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History of Reggae music in Kenya

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Reggae music started booming in Kenya in the late 1970s and early 1980s with Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Don Carlos, Burning Spear, Wailing Souls and Peter Tosh music being the most loved artists. This type of music was magnified when several night clubs and sounds started sprouting up in down town Nairobi city. The notable clubs that came up to play reggae roots are Monte Carlo night club on Accra Road, Shashamane International, Hollywood club.

Popular Kenyan reggae DJs

Sounds that were popular in the 1990s include Omega Sounds, King Lions Sounds, Livity Sounds, Jahmbo Sounds, King Jumbo Sounds.
New sounds are Rastyle Sounds (Formerly Firehouse Sounds) Mau Mau Sounds, Supremacy Sounds (formerly Black Supremacy Sounds), Rebel Liberation Sounds, Trench Town Entertainment and Dohty Family Sounds, Shanachie Sounds, One Vibe Entertainment, Dynamic Spellbound Sounds, Big Ship Sounds and many more.
The most popular DJs that are credited with pioneering reggae in Kenya include; Legendary Jah'key Malle, The late Papa Lefty, Papa Charlie, DJ Last-Born, Selector King Monday (RIP), King Tubbs, Prince Otach (UK) Papa Bingi (based in USA) and Junior Dread.
Other deejays who have recently been championing the purpose of reggae music are notably Deejay Stitchy, Njambi Koikai, Selector King Rebel DJ Stichie, Talia Oyando, G. Money, Kriss Darling, Muzikal Sheriff, DJ Rytrap, Mc Daddy Konya (RIP) and MC Fullstop.

Reggae on Kenyan radio

In the late 1980s, reggae and the associated Jamaican culture became so popular in Kenya that the government owned Kenya Broadcasting Corporation KBC radio station launched the program Reggae Times for reggae fans who tuned to the English service. The show was presented by veteran reggae DJ Jeff Mwangemi.
In August 2005 Metro FM, a subsidiary of the government owned Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC), became an exclusive 24-hour reggae station whose slogan was House of Reggae. On January 30, 2009 Metro FM hosted First Ever Radio Clash In Kenya and also in Africa. Which was hosted By Dj Stano and Njambi Koikai ,2 Sounds system were Rebel Liberation Sounds (Githurai 45) and Existenz Sounds (Farover). In 2011, Metro FM switched away from reggae and became Venus FM, a station targeted at office-class ladies in Kenya's urban areas. Many Kenyan reggae fans were disappointed.
The gap left by Metro FM was soon taken filled by Ghetto FM, a Sheng (Kenyan slang) speaking station that claims to be the voice of the youth in the Kenyan ghettos. As at 2014, the selectors on Ghetto FM reggae sessions were DJ Bonokode and DJ Ambuside.
Drop Zone Assembly, airing on Hot 96 has also been receiving positive response from the masses. Drop Zone is hosted by Rapcha the sayantist.

Up to the late 1990s, reggae in Kenya was known as the poor man's music. In the 2000s, the popularity of reggae caught the attention of the emerging FM radio stations. To avoid the perceived dark and underclass side of reggae and to attract listeners who could generate advertising revenue, the new FM radio stations concentrated on the emerging Dancehall brand of reggae.
Dancehall reggae has softer and simpler beats than roots or ragga and it rarely projects the Rastafarian culture, anti-colonialism or the agenda of African emancipation. Dancehall mostly focuses on love songs in an urban setting. Some Kenyan fans of Roots reggae express disappointment with the emergence of Dancehall reggae. The complaints revolve around the lack of a communal African agenda within Dancehall reggae and the watering down of reggae into mere expressions of bodily desire and materialism.

Reggae on Kenyan TV

Reggae videos began making their way onto Kenyan television in the early 1990s through KBC's Music Time show that was hosted by Fred Obachi Machoka. In those days, the popular reggae/ragga artists featured were Shaba Ranks, Yellow Man, Ras Kimono and UB40.
Around 1992, KTN launched the program Rastrut, a thirty-minute show dedicated to reggae music. As at 2014, KTN is the only Kenyan television station that has ever had a show dedicated to reggae. It is also the only Kenyan media station that specifically associated reggae music with the religious and cultural ideals of the Rastafarian movement. This is in the choice of the name Rastrut and the use of the characteristic Green-Yellow-Red as the background colours of the show. Rastrut is the show that made Lucky Dube visible to Kenyans.

Past reggae events in Kenya

Jamaican artists often perform in live shows hosted in Nairobi and Mombasa.
Christian Reggae group Christafari visited Kenya in the late 1990s and will be performing in Nairobi on 25 January 2015.
International Reggae Day (Kenya Chapter) in July, 01, 2018 held at the August Memorial Park, Nairobi by Wadada Pamoja under license from International Reggae Day, Jamaica.

Reggae Artistes and Reggae Bands in Kenya

Secular Reggae Artists

  • Royalty By Black (The Kenyan prince of Reggae)
  • Afrikanah
  • Abdela Mohamed Shamir
  • Bafu Chafu
  • BLNRB (Ukoo Flani)
  • Brucho
  • Ecspedition
  • FireSon Bantu (David Mukoyani)
  • Freeman (John Kimutai No Guns);
  • Jah'key Malle (Jack Otkech Obwande)
  • Johnee Mosh
  • Levysill
  • Marcus Original
  • Lutta Dancehall
  • Bravoo
  • Richie Chris
  • Natty Ngwai
  • Frankie D
  • Lidanjam Raah
  • Mc Bayo
  • Priestafari Adams Majau;
  • Ras Luigi
  • Ras Madedo
  • Stephantom Wargamble
  • Stoneface Priest (Charles Adams Majau)
  • Alkebulan Band

Christian Reggae Artistes in Kenya

  • Rufftone (Afro-Raga fusion)
  • Chifu Tamurai
  • Guardian Angel
  • TuneDem, a gospel reggae band based in Kibera
  • ShoeShine Buoy
  • Dafari
  • Samukat
  • PoQpine
  • Admiral Kilosh
  • Jerry Adi Preacher
  • Kaffi
  • Ivlyn Mutua (Power)
  • Ting-Seh

Artistes with notable Reggae tracks/songs

  • Lynne Kassanga (Penzi Lako)
  • Ecspedition (Things I never had)
  • Avril (Mama)
  • Daddy Owen (Mbona)
  • Pitson ("Uvumilivu")
  • Wahu (My Sweet Love)
  • Wyre and Nazizi (Necessary Noize Bless my Room, Kenyan Boy Kenyan Girl)
  • Chifu Tamurai (Kenya dat we want, THANK YOU LORD, HOLD ON)
  • Guardian Angel (Amazing Grace)
  • Alkebulan Band (Bad Dreams)

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