As I’ve shown you in parts one and two, the East African hip-hop scene is vibrant and popular. (Not to mention catchy. OUT, OUT, DAMN EARWORM!)

But that’s not all.

Every tribe and region has its own dances and musical traditions, as expected, but there are also certain unifiers – for example, benga music, also known as “oldies” or “Congo gospel.” It’s been popular in Kenya for decades now and is often associated with Luo and Kikuyu performers, although it’s actually an amalgamation of traditional Congelese and South African rhythms put to the nyatiti, an eight-stringed lyre-type instrument from Nyanza province.

It’s very popular in most areas of Kenya, always seems to be playing at weddings/funerals, and if you ever find yourself hungover in a matatu wherein the driver only owns one tape he’s going to play over and over for the entire six hour ride, it’s probably going to be benga. Music videos can be purchased en masse on every street corner, and are commonly characterized by half-dozen people or so in the same outfit dancing awkwardly in a straight line. The content runs the gamut from fluff and love songs to biting social commentary, and provides a powerful musical outlet for those who feel disconnected from the (much younger) pop music movement. Even here on the Coast, where less of it is produced, virtually everyone you speak with is familiar with – and deeply proud of – this Kenyan adaptation of a traditional African musical style.

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