Kenya, Music

It’s really popular to be a gospel artist in Kenya these days. Where you’d normally have heard gangster rap or crunk music coming from Nairobi matatus (minibus used for public transport), now it’s not uncommon to hear songs praising Mungu (God). I have never liked gospel, but some of these tunes honestly sound like something a DJ would spin at dance club on a Friday night. Furthermore, because of my strong convictions (read: evangelical atheist), it’s almost embarrassing for me to admit that some of these “Goddy” tunes are really catchy. If you don’t understand Swahili you can just bob your head to the beat and forget I ever said anything.

Jaguar — Nimetoka Mbali

This one’s actually not about God, but it’s my favorite of the three so it goes first! I think this guy comes from Tanzania, because I’ve never heard of him (and I know everything about the music scene in Kenya!). The song’s title means “I’ve come from far.” I haven’t listened to it enough to understand what he’s actually saying. For now just enjoy!

Ekko Dydda — Niko Na Reason

He “has a reason” to clap, snap, and even to “bounce and swagger” — take a guess at what it is. Anyways, it’s a good song.

Ringtone — Pamela

A song about a girl who has fallen astray from the church. The chorus goes: Pamela njoo kwa mungu, bado anakupenda (Pamela come to God, he still loves you). It’s kinda sad, but something about it is catchy to me.

Because I live under a rock I depend entirely on the guys at GetMziki to find new music. They seem to have connections all over Africa, and even African connections in America and Europe, so there is always something for everyone on their blog. Another great website is the Kenyan-based DJ crew Black Supremacy. Don’t let the name fool you: they don’t hate white people, they just love making awesome mix tapes (you’ve probably heard at least one of their mixes in a matatu).


I was just riding the matatu (minibus used for public transport) to work when an mlevi (drunkard) got on the bus. As soon as he saw me he started shouting, “America!” and then something indistinguishable about Jesus. I don’t know if it was in English or Swahili because he was slurring. By now he had put his teddy bear in my lap — I know, what the hell? — and everyone on the bus was obviously staring at me. When I finally understood that he wanted me to say, “Amen” I just smiled and looked nervously around.

How can you out wit a charismatic drunk man with Jesus on his side? I admit I was at a loss for words… all I could come up with was, “I don’t say ‘Amen’.” I didn’t say it too loudly because I didn’t want to start a debate. I guess I shocked him but it didn’t matter because after a few seconds he went on shouting about America and Obama.


It’s hard to believe that five months ago I was living in Tala, working as a VSO volunteer. Life was good then, simple — I was living in a rural area of Kenya, hakuna matata (no problems). I didn’t particularly enjoy teaching, but I loved my colleagues and the pole pole (slow) life was easy to get used to. Teaching was a great experience, and sure it was challenging, but I just didn’t enjoy it. I want to be the guy hacking the computers, not the guy writing about hacking computers on a blackboard!

Life at ILRI has been great since I started in August, 2009. I wear khakis and a collared shirt once or twice a week, and jeans and a t-shirt the other days. I’ve worn a hat before and nobody seemed to mind, but I promise I won’t make a habit of it. Scientists at ILRI are all brilliant, and I’m learning new things about molecular biology and bioinformatics every day. I’ve always had a hobby interest in science, and it’s fun to be surrounded around “real” scientists.

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