Kenya, Rants

Tribalism is a touchy subject in Kenya — I don’t even think it’s politically correct to use the word “tribe” anymore. Besides the fact that it’s a bit condescending from an American English connotation, I think we’re supposed to use other words like “ethnic groups” or “communities” instead. In Kenya it ranges from petty nepotism to violent xenophobia. Before you start thinking, “Those Africans are a bit stupid/savage,” go look up the words nepotism and xenophobia and you’ll see it’s nothing unique to Africa. Maybe it’s human nature, because I am feeling a little guilty lately.

I spent nearly the last two years living in a town called Tala in the Kangundo district of Kenya. That district belongs to a region which was/is historically known as “Ukambani”—named so after the tribe who has historically lived there, the Kamba. There are forty-something tribes in Kenya, so you can imagine there are regions all over this country where tribes have lived for generations (basically small countries). There exceptions, but each tribe generally speaks their own language, listens to their own music, prays to their own god, has their own ceremonial foods, traditions, etc. Well, that was true until the white people sliced up Africa for themselves and forced their culture on the continent, but now everyone wears dresses, jeans, high heels, and listens to Lil Wayne. The only things left are names and languages, and that brings me to my point!

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Kenya, Music

About two weeks ago I moved to Nairobi to start my new job. I live in Nairobi’s Westlands suburb but I commute daily about twenty-five minutes to a small town called Uthiru. The first difference I noticed from Tala is that the predominant language is Kikuyu, whereas in Tala it was Kikamba. I’m not worried, because I’ve learned enough Swahili, and everyone speaks that one in addition to their mother tongue. The one place you’ll notice the change in language right away is in the local music. It seems that every ethnic group in Kenya has their own distinct style of music.

I never liked the music when I was in Tala, but I miss it now. Every bicycle taxi, small shop, or matatu always had these beats on the radio. I’ve heard that this music is pure matusi (literally “abuses”), but of course I don’t understand one word they’re saying! The most famous Kamba artist is a dude named Ken wa Maria, so if you wanna hear more just Google him up. I don’t know any famous Kikuyu musicians yet, but their music is easy enough to find. Enjoy!

Kamba Music

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