Members of Kenyan rap group Art Attack are in hiding and facing arrest after releasing a music video of an African-themed remix of Macklemore's marriage equality anthem "Same Love," the artists tell The Advocate.
"The video was done to highlight the struggles that gay people go through across Africa, which is deeply homophobic and pretentiously religious," Art Attack writes in an email to The Advocate. The artists added that Kenya "deeply oppresses sexual minorities," and has "millions of gay men and women who are living in fear and in closets."
Shortly after the group released its video, Kenyan leaders on Tuesday banned the clip and called for the arrest of those featured, saying the track violates Kenya's laws criminalizing same-sex relationships. The east African nation is well known for its persecution of LGBT citizens, and newspapers in the country (and in neighboring Uganda) publish front-page stories outing LGBT Kenyans. Images of people holding these vitriolic covers are featured in Art Attack's video.
The controversial video features images of same-sex couples, interspersed with clips from American television and film tackling gay issues, and updated lyrics which speak to conditions facing LGBT people in Kenya. In its original version, "Same Love," by American duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, featured a hook by out singer Mary Lambert — whose haunting chorus, announcing that "I can't change, even if I tried," remains in Art Attack's version.
In Art Attack's remix, one of the main characters writes a suicide note, saying he is unable to take the pain, stigma and hate directed toward him. The actor who played that character has already left the country in fear, says Art Attack:
"Dayon, who has been living in Kenya for the last five years, started receiving threats and hostility from his Kenyan neighbors after they saw the video and he had to flee to his mother country.
"As for the rest of us, a warrant of arrest has already been issued against us and we are living in fear. Our video has been banned and we have been alerted that we are to be arrested and charged anytime."
At a press conference recorded by KTV24, Ezekiel Mutua, CEO of Kenya's Film Classification Board, described Art Attack's video as illegal, due to its "lyrics that strongly advocate for gay rights in Kenya, complete with graphic sexual scenes between people of the same gender as well as depiction of nudity or pornography."
At its most graphic, the video features a split-second shot of two men kissing, one with a visible posterior. Other shots feature same-sex couples in bed, though camera angles obscure any actual nudity or direct depiction of sex.
Mutua also added that he had asked Google to remove the video from its search engine results in Kenya, and take down the YouTube video, "to ensure that the video is not accessible in Kenya." In a tweet Tuesday morning, Mutua confirmed that the video had been "restricted for violation of the law [and] moral values."
Kenyan rapper Noti Flow, who appeared in the video kissing another woman, took to Facebook after the song was banned:
Even under this extreme pressure, the group wanted to present positive images. "We chose to show gay and lesbian couples kissing to spice it up and show the world that gay people fall in love too, kiss and have sex and romance just like any other couple," Art Attack writes in the email correspondence with The Advocate. "It was an educational video and still a romantic, fun love song all at the same time."
However, the fun in the song is limited, as its lyrics speak of the struggle of being out in Africa:
"Homophobia is the new African culture / Everyone's the police, Everyone's a court judge / Mob law, street justice, kill 'em when you see 'em / blame it on the West, never blame it on love, it's un-African to try and show a brother some love."
The song's male narrator tells the story of falling in love with a boy and coming out to his parents, only to be kicked out of the house:
"For the last six years my parents have never seen me / Every day I bleed tears hoping that they wish to see me / and I avoid the public 'cause I am scared of the jail / 'cause if they ever caught me they would throw me in jail / you're a criminal how dare you / falling in love / it's a crime to follow your heart."
Watch Art Attack's banned "Same Love" remix below.