Music Traditions of Africa: Kenya
Across the world, music plays a fundamental role in culture and identity (Laing, 2009). Africa has various musical styles and genres that are unique and have existed for centuries. Nevertheless, African musicians, just like others across the globe have been affected by the globalization phenomenon that has led to influences from the Western cultures. Kenya is situated in East Africa, and it has many ethnic groups that have unique traditional aspects. In this light, the music diversity in the country makes it a critical region to study the misrepresentation, misunderstanding and misinformation that distorts the understanding of the Kenyan people. Commercial music production in the county began after the Second World War, with major music companies such as CBS Records setting up business in the country. The favorable conditions in the early 1960s and 1970s made Nairobi; the capital city of the country, a hotspot for music recording in the East African region.
Despite Kenya having a high concern for cultural conservation, the music industry has faced tremendous challenges since the 1980s. Consequently, the original Kenyan sounds that were commercially acceptable in the international market have been lost and can only be found on records. The original sounds of Twisti, Benga, and Rumba had commercial success in the 1960s and 1970s, but this was lost in the 1980s. Political and economic factors in the country contributed to the fall of the industry, as many sectors of the economy were Africanized (Eisenberg, 2015). The introduction of independent FM radio stations led to increased consumption of foreign music, which reduced the demand for local music. Additionally, the foreign music had a great impact on how the next generation of music was developed (Nyairo, Nyairo, & Ogude, 2003). The millennium music was largely influenced by hip-hop, reggae, dancehall and R&B. Resultantly, this led to the loss of originality and identity that was exhibited by the music produced in the early years.
The Kenyan industry lacks the capabilities available to other African countries such as South Africa and Nigeria, which are leading in the music business within the continent and have a significant market share globally (Eisenberg, 2015). For instance, the country lacks the benefits associated with multinational organizations such as Sony and Universal that have been instrumental in marketing and distributing music from other parts of the world. Arguably, there are a few professionals in the industry who have the capacity to develop internationally accepted music content. The increased demand for the Western type of music in the country has reduced the focus on developing music that portrays Kenyan identity (Kiruthu, 2014).
From this perspective, it is evident that there is a misrepresentation, misunderstanding and misinformation about Kenyan music. First, this can be attributed to the fact that in the modern day, there is no production of the original Kenyan music that was internationally accepted. Second, there is little support from the government in developing a unique genre or style of music that can be marketed internationally as a Kenyan brand (Owoko, 2014). For instance, the education system lacks a talent-based approach that will facilitate talent recognition. Additionally, public schools lack music lessons, while only a few public schools offer these lessons. Third, the Kenyan music is affected by the lack of support from the public. Many reviews suggest that the success of Kenyan music on the international platform will require the support of the audience within the country (Laing, 2009). Such an approach will support the spread of knowledge about Kenya and support the development of the Kenyan identity in the music industry.
Eisenberg, A. J. (2015). Digital Technology and the Music Recording Industry in Nairobi, Kenya.
Kiruthu, F. (2014). Music as a Strategy of Youth Resilience in Dadaab Refugee Camp Kenya, 4(17).
Laing, D. (2009). World Music and the global music industry. Popular Music History, 3(3), 213–231.
Nyairo, J., Nyairo, J., & Ogude, J. (2003). Popular Music and the Negotiation of Contemporary Kenyan Identity: The Example of Nairobi City Ensemble. Social Identities: Journal for the Study of Race, Nation, and Culture, 9(3), 383.
Owoko, A. (2014, 27 June). Why Kenyan music misses the cut. Retrieved 4 12, 2017, from http://www.nation.co.ke: http://www.nation.co.ke/lifestyle/weekend/Why-Kenyan-music-misses-the-cut/1220-2363812-15h4ri4/index.html