Jogoo La Shambani Haliwiki Mjini: The Village and the Town in the Mũgithi and One-Man Guitar Performances in Kenya

by Maina wa Mũtonya


The 1990s marked an emergence of a relatively new genre in the contours of Kenyan popular culture.  The Mũgithi performance signaled a beginning of new directions, largely in Kenyan music and specifically in the contemporary Gĩkũyũ music in terms of themes and style. The performance, mostly an urban phenomenon dominated by Gĩkũyũ one-man guitarists, is a major site for negotiation of identities and incorporates the interface and interplay between the traditional and the contemporary, especially in the urban setting. This article highlights the inherent contradictions in creation and re-creation of urban identities as expressed in this music. The main argument is that identities are always contested and different socio-economic situations call for a negotiation, if not a re-negotiation of identities.

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Maina wa Mũtonya received his PhD in African Literature and Cultures from the University of the Witwatersrand and has taught African Studies in México. He recently published The Politics of Everyday Life in Gĩkũyũ Popular Music of Kenya 1990-2000(2013)and co-authored Retracing Kikuyu Music (2010), which is a multimedia project comprising a book, documentary DVD, and audio CD. Currently, he is involved in research on the AfroMexicans.