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The term ______________ among Bongo Flava artists denotes large majority of rappers who are still
local and have not yet made it to the top.
a. Bongoland
b. Underground
c. Manrigira
d. Mongobongo
Which of the following instruments is an example of Chordophone?
a. Flute
b. Zither
c. Drum
d. Mbira
What is the name of the Kenyan popular musical style sung in Swahili and highly influenced by the
Luo Nyatiti?
a. Benga
b. Taarap
c. Masqanda
d. Bongo Flava
The Tanzanian fusion of Hip-hop and Taarab is termed as ____________.
a. Soukous
b. Benga
c. Taarap
d. Bongo Flava
Balaphone or Xylophone according to Parker falls into the category of what instruments?
a. Aerophone
b. Chordophone
c. Membranophone
d. Idiophones
The Luo traditional musical instrument that has 8 string found in Kenya is called ________________?
a. Ukupika
b. Nyatiti
c. Kora
d. Mbira
The Tanzanian rap musician from Morogoro who composed the song “Nitakuongopea” is known as
a. Mambo Jambo
b. Mr. II
c. Juma Madoweka
d. Prof. Jay
Drums are popular instruments in Africa and are therefore examples of ________________.
a. Idiophones
b. Membranophones
c. Chordophones
d. Aerophones
Thomas Mapfumo is a renowned musician from ___________ who was jailed for composing songs
against corrupted government.
a. South Africa
b. Zimbabwe
c. Algeria
d. Nigeria
The Camerounian musician who created a new form of Jazz known as Soul Makossa is ___________.
a. Fela Kuti
b. Awilo Longomba
c. Thomas Mapfumo
d. Manu Dibango
The South African musician who was popular for her “Click Song” and was referred as Mama Africa
was ___________.
a. Meriam Makeba
b. Soweto Gospel
c. Hugh Masakela
d. Joseph Shabalala
What is the name of the popular Hip-hop song released in 2002 by Gidigidi Majimaji in Kenya?
a. Tasfiri Hii
b. Kalamashaka
c. Azonto
d. Unbwogable
The Kenyan rap “Tafsiri Hii” was released in 1999 by a group known as ____________?
a. Unbwogable
b. Kalamashaka
c. Gidigidi Majimaji
d. Benga
_____________ are instruments whose sound are produced by the vibration of air.
a. Idiophones
b. Membranophones
c. Chordophones
d. Aerophones
In which year Hip-hop reached Tanzania according to Birgit Englert’s ariticle?
a. 1970s
b. 1980s
c. 1990s
d. 2000s
Who was the first Tanzanian to start rapping in Swahili in the early 1990s?
a. Unbwogable
b. Thomas Mapfumo
c. Saleh Jabir
d. Gidigidi Majimaji
Bongo Flava and Benga Music
Lingming Lu
Bongo Flava and Benga Music
Speaking of east Africa, there are various music styles that people listen depending on the
region, but the popular music styles in East Africa are bongo flavour popularly referred to as
Bong Flava and Benga Music. Bongo Flava is a style of music that is mainly popular in Tanzania
following the fact that its origin and roots are traced in Tanzania especially in Dar es Salaam
city, on the other benga music is a type of music that is mainly popular in Kenya. The paper
briefly talks about the difference and similarities in benga music and Bongo Flava.
Benga music is a genre that evolved in Kenya between the 1940s and 1960s and was
mostly aired in Nairobi in the African Broadcasting Station which used to play music from
Soukous, South African Kwela among other types of music which are believed to have
contributed to the creation benga music. The popularity of benga music is linked mainly to the
contribution of popular folk songs from the Luo tribe. Benga music usually falls in two
categories, either as praise songs or love songs. On most occasions, benga musicians compose
songs to praise their favourite political leaders something which is usually common during
elections. There are also famous benga musicians who composed love songs to their loved ones
and partners. Some of the pioneers of benga music from East Africa include the late Daniel
Owino Misiani, Okatch Biggy, Collela Mazee, Musa Juma and his brother Omondi Tonny
(Osusa, Odidi, & Ketebul, 2017). There is a new generation of benga musicians who have
changed the genre to satisfy the modern age in that the music is currently used slow rhythm and
uses electronic band instrument, unlike the olden days where musicians depended on the
traditional instruments, for instance, orutu and nyatiti. Some of the famous benga musicians from
East African include the likes of John Junior, Madanje and Igwe Bandason.
On the other hand, Bongo Flava as a genre was started in the 1990s as it tried to copy the
American hip hop, but it had some influence various music genres like reggae, R & B, and the
Tanzania traditional music genres like taarab and dansi. All these combinations gave birth to
bongo music in East Africa which decades later after its creation became one of the most listened
to type of music in East Africa and the whole continent. Bongo Flava music lyrics are usually in
Kiswahili a popular language in Africa and widely spoken by the Bantu speakers. Bongo Flava
has become more popular in the region. The pioneers of Bongo Flava include artist like Jay Dee,
Mr Nice, AY, and Mwana FA, among others (Drewett, 2016). There is a new generation of
Bongo artists who have taken the genre to the next level, thereby introducing it to the world by
collaborating with international artists. For example, artists like Ali Kiba and Diamond Platnumz
collaborated with international artists like R. Kelly, Ne-Yo and Rick Ross.
The similarities in these two music genres are that both of them relate to issues affecting
Africa in their composition. Both Bongo Flava and Benga music focus their lyrics on social as
well as political issues affecting the continents, for instance, poverty, political corruption,
HIV/AIDS, among others (Drewett, 2016). Both of them take a more or less explicit
educational intent; the approach frequently assumes the referral as entertainment education.
When it comes to differences, Bongo Flava currently has made a big step in that it can become
categorized as both urban and local music, unlike benga that is mainly listened to by a given
demographic. Bongo Flava has taken over the international market through involving themselves
with international musicians like Rick Ross and R. Kelly whereas the benga music has remained
a local genre listened to mostly by specific tribes and demographic-the middle age.
Drewett, M. (2016). Popular music censorship in Africa. Aldershot: Ashgate.
Osusa, T., Odidi, B., & Ketebul Music (Nairobi, Kenya), (2017). Shades of benga: The story of
popular music in Kenya: 1946-2016.
The History Of Benga Music: A Report by Ketebul Music | Singing Wells
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The History Of Benga Music: A Report by Ketebul Music

The History Of Benga Music: A Report by Ketebul Music
Since its founding, Ketebul has been focused on ʻBridgeʼ artists – the key artists that created certain
genre that link the tribal music to modern music. Benga is a great example of a bridge genre and
Ketebul has kindly given us permission to publish in full their history of Benga music. Here it is:
Retracing the Benga Rhythm
Recent Stories
Central and Eastern Kenya:
Days 5-11:An Interview with
Category: Community, Kenya
(Central/Eastern) 2014
From simple traditional village entertainment to a national and regional music genre, this is the story of
the making of benga music.
Setting the Background
A characteristic of popular music the world over is the element of mystery surrounding the origins of
the genre and sometimes also, the real meaning of its name. Great icons of jazz, blues, RʼnʼB,
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The History Of Benga
Music: A Report by Ketebul
Category: Kenya
(Central/Eastern) 2014, Music
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The History Of Benga Music: A Report by Ketebul Music | Singing Wells

The History Of Benga Music: A Report by Ketebul Music

reggae, rumba and even the much revered Western country music are famous for performing in their
respective genres rather than expounding on meanings and origins. Rarely does one find consensus
among fans, let alone among musicologists when it comes to interpreting the history, art and emotive
power of a particular music. Still, the imperative of building an archive of a peopleʼs past—including
their popular histories—compelled us to search and ask, to travel far and build connections, to
collate documents and present available evidence relating to the roots of popular Kenyan music.
Many historians and musicologists agree that the cradle of the Benga genre of Kenya popular music
is Nyanza province in western Kenya. This region is home to the fishing community of Luo-speaking
people, many of whom live around Lake Victoria—known locally as Nyanza. Lake Victoria straddles
the three East African countries—Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania—covering an area of over 68,000
square kilometers. The Luo who live around its shores in Kenya speak a western Nilotic tongue
distinctly different from their Bantu neighbours to the north and south, and their Kalenjin distant
cousins to the east. The Luo comprise close to 3 million people. Their forefathers migrated south
from the Bahr al Ghazal region in what is today know as Southern Sudan in a steady stream until the
19th Century. Some live in neighbouring Uganda and Tanzania.
Central and Eastern Kenya:
Days 5-11: Ketebul Studios,
Category: Kenya
(Central/Eastern) 2014
Central and Eastern Kenya:
Day 4 – Nkubu to Mukuuni
to Nairobi
Category: Kenya
(Central/Eastern) 2014
Central and Eastern Kenya:
Day 3 – Nkubu to Mariene
to Murungurune to Nkubu
Category: Kenya
(Central/Eastern) 2014
Today, Benga music is played across a fair share of Kenya—from the lake shores in the west, across
the vast floor of the Rift Valley to the slopes of the imposing 5,199 metre Mount Kenya and into the
plains of eastern Kenya. From a genre that was previously considered low class, it has managed to
establish its hold as a definite Kenyan style and beat. Sprinklings of it are to be found in DR Congo.
It has been borrowed, repackaged and found a new form in Zimbabwe. From its humble rural
beginnings, this music has been nurtured into a club circuit affair in numerous urban areas in East,
Central and Southern Africa.
What, exactly, is Benga Music?
Central and Eastern Kenya:
Day 2 – Muranga to
Kangema to Nkubu
Category: Kenya
(Central/Eastern) 2014
Central and Eastern Kenya:
Day 1 – Nairobi to Kiongwe
to Muranga
Category: Kenya
Bengaʼs most distinctive feature is its fast-paced rhythmic beat and bouncy finger-picking guitar
technique. Indeed, the core of benga is the lead guitar, which essentially follows the track of the
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The History Of Benga Music: A Report by Ketebul Music | Singing Wells

The History Of Benga Music: A Report by Ketebul Music

vocals. Without exception, the singing is at some point separated from the climax—the instrumental
expanse that combines three or four guitars and percussions. Benga is loosely linked to Congolese
rumba and West African highlife, but differs sharply from South African kwela, taarab, chakacha and
Central and Eastern Kenya:
Day 0 – London/Nairobi
Category: Kenya
kidumbaak; the most well-known Swahili music forms from the coastal strip of East Africa.
(Central/Eastern) 2014
The peculiarity of the Benga beat comes from the combination of a sharp lead guitar overriding the
rhythm and bass. The pace of the guitars, with a steady rise to a climax or crescendo and an equally
quick refrain, together with the arrangement and sectioning mark benga apart from other music. Luo
guitarists long cultivated a unique technique of playing the guitar. They commonly do not massage
the strings as their Congolese counterparts do but rather they pluck and pick single notes rapidly in
a fashion akin to playing a nyatiti—the traditional lyre of the Luo people.
Central Uganda: Day 7 – A
Magic Day in Entebbe
Benga is undoubtedly dance music because of its fast tempo. Dancers commonly do not hold hands
or embrace as is the case with other music, for instance Congolese rumba. Benga fans will be seen
dancing alone or forming a group, but not holding hands. Often the dancers break off from the circle
of their partners and slink away, doing their own thing, sometimes becoming theatrical in their
movements—flexing their muscles, feet and shaking their heads. They dance with freedom and
even total abandon.
Attentive Benga audiences point out the importance of its themes especially where a song
chronicles or even instigates an important social event or political drama. Many lyrics dwell on love,
either extolling a womanʼs beauty and praising her virtues or expressing the disappointment of an
ardent suitor. Some songs sing about money and personal experiences of hardship and struggle.
Occasionally, the lyrics are in praise of a person of high standing in the society. Those in political
leadership are frequently the subject of such praise, even though occasionally they are the subject
of biting censure. Modern Benga vocals sections are long and the story winding and repetitive, with
some of the more accomplished songwriters employing clever allegory, generating witty memorable
phrases or coining new idioms.
Category: Field Reports,
Uganda (Central & Eastern)
Central Uganda: Day 6:
Kampala to Entebbe
Category: Field Reports,
Uganda (Central & Eastern)
Field Reports
Kenya (Central/Eastern)
Kenya (Coastal Region)
Kenya (Nyanza Province)
Kenya (Rift Valley) 2012
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The History Of Benga Music: A Report by Ketebul Music | Singing Wells

The History Of Benga Music: A Report by Ketebul Music

Tradition— Adaptations and Innovations
The traditional Benga sound is about 60 years old with its formative years occurring between the late
1950s and the 1960s. Its roots run deep in age-old Luo musical instruments. Of the many traditional
instruments that the Luo played, the most enduring and widely used is the nyatiti, an eight-stringed
traditional lyre.
Uganda (Central & Eastern)
Uganda (Northern) 2012
Uganda (South West) 2011
In elaborate traditional Luo ceremonies, the nyatiti was accompanied by a set of traditional drums,
cow horns, gourds, sticks, shakers and other improvised instrumentation such as whistling,
feet-stamping, and clapping or a melody created from someone blowing through the hollowed
chamber of clasped hands. Sometimes the single-stringed orutu, from the viol family, would also be
used. This combination of musical instruments and vocal accompaniment provided entertainment for
a range of ceremonies long before the first European explorers and missionaries appeared on the
The winding mournful sound of the orutu, which was easily imitated by the modern Benga lead guitar
upon which the music rides, is considered by many as the single most crucial link between that
instrument and modern benga. The tempo of the nyatiti playing along with the sound produced from
the rhythmic thumping of an iron ring harnessed to the toe of the lyre player is the rhythm and
percussion respectively in modern Benga. The nyatiti which had been made popular by musicians
like Otuoma Ogolo, Mbui Jachur and later Ogola Opot also influenced the acoustic guitar in terms of
moulding single-note picking rather than strumming. Its playing technique, together with that of the
orutu formed the root of the high-pitched electric lead guitar and bass that was the vogue of
mid-1970s benga bands. Today, one typically finds up to four guitars interplaying in synchronized
harmony and the high-pitched lead still typifies the benga beat.
Benga pioneers were, in local parlance, “one-man guitarists” accompanied by a conductor-an
improvised instrument in the form of a wooden box which maintained the rhythm. Later, novel
accompaniment was discovered in the form of the rhythmic strumming of the grooves of the 1960s
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The History Of Benga Music: A Report by Ketebul Music

Fanta soft drink bottle. This kind of performance shared many similarities with that of a nyatiti player
and his ankle shaker.
Transition to Benga
Soon after the end of the Second World War, a handful of demobilized soldiers who had been
conscripted from Luoland arrived back home with an instrument that would herald new practices of
entertainment amongst their people—the Spanish guitar.
Though the fairly sophisticated accordion had penetrated Nyanza after the First World War, its
chords did not quite capture the emotions, popular imagination and the creative impulses of the
locals in the way the strings of the acoustic guitar did. Musicians like Nyangira Obongʼo, Achwal,
Aton Mito and later Oguta Lie Bobo attained some success with their accordion music, but it soon
paved way for what the locals called a ʻbox guitarʼ, which truly appealed to the Luo ear. Interestingly
the accordion had a far greater appeal and impact amongst the Kikuyu people of central Kenya.
In the late 1940s individual guitar players began plucking away at the chords as they would the
nyatiti, all the while singing in the language of the lake shore people. Traditional Luo dance forms
and songs were fused to produce new and distinct guitar-generated beats and riffs. The foreignerʼs
instrument was slowly becoming an indispensable part of the leisure and entertainment of the local
The ex-soldiers and their students particularly liked to play the guitar next to a granary. These
traditional food stores were often erected a distance away from the main houses, the better for
naughty lyrics to escape the ears of the innocent. The Luo word for granary is “dero” while the
expression “tie dero”— the local reference to early guitar-music— denotes the idea of being “around
and about” the granary.
The Ogara Years
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The History Of Benga Music: A Report by Ketebul Music | Singing Wells

The History Of Benga Music: A Report by Ketebul Music

By the early 1950s, pioneering Luo musicians like Obuondo Atwanga , John Odula, Oyugi Tobby,
Ojwang Bathlomeyo, Owiti (Dewitts), the group Lango Obiero, John Langʼo, Olulo Ochenya and
Olima Anditi were already recording songs, the latter producing the memorable track “Sabina.” But it
is the late John Ogara Odondi “Kaisa” who is regarded as one of the trail-blazing benga pioneers
who spread it beyond local village confines, ingeniously shaped its style and nurtured a new crop of
benga artistes.
The next step was to unfold when John Ogara founded Ogara Boys Band in 1960 with Aketch
Oyosi. With the recruitment of Nelson Ochiengʼ Orwa two years later, Ogara transformed his group
into a three-piece acoustic and vocal group. Ochiengʼ Orwa was a young and extremely talented
guitarist who would come to be known by the stage name of Ochiengʼ Nelly. He must be
distinguished from another accomplished performer bearing a similar name, Ochieng Nelly Mengo,
who was one of the founders of the 1970s Victoria Kings Band.
Other pioneers and contemporaries of Ogara at that time were Adero Onani, Owiti Origo, and Festo
In 1963, the Ogara trio recorded the song “Selestina Juma” at the African Gramophone Stores,
famously known as AGS, in Nairobi. Curiously, the song bears a distinct beat of ska, the precursor of
todayʼs reggae. The trioʼs guitar work was evidently inspired by influences from way beyond Luoland
and wa …
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