The power of music in Kenya's politics, 1992-2008
Matu, Alice W
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This study examined the power of music in Kenya's politics and its impact on ethnic relations especially during electoral campaigns. The impact of music on Kenya's post-election violence of 2007/2008 is assessed. The role of music in pre-independent, post-colonial and multi-party Kenya, and its impact during the post-tlection violence of 2007/2008 was explored. The history of music in Kenya's political arena provides important highlights of how music has played an important role and impacted Kenya's political destiny. The study utilized both secondary and primary sources. Secondary information was obtained from books, articles, scholarly journals and internet sources. Gaps in secondary data were filled with data from oral interviews which were conducted by use of unstructured questionnaire. Data was captured by use of note taking, analysed qualitatively and presented through narratives and discussions. Existing studies on Kenya's electoral violence acknowledge the role of hate speech, vernacular radio stations, historical injustices, economic inequalities, poverty, joblessness, corruption and poor governance in fuelling violence, but underplay the contribution of music in fuelling political violence in Kenya. This study therefore aimed at demonstrating the centrality of music in Kenya's competitive electoral politics and its role in ethnic mobilization, fuelling propaganda, violence and negative ethnicity. The power of music in reconciliation, healing and peace building is also demonstrated. Nairobi was chosen as the point of focus as it was the tipping point of political conflict which conflated into violence. As the capital city of Kenya, it has a large pool of heterogeneous Kenyans from all parts of the country likely to share characteristics with the typical population as they migrate from all parts ofthe country. The study examined the role and impact of music during the 2007/2008 post-election violence. It argues that music has played a significant role in Kenya' politics. There is popular and extensive use of music, campaign songs and vernacular political songs during Kenya's electoral campaigns. Music communicates and sets an ethnic-agenda for listeners over time and especially at periods of heightened tensions. This study was guided by Tajfel and Turners' Social Identity Theory which argues that social groups, such as those conceived on the basis of ethnic affiliation construct, sustain and negotiate boundaries that define and maintain social identities of one group when opposed and related to another. This holds true for this study which observes that music has been a means of defining social, cultural and ethnic identities. Music plays an indispensable part as a political campaign tool and for socio-political and ethnic mobilization. It has been manipulated by the political elite towards divisive ethnic politics and violence. Music may be manipulated to stir negative ethnicity just as it helps take it away through peace music.