(MENAFN- The Conversation) Kenya is marking 60 years since its independence from British colonial rule on December 12, 1963. Each year, the country celebrates the occasion with a national holiday, Jamhuri Day. And for much of the past 60 years, patriotic choral music has been a regular feature of those celebrations.
In this episode of The Conversation Weekly podcast, we explore how much one song can tell you about the politics of a new nation – and who controls what gets remembered and what gets forgotten.
Doseline Kiguru grew up hearing the song Wimbo wa Historia on Kenyan national radio in the 1980s and 1990s. Kiguru says the piece of choral music, which means“song of history” in Kiswahili, was often played on national holidays.
Today, Kiguru is a research associate in cultural and literary production in Africa at the University of Bristol in the UK. She has published research with her colleague Ernest Patrick Monte on the history of patriotic choral music and the role it plays in Kenyan political culture.
Wimbo wa Historia was written in the 1960s by the composer Enock Ondego.“It's trying to write history through music,” explains Kiguru. The song focuses on Jomo Kenyatta, the first president of Kenya. According to Ondego's autobiography, it was first performed by schoolchildren in front of Kenyatta himself.
The lyrics recount a part of Kenya's violent history in the lead up to independence, including Kenyatta's imprisonment, release and visit to London for negotiations on the country's new constitution.
The music became a stalwart at national holiday celebrations in the late 20th century. It fell out of favour in the early 2000s, but then had a comeback after 2013 when Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of Jomo Kenyatta, became president.
When Uhuru Kenyatta's term ended in 2022, he was replaced by the current president, William Ruto. Kiguru says the song hasn't been played at national holiday celebrations since Ruto's election, but she speculates that it could still reappear because of the way it frames Kenya's leaders in a cult of personality.
Listen to the full interview with Doseline Kiguru on the The Conversation Weekly , and read an article she wrote about her research into Kenyan choral music here too . A transcript of this episode will be available soon.
This episode was produced by Katie Flood and Mend Mariwany. It was written by Gemma Ware, who is the executive producer of the show. Our theme music is by Neeta Sarl.
Newsclips in this episode from British Pathé , DW News and Al Jazeera English . Wimbo wa Historia original version from ArapKaruiTV and Leyla's 2018 version from DJ Survival Kenya . Additional music from Heko Jamhuri by Muungano National Choir from Tamasha Records.
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