Jukwaani: story tellers, rappers and hip hoppers.

story telling
‘The Tale of Fumo Liyongo’ performed in Kiswahili by Zamaleo Sigana Storytellers.
The story told for centuries along the East African Coast traces one man’s confrontation with dictatorship iresspective of the inherent angers.

I like story telling. When it is done right, it involves and resonates with an entire audience no matter their race and origins.

My favourite memories from school, and they are few, were from my literature classes. We would read through different story books each semester and the process of relating stories to present day and personal experience was always extremely thought provoking though often tiring.

I wonder if children in traditional cultures really had to sit by the fire every night and listen to their elders tell stories of war heroes and animals and naughty children. I wonder if the children looked forward to these stories or if they thought it was a drag having to subject themselves to clouds of smoke while listening to an old fart go on and on. And today, can I sit by the fireplace with my children, on a Friday evening and narrate stories about the big pigs in the castle on the hill, who ate the nation’s entire crop and watched all the other animals at the bottom of the hill die and kill each other for scraps? Or do I have to buy tickets to a storytelling festival and let someone else do it for me?

Stories can be for entertainment but also, they can mirror behaviours or situations in society which allow us to see ourselves more clearly, sometimes we even laugh at ourselves or at least pretend to as we break into cold sweats from guilt as we shift uncomfortably in our seats. I think being conscious of the stories makes it easier to rethink our behaviour and our place in society. We may not have story telling around bonfires anymore, but we do tell stories everyday on the evening news or in the newspapers and we do laugh at our politicians stoning wananchi and naked lovers being frog matched to the police station. Yes, we still listen to stories and laugh at ourselves.

rappers and hip hop

A light, entertaining an meaningful performances that takes a satirical look at the systems from the educational to the judicial to the political that continue to browbeat the Kenyan society.
Moderated by Mwafrika/ Mshai Mwangola/ Mikhail Gromov

Kazi kwa vijana, malipo kwa wazee…au sio?

The audience for this performance was made up of a younger generation. I was probably among the older people there. There was a lot of sheng; terms I couldn’t really understand, but I did recognize the key words; corruption, disillusionment, politicians, murder. And at the end of the day, that is what matters; that the message is communicated to the people who need to hear it.

I loved the message in the rhymes; what do you expect when the teachers charged with shaping us, disillusion us instead? What do you expect when the youth cannot get jobs because experience is measured in age? Our judicial system is murder. We listen to empty promises from politicians so whose fault is it when they do not deliver and what are we going to do in 2012? Will we ever get to that corruption free zone?

If this is the message being relayed to the youth, then maybe we are not so badly off after all.


  1. Waa says

    I am impressed, you have done a great job of describing Jukwaani! I would actually be tempted to go and see the whole performance if I was in country.

    I surprise myself too, sometimes. Maybe if you’re lucky, Jukwaani! will move to South Africa and I will get a second shot at this!

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