It was Just for Fun: Taarab and the Construction of Community Identity in Two Kenyan Towns
Owen, Caleb E.
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Owen, Caleb E.
This thesis chronicles taarab, a popular genre of music, in Lamu and Matadoni, two communities on the coast of Kenya. My thesis argues that taarab, despite growing as popular and widespread in urban areas, developed as a localized tradition in Lamu and Matadoni by emphasizing local styles and public performances where musicians would play for little, if any money at all. This was different from the music’s success in urban centers which often emphasized the marketing of cassettes and compact disks. Renowned taarab musicians from these cities could earn money off of their music by performing for extravagant rates. Taarab contributed to the local character of Lamu and Matadoni through its lyrics which promoted evaluation of gender relationships, social problems within the community, and challenged politicians. The thesis explores how the traditions that made taarab distinct in these communities in the past are changing due to economic problems that challenge musicians’ ability to dedicate time to play music recreationally in addition to the impacts of globalization that have been impacting cultural practices in Lamu and Matadoni. While local taarab in Lamu and Matadoni has had to adjust in order to incorporate these changes, it still remains a popular form of entertainment for the people of these communities.