Dance Mania Grips Kenya

Published on 8th December 2008
Don’t yawn yet, bear with me. Events proceed in Kenya as if incessantly choreographed by the same mischievous and manic hand schooled in dance mania. The political classes will have the same homecomings, the activist classes their slick workshops and seminars and the youth is all, well – dances and dance styles. Our members of parliament live harmoniously in the same quiet contemplative neighborhoods, shop in the same expansive malls and send their kids to the same well groomed schools. They do most things in agreement – even conspire not to pay taxes together. Yet as is their pastime, they have perfected the art of the squabble. With clockwork precision, thrust a rolling camera in their faces upon podiums and they go apish.

Then as proverbial therapists, we have to pile them into limousines and flying apparatus and stampede them back into retreats, workshops and bonding sessions on how to get along, all the time footing the bill. Then they come back together, buoyed by good air and good food - singing “all together now” and mingle without acrimony in their members clubs, steam rooms and saunas - gently sweating out the accumulated fat and bad bile.
Is there light at the end?

Not to be outdone, the NGO speakeasies with their mat-locked hair, other watchdog groups and accompanying gate keepers and that motor mouth trade unionist and his ilk will quickly scamper up the branches just vacated by the chattering politicos - for their turn at workshops, rolling cameras, pronouncements, vilifications and vituperations.

Meanwhile the other inhabitants of this country will do what they do best – dance. We dance from the sound made by dropping spoons. The television channels spew dance programs all day long. It is dance galore at every political podium all weekend long and every function from the mundane to the serious, including AIDS awareness
- is characterized by suggestive tail wiggling and vile imported ghetto mischief hand gestures. Old women, my sixty four year old mother included, will perform jigs for full bellied forty year old politicians at mouth fest functions, only to be rewarded with a bottle of soda and a spell in the hot sun. And there are the constant groups of octogenarian dancers always waiting outside every airport lobby for their chance to jig at anything looking dignitary. We have turned dancing into an industry of vigorous idleness.

Borrowing from this red hot brand, slobbering advertisers are hawking their wares all over the television landscape with dance, and inviting incorrigible musical gnomes with limp names for sham vodka swigging on stage - sending Nairobi youth into frenzy as if in Africa all we know is how to shake a leg and guzzle brand name hooch. And it is a gold rush as pseudo promoters and morning radio talking heads compete to promote this pastime activity into the only signifier of lifestyle. What would one expect when expired-quality, national brand politicians and their designer hangers compete on a stage televised nationally try to outdo one another as to who shakes old booty best – who still has got it. What better branding activator does an advertising house need?

When what should be a nation’s pastime becomes national official taste, along with incessant workshops, seminars and the loudest in signifier African-style attire for identity, you need tons of faith to believe in visionary thinking. The television set is whispering incessantly into the ears of your youngster at home that the loud foul mouthed hip hopper they are watching, and those lush youthful undulating body masses struggling to spill from the picture box onto your living room floor, is the image to aspire for.

To silence you, they will give you English Premier League and other European ball fests - sponsored by a beer brand and hosted by young, local windbags to convince you that you are important. Just remember - that box is not interested in you – only in your wallet and in your kid’s pocket money. Next time you take part in referendum, remember that.

Who knows, from all these we just might craft that perfect citizen who the government spokesman will laud as a product proud to be Kenyan.

By Onyango Oketch,
Mr. Oketch is an author and a perfoming artist

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