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Kenyan Hip Hop Comes to Oakland

September 29, 2007

Kenyan Hip Hop in Oakland
By Kwan Booth

For the last three years, Emerge Media Group has produced events promoting positive interactions between African and American Cultures. In 2005 the company produced the film “Hip Hop Colony”, documenting Kenya’s developing hip hop scene. This Saturday they’re sponsoring three of Kenya’s biggest hip hop acts on a special US Tour. The Logombas, Bamboo and Ida have gained national acclaim and a unique worldview, with two of the artists-Bamboo and Ida having lived in the States for years. The performers answered a few questions about music, social change and the differences between the two cultures.

KB:Bamboo, you spent part of your childhood growing up in Inglewood, CA. How do you compare Nairobi/Inglewood, Kenya/US in terms of culture, opportunity, social consciousness?
Bamboo: There are far more opportunities here in the states than there are in Kenya or Africa as a whole for that matter, there are however more opportunities for development in Africa. Culturally we are as far apart as East is from West, things like respect for elders or how people use their money and political climate. For instance the average Kenyan can probably tell you the names of all the major figures in their government, can we say the same for the states? Most people in their 20’s over here probably don’t even care but politics in Kenya affects the average Kenyan to the point that one has to be constantly aware of what’s going on at any given time. I think terrorism in the states is causing Americans to be more aware of what is taking place on a global scale though, Kenya’s also been hit by terrorists so that’s something we both hate.
KB: Ida, talk about the children’s organization you run in Van Nuys, CA.
Ida: Upendo Learning Center is an after school program that helps children on building their academic skills. My parents and I decided it would be a good business to open because we saw a need for children. It’s such a blessing because we get to make a difference in these kids’ lives. You can do something so little, but it means the world to them. Not only do we tutor, but it’s also a mentoring program.
KB:Lambolas, you recently won the KORA All Africa Music Awards (the equivalent of the Grammy’s) for social responsibility. Is the mix of social conscience and music more common in Kenyan music?
Lombolas: In Kenya musicians don’t really have a lot of that and that’s the reason to why we came up with “Vuta Pumz”, that topped the charts like none ever has and gave hope to people infected with HIV and the family and friends affected. We would love other musicians to follow in our footsteps so that we can help brighten other people’s futures. Most of the inspiration behind that was based on reality that faces a lot of people we love and who love us back; we hate the fact that people have to die through suffering and so much pain.
KB: Describe the Kenyan hip hop scene now.
Bamboo: The Kenyan hip hop scene has grown in the last 7 years to become the voice of the youth in the entire region… everybody wants to be somehow associated with the entertainment industry since it has become such a glamorous field to be in as opposed to what it was when we 1st started rappin’ and everybody kinda looked at us like we were crazy or something! Now everybody’s tryna rap!
The “Vuta Pumz” Concert takes place January 20th at Karribean City in Downtown Oakland. For more information call 707-631-5255, or go to www.blackmedley.com

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