Why do Kenyans seem to support artists from abroad more than our local musicians? Someone asked.

Well in my view, it goes back to colonial history. Yes. Yes I am going back there. Many of our patriotic issues are rooted in oppression from the pre-independence era.

I am cautious as I say this. I have in the past been a skeptic of those who place blame on others for their lack of progress, even of affirmative action in America. But I am not so quick to sling mud at the premise anymore. I realize now how much our past affects us. You simply cannot have in one hand an individual who has had no opportunity denied them, all odds in their favor, and in the other, one that has been held in captivity, oppressed and disempowered for eons, then set loose, and call it a level playing field. It simply isn’t logical.

Not to sound like a broken record but with oppression came a distortion of values and self-worth … A downplaying of one’s own self-esteem.

At some point we were fooled to believe that progress can only come from those outside our nation’s boundary – their language, dressing, looks and products – and that progress meant endeavoring to be like them. Yet if there is need to accept diversity, our strengths and gifts, within the nucleus family, how much more in an international community?

Our parents were born in colonialism – a set up that impressed it on locals that their ways were backward and therefore redundant; that there is nothing good that came from their culture, including their faith, and so should adopt a foreign way. The ideology enforced by a warped education, slavery, torture and inhibitions from economic growth, impressed by imagery of the thriving foreigner driving big vehicles and running big tracts of land grabbed from the impoverished, could only bear self-destructive fruit in a matter of time. Our parents were thus born with the onus of improving the lives of their people, influenced by a manufactured representation of the norm. What other route to progress could they have taken, in a country where systems had been replaced for foreign ones, than to endeavor to ape the foreigner’s ways? That is how the foreigner got to have a say in our culture.

We seem to regard expertise from foreigners with religious reverence, forgetting that they have the advantage of time, privilege, and the type of know-how that comes naturally from being the inventor of the instruments at play, and fail to recognize and celebrate our own niche and creativity.

So why again – despite the current return of recognition of the local artist – did our tastes digress?

Because we are yet to fully recover from the self-loathing propaganda we had been fed for centuries. This is why the fan base for the neo-local artist began by being a reserve of the informed middle class. It is why we still marvel when we catch ourselves growing a liking for Sauti Sol, Kambua or Elani. It is because, somewhere at the back of our brain, we are still not totally convinced that Bienaimie Baraza is just as good as Bon Jovi.

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4 thoughts on “Redemption

  1. And it extends beyond music….. products for sale in local stores marked, “For Export Only”, often sell out faster than the local variety. Of course it is just a marketing ploy. Those marked goods will never be sold outside. The manufacturers are playing on these beliefs, that products made for local consumption just aren’t as good as what is available abroad.


      • I even see it here in California. Soaps and toiletries sometimes have French on the packages. There is no way in hell most of the junk I see in the aisles of my local drug store are being sold in France…… but somehow the packaging convinces folks that the product is much better—-since it tricks them into thinking that their cheap soap isn’t just intended for local use.

        Liked by 1 person

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