n Africa Insight - performance : popular music, stereotypes and ethnic identity

Volume 35, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0256-2804


performance, mostly an urban phenomenon in Kenya, can best be described as a " 'heterophonous' order of segmentary identities creating a resonant ensemble whose constituent self and group allegiances become experientially fused in musical celebration". The composite and cosmopolitan nature of the urban settings, and subsequently the performance attests to this. Significantly though, this music is mostly performed and sung in the Gikuyu language, despite the ethnic plurality in Kenya. Ethnic stereotypes and parodies are constant themes in the lyrics. The paper problematises the contradictory complexities and ambiguities of the postcolony; is Mugiithi a Gikuyu performance or does its heterogeneous audience make it a national project? The paper also analyses the political factors explaining the genesis of the music in the 1990s as it grapples with the issues raised above.

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