Love In A Time Of Urbanization: The Twofold Vulnerability Of An East African Pop Hit "I Miss You" is a love song by Tanzanian superstar Diamond Platnumz. This song of the summer touches on a big social problem for a booming part of the African continent.
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Love In A Time Of Urbanization: The Twofold Vulnerability Of An East African Pop Hit

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Love In A Time Of Urbanization: The Twofold Vulnerability Of An East African Pop Hit

Love In A Time Of Urbanization: The Twofold Vulnerability Of An East African Pop Hit

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

In many places around the world, "Despacito" might be the song of this summer. In East Africa, they're singing a different song. It's by Tanzanian superstar Diamond Platnumz. It's a love song. And it's also about a big problem for young men left behind in a booming part of the African continent. For our series on songs of the summer, NPR's Eyder Peralta has the story.

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: Diamond Platnumz' songs are usually club bangers - cars, money and a really catchy beat. "I Miss You" is not one of those.

(SOUNDBITE OF DIAMOND PLATNUMZ SONG, "I MISS YOU")

PERALTA: It ditches hip-hop for more coastal Swahili sounds, and it's about a country guy whose girl has taken off for the big city. There, she marries a much older man who showers her with material things. The whole song revolves around Diamond begging for her return.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I MISS YOU")

DIAMOND PLATNUMZ: (Singing in Swahili).

PERALTA: At Melodica records in downtown Nairobi, the song unspools a fervent debate. Abdul Karim, whose dad opened the store in 1971, tells his sister Leila and his employee Sahidi that this song could have never come out of Kenya.

ABDUL KARIM: They don't even know how to talk of love. They talk of love or women like an object.

PERALTA: Tanzanians like Diamond are different, they all agree.

KARIM: Like, the whole song, he's practically pleading, pleading for her to come back, you know? And with other cultures, they find it too macho. I can never say something like that.

PERALTA: Especially for the guy, right? Like...

KARIM: For a dude to do that, that's different.

PERALTA: Right.

LEILA KHAN: You can feel the feminine side of the man.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I MISS YOU")

DIAMOND PLATNUMZ: (Singing in Swahili).

NJERI WANGARI: His music elevates women. It's about how he feels. It's about not what he wants to do to a woman but how the woman makes him feel.

PERALTA: That's Njeri Wangari, a culture writer in Nairobi. This song, she says, is special because it's about a vulnerable man. Not only that, she says, but it also speaks to a vast reality here in East Africa.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I MISS YOU")

DIAMOND PLATNUMZ: (Singing in Swahili).

PERALTA: "I'm wondering," Diamond sings, "if the problem is that I have no money"...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I MISS YOU")

DIAMOND PLATNUMZ: (Singing in Swahili).

PERALTA: ...That "I said I'd bring meat but showed up with okra instead. I really wish we'd had a better life," he sings, "but I could not afford it."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I MISS YOU")

DIAMOND PLATNUMZ: (Singing in Swahili).

PERALTA: East Africa is a place that is booming with new investment. Cities are crowded with cool, expensive restaurants and clubs. But to a huge part of the population, much of that is out of reach.

WANGARI: Unfortunately a lot of young people are still struggling because East Africa has one of the highest unemployment rates of youth. And so we have a lot of young men who are jobless.

PERALTA: That means young women have to look farther to find suitable men, and it means you have villages full of frustrated young men. But in the song, Diamond never gives up. He calls and calls and keeps offering the only thing he has to give, his love. Ultimately he prevails.

WANGARI: It's sort of an encouragement to men that maybe love does conquer all.

PERALTA: (Laughter) And she comes back at the end, I suppose, right?

WANGARI: Yes, yes, yes.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I MISS YOU")

DIAMOND PLATNUMZ: (Singing in Swahili).

PERALTA: In the end, she chooses the country boy who adores her. She chooses love. Eyder Peralta, NPR News, Nairobi.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I MISS YOU")

DIAMOND PLATNUMZ: (Singing in Swahili).

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