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Kenya’s burgeoning rock scene showcased on CNN’s ‘Inside Africa’

This week on Inside Africa, CNN International highlights Kenya’s upcoming rock scene, examining how the musical style has established itself in East Africa, the development of its fan base and the challenges faced by artists looking to expand the genre further.

The programme hears how rock has established itself in Kenya’s music scene the past 15 years, helping inspire a new generation of artists and cultivate a new African audience in the process.

Inside Africa speaks to Max Filardi, the lead guitarist of Rash, who explains the challenges he has found in expanding the genre since moving to Nairobi from Argentina in 2010: “Rock in Kenya, most people think it’s a foreign sound… The audience in terms of numbers is quite small, but I can tell you that rock fans in Kenya are the most loyal. The most passionate guys you’ll ever see.”

In order to make their music more appealing to people in the region, CNN learns that Rash sought to incorporate more local culture into their music, by singing in both English and Swahili.

Samuel Gakungu, the drummer of the band outlines to Inside Africa why they chose to develop a more Afrocentric sound: “We decided to call our sound Swahili hard rock. It sounds like music from the 80’s. You’ll hear some AC/DC in it, you’ll hear some Ramones in it… Then we use Swahili lyrics, we just want to stand out, come up with a genre of our own, especially in Africa.”

Among the challenges of establishing rock in Kenya is the lack of infrastructure available to artists, as the musical stylehas not been fully embraced into the nation’s culture. Inside Africa hears how some rock musicians have turned to Christian rock to help change the perception of it in the country.

When examining where rock fits within Kenya’s musical landscape, Inside Africa speaks to radio host Wanjira Longauer on why the genre has to adjust and manoeuver to be fully accepted in East Africa.

Longauer tells the programme: “Rock really doesn’t really fit into the Kenyan music scene per se, in my opinion. You have your very niche rock fans and the people who love it, and still keep up with it… Right now, Kenyan rock is a little bit confused. It tries to do something that’s local, but it’s also reaching for a western sound, and some songs are really nice. Some people are doing really well with that here, but it’s got a way to go.”

Another way rock musicians have sought to change perceptions about the music is through community work. Inside Africa reports from Nairobi to examine a new initiative aiming to make music a positive influence for young offenders.

Lorenzo Roccheggiani, a music therapy instructor, explains why they established the project: “We’re helping 18 young kids from prisons… We just go teach them how to play guitar, how to play the drums and give them an alternative from the hard prison life… Having a way to free yourself and break those schemes, it helps nurture new perspectives.”

Whilst rock takes on numerous different forms in Kenya, such as incorporating local dialects and Christian elements into the genre, Inside Africa hears how this is slowly expanding the audience in the country and amplifying its sounds further.

Concluding the episode, DJ Tumz tells CNN why establishing rock is so significant for the music scene in Kenya as a whole: “Just the coming together and the shows is where you find people from different areas, different social classes mixing as one. It’s a beautiful thing.”

‘Inside Africa’ airs Friday 28th July at 1930 EAT on CNN International

The show also airs at the following times:

Saturday 29th July at 0530 EAT and 2030 EAT

Sunday 30th July at 0630 EAT and 1330 EAT

Monday 31st July at 0330 EAT

Tuesday 1st August at 1130 EAT

Thursday 3rd August at 0630 EAT

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