It would be stating the obvious to say that Kenya is Reggae country. It is probably the only kind of music that cross ideological and regional borders; it is listened to regardless of religion or which part of the country the listener is from – which is rare for Kenya. It’s following is rivaled only by Gospel music which again can be sub-divided into different groups. That is why we have been blessed to have the likes of Alaine, Tarrus Riley, Chronixx, Damian Marley and most recently Jah Cure perform within our great Nation.
But why is it so popular?
We believe, because of how its distribution channels. Like the rest of the world Kenyans were mesmerized by the sounds ofa of Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Don Carlos – among others – in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Night clubs all over the country entertained their revelers with the music of the fathers of reggae, most notably Monte Carlo on Accra Road and Shashamane International. Radio was not far behind, with the government-owned VOK (the only radio station available) launched the program ‘Reggae Times’ to cater to fans of the genre. In terms of TV, reggae videos made their debut in the early 1990s through KBC’s Music Time Show that was hosted by Fred Machoka.
So for very many people entertainment meant reggae music. This accompanied with the undertones of social justice that was often weaved into the different songs, meant that reggae united the whole country. The love for the genre has been passed down from generation to generation ensuring that whenever a big name is slated to perform, the venue is packed to capacity.
There are things that are obviously associated with the genre such as alcoholism and marijuana smoking, but with the current flock of millennials and generation Z looking for any excuse to escape from their many problems that has only made it even more popular. Almost all major television networks have at least one music show dedicated to the genre, with gospel coming a close second. With that amount of popularity, we strongly believe we will continue to see the resilience of reggae tunes in the country.