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Songs and Politics in Eastern Africa

Kimani Njogu, HervÈ Maupeu

Publication Year: 2007

Songs and Politics in Eastern Africa brings together important essays on songs and politics in the region and beyond. Through an analysis of the voices from the margins, the authors (contributors) enter into the debate on cultural productions and political change. The theme that cuts across the contributions is that songs are, in addition to their aesthetic appeal, vital tools for exploring how political and social events are shaped and understood by citizens. Urbanization, commercialization and globalization contributed to the vibrancy of East African popular music of the 1990s which was marked by hybridity, syncretism and innovativeness. It was a product of social processes inseparable from society, politics, and other critical issues of the day. The lyrics explored socials cosmology, worldviews, class and gender relations, interpretations of value systems, and other political, social and cultural practices, even as they entertained and provided momentary escape for audience members. Frustration, disenchantments, and emotional fatigue resulting from corrupt and dictatorial political systems that stifle the potential of citizens drove and still drive popular music in Eastern Africa as in most of Africa. Songs and Politics in Eastern Africa is an important addition to the study of popular culture and its role in shaping society.

Published by: African Books Collective

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. iii-iv

Table of Contents

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pp. v-ix

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Foreword

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pp. xi-xvii

This book brings together important essays on songs and politics in eastern Africa and beyond. Through an analysis of the voices from the margins, the authors enter into the debate on cultural productions and political change. The theme that cuts across the contributions in this book is that songs are, in addition to their aesthetic appeal, vital...

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1. Religious Versification: from Depoliticisation to Repoliticisation

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pp. 1-22

Is politicisation through Christian songs one of the unexpected consequences of evangelization? Has Christianity, even without invoking liberation theology contributed in shaping politics through the interpretation and performance of songs? Right from the onset, modern Christianity received multiple interpretations in Kenya. ...

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2. L’intellectuel populaire et l’imaginaire politique : Le cas de Joseph Kamaru

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pp. 23-47

For four decades, Joseph Kamaru has been the best known Gikũyũ Benga singer. This article examines about ten cassettes that the artiste dedicated to pre-electoral analyses since the return of multipartyism. Indeed, Kamaru created a genre of unique narrative that he perfected in his highly popular ‘Message to the Youth’, vol. 1, which he used in several...

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3. Artistic Discourse and Gender Politics in the Gĩkũyũ Popular Song

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pp. 49-71

This paper seeks to demonstrate discourse shifts of gender politics in Gĩkũyũ popular song. The point of departure is the overwhelming influence of patriarchy in the early Gĩkũyũ popular song productions that appear to have been male-dominated. This had its ramifications on gender projections until women artistes came onto the musical scene. ...

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4. The Poetics of Gikũyũ mwomboko: Narrativeas a Technique in HIV-AIDS Awareness Campaign in Rural Kenya

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pp. 92-125

The emergence of HIV-AIDS scourge in the early 1980s when the first case in Kenya was diagnosed necessitates finding a solution to curb its spread in the nation. The government must find preventive and curative measures to reverse the trend of 500–700 Kenyan citizens perishing daily as a result of the pandemic. ...

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5. Hip-hop in Nairobi: recognition of aninternational movement and the main means of expression for the urban youth inpoor residential areas

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pp. 107-128

The expression “hip-hop” comes from Black American vernacular speech: to be hip means to be ‘cool’, or emancipated, to hop indicates to dance for a bet or for competition. The hip-hop movement has its roots in the Black and Hispanic residential areas of Queens, Brooklyn and in a larger part, The Bronx. Its origins date from the end of the...

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6. Folk poetry as a weapon of struggle: ananalysis of the Chaka Mchaka resistance songs of the national resistance movement/army of Uganda

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pp. 129-156

This paper recapitulates on the NRM/A resistance songs. It examines and analyses their structure and content with a view to showing how they facilitated transmission of the movement’s political programme and the organizing ideology. The argument initiated here is that in predominantly rural societies, songs constitute a salient medium through which organised resistance...

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7. Ethnic Identity and Stereotypes in PopularMusic: Mũgiithi79 Performance in Kenya

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pp. 157-175

The given song is an example of the climax of a Mũgiithi night (mostly late in the night, when the greater part of the audience has had one too many drinks) where patrons in a bar or night club glide along in a train-like formation. The dancers are linked by holding on to the waist or shoulders of the one ahead. The climax marks the end of a night...

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8. Song and Politics : the case of D. Owino Misiani

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pp. 177-199

Over the years, songs have been used as a means to communicate political messages that may not be palatable across the political divide in Kenya. Such songs have provided the means to transmit political messages that would otherwise not have been expressed in common political language or speech. Lyrics are phrased such that that the...

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9. Orature of Combat: Cultural Aesthetics of Song as Political Action in the Performance of the Mau Mau Songs

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pp. 201-224

It is evident that music was an important anchor in Gikuyu orature and performance art, and a preferred way of social comment and analysis. In this analysis, the term ‘performance’ as opposed to ‘theatre’ is used because, in my view, it is inclusive of extra-Aristotlean criteria for tragedy as a dramatic frame. ...

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10. Resistance and Performance Dynamics: the case of busungusungu vigilantes’ dance of the Sukuma of Tanzania

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pp. 225-240

Vigilante groups, in most cases, arise not only in response to conditions of inequality or injustice but more importantly, because of changing definitions of these conditions. Those involved must recognize and define their plight as an injustice, and one that is intolerable to live with rather than just passing it off as a cruel twist of fate (Lewis, 1985). ...

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11. Music and Politics in Tanzania: a case study of Nyota-wa-Cigogo

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pp. 241-272

Music, like all art, “is not created in a vacuum; it is the work not simply of a particular individual, but of that individual fixed in time and space and answering to a community of which he is an important part” (Iyasere, 1974). As a social being, an artist creates a work of art from material drawn from society. ...

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12. Hip-Hop, Westernization and Gender in East Africa

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pp. 273-302

The end of the 20th Century saw an increase in cultural flows and exchange across many of the world’s different nations and peoples due to an intensified interaction and exchange made possible by the process of globalisation. While this process has been seen from different perspectives including some doubting its credibility as a process in...

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13. Thematising Election Politics in Swahli Epic:the case of Mahmoud Abdulkadir

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pp. 303-314

The close relationship between African orature, politics and the traditional state has been acknowledged by several writers. According to Finnegan (1970: 82), the patronage of poets in centralised political systems in the past led to poetry of profound significance as a means of political propaganda, pressure or communication. ...

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14. Formation of a Popular Music: Hip-hop inTanzania

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pp. 315-354

This paper on Tanzanian hip-hop begins in a remote village in the Udzungwa Mountains.190 It all begins in a kiosk, where the owner listened to a type of music that quickly piqued my interest. It was neither because of its rhythm which to my ears had no relation whatsoever with the African musical tradition, nor for its content sung in Kiswahili...

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15. The enduring power of Somali “oral political poetry”: songs and poems of peace in the midst of chaos

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pp. 355-376

A study of ‘oral political poetry’ in the context of a war-torn society, such as the Somali one, runs the risk of focusing only on its expression of violence and hatred. Since Somalia has been living in a state of lawlessness for the past 14 years, poetic compositions which are a call to take up arms have often been presented as being most representative...

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16. If you’re ugly, know how to sing: aesthetics of resistance and subversion

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pp. 377-401

Artistic expression plays an important role in the lives of African peoples, providing a forum for participation in the community and for exploring the mysteries of humanity. Oral artistic forms, in particular, such as song, are strategic communal tools for societies in their consolidation and socialization processes, and their spoken...


E-ISBN-13: 9789987081080
Print-ISBN-13: 9789987449422

Page Count: 420
Publication Year: 2007