool and ‘cityish’. It grows on the daily this makes it so hard to be recognised as a fully-fledged language. Food, for example, can have more than twenty different non related Sheng nouns in a span of one year and that is in only in one locality.

If you were to leave the country for a year and completely cut connections with the people, trust me when you come back you will have difficulty communicating with your friends. You will seem old fashioned and boring throwing in old rusty Sheng in the convo. Sheng itself is an ocean where you are daily fighting to stay afloat. You may fail to learn something new for a whole day but be sure to secure yourself a few new Sheng phrases!

In this article, I list Sheng phrases that have been viral this year but first, a disclaimer. These phrases have a shelf life of only one year. Desist from using them next year lest you look boring and outdated!

1. Wamlambez…Wamnyonyez

‘Lamba’ in Swahili means to lick and ‘nyonya’ means to suck. The phrase went viral when a photo of an ice cream shop with the phrase on the wall was shared widely in many social media platforms.

Nearly a week later a video of a man selling popsicles in the streets of Nairobi using the phrase to market his product also went viral. What made the phrase even more famous is the club banger hit with the phrase as the title by Kenyan group Sailors Gang. The video garnered over 3 million views on Youtube, you can watch the video here.

So viral was the phrase that it had a challenge, The #Wamlambezwamnyonyezchallenge. People shared videos of them shouting “Wamlambez” in public and getting “Wamnyonyez” as a response from random people.

This is a phrase that has no meaning in a conversation but when you hear ‘wamlambez’ out there be sure to shout back ‘wamnyonyez’! It is just satisfying. You will go home having achieved something. It is these small things you know!

2. Kwa ground vitu ni different.

This is a phrase literally means ‘the situation on the ground is different’.The phrase also originates from the English phrase with almost the same use in a conversation.

So next time you are chatting up friends about getting lower or higher standards than you expected of someone, something or place be sure to throw in the phrase and see how their faces light up. It works magic in a boring convo!

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Example in a sentence: “Wanasemanga Juja haina fine ghels but wueh, vitu kwa ground ni different!”

3. Wabebe

This a word you hear everyday if you use public means of transport in Nairobi and it’s outskirts. The word is very synonymous with sights and sounds of Nairobi as it used by matatu touts to sermon passengers to get into their matatus.

The phrase has been popularised by Gengeton artist Gwaash and the 34 Gang group in their song Wabebe.

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This phrase can be incorporated into a conversation say when you are psyching up your friends to go out there and do their thing,to be their best,to go and get them!

Example in a sentence: “Nimekuamininia Kevo, enda uwabebe!”

4. Rieng

This is one of the most current Sheng words in Kenya and you might have heard it and out of fear of looking old fashioned you did not ask. Fret not, I got you!

The word loosely means “what is happening? ” more like “what’s poppin?”.You use it when you want to know what one is up to or what the situation is somewhere. You can also throw it in a conversation when catching up with friends you had lost contact with for a minute.

The popularity of the word is solely credited to the huge success of the hit ‘Rieng’ by X-Rey, Odi wa Murang’a and Maddox, the trio that makes up Boondocks Gang. The song hit over 1 million views on YouTube and had artists like Kristoff and Rankadah linking up with Boondocks Gang for the remix. You can watch the video here.

This word simply means

Example in a sentence: Nipeleke na rieng!

The sentence basically means keep me in the loop.

5. Buruwein

Now, this is the most interesting of all. I will recommend you to start using it immediately because it cracks me up every single moment I think of it and any other time I am chilling with friends and someone uses the word we laugh for a minute.

This Sheng word means ‘brain’.The pronunciation is almost similar only that they had to sprinkle some ghetto on it to appeal to the urban youth.

This was made popular by the ever jovial Stivo Simple Boy a member of Cute Boys Association of Kenya (CBAK) famed for his hit Vijana Tuache Mihadarati. It was in an interview at Milele FM during a media tour for the hit single that Stivo Simple Boy made the remark,”Ukitumia mihadarati itakuharibu buruwein!”

The word gained massive popularity later on when the video was shared widely in social media platforms.

Example in a sentence: Ukitumia mihadarati itakuharibu buruwein.

The sentence means if you use drugs they will spoil your brain.

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6. Haitaki makasiriko

You must have encountered this phrase mostly in social media reply sections or when having small talks with friends. This phrase can loosely be translated to mean that a catastrophe that has befallen someone does not need much stressing about or angering over. This phrase MUST NOT be used when conversing about serious matters for it is a form of banter. It is only applicable in small talks and chit-chats.

The phrase has been made popular by its use over the social media space in Kenya.

How to use the haitaki makasiriko in a coversation:

John: Team yangu ilipigwa 4-O jana.

Tim:Hii mambo ya ball haitaki makasiriko by the way.

7.Nobody can stop reggae!

This phrase means that nobody can stop an idea whose time has come. It can also be used to praise someone who has been a force to reckon with in a particular field like sports, politics or entertainment. The phrase in Kenya has been used to also ridicule those who did not believe in something say a political idea but it came to pass against their wish.

This phrase originates from Lucky Dube’s hit song with the same tittle. It has been made popular in Kenya by netizens.

How to use nobody can stop reggae in a sentence:

Ule governor alisema hawezi tolewa kwa seat amekuwa impeached. Enyewe nobody can stop reggae!

8. Vile inafaa

This phrase is the Sheng equivalent of “as it should be”. It is used when agreeing with sentiments from another person. It is the direct translation of “as it should be”. “Inafaa hivo” can also be used to carry the same meaning.

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How to use vile inafaa in a conversation:

John: Kenya itashinda World Cup ya 2022.

Tim: Vile inafaa!

9. Bazenga/ Bazeng

This is a word loosely translated to “big man”. It is often used amongst peers to heap praises often in a joking tone. When your friend wins a game of chess, you can throw in “bazenga” in your conversations when reffering to him. Bazeng a shorter and newer version of the word is as a result of the changing and ever growing language that is Sheng.

How to use Bazenga in a conversation

Bazenga nasikia ulishinda ile competition ya chess.

10. Arif

Arif simply means close friend. The word can not be used to refer to an acquaintance. The plural is maarif.

How to use arif in a sentence

Wewe ni arif siwezi kukusahau.

11. Mdenge

This word is used to refer to a lady mostly below the age of 30 years.

How to use mdenge in a sentence.

huyo mdenge bado ako university.

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