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It's harvest time for musicians as politicians seek to woo youth

Azimio la Umoja Presidential candidate Raila Odinga danced to the floor with Congolese Musician Mbilia Bel while they were entertaining their supporters at Bukhungu stadium in Kakamega at a campaign rally recently. [Benjamin Sakwa/ Standard]

Before any political rally, a funeral, or any church meeting starts or reaches the momentum that allows senior leaders to address them, all that sets the pace for the occasion are the sweet melodies by musicians.

Those were the words of Tanzanian Rhumba maestro the late Remmy Ongala aka Sura Mbaya of Super Matimila Orchestra whose career spanned over five decades in Songea and Dar Es Salaam.

The words of Ongala have been adored and followed to the latter throughout his entire life in his home country and the global music industry. It is and has been testimony by many elected and appointed leaders.

And as the August 9 General Election draws nearer, leading politicians have resorted to the hiring of renowned musicians to spice up their political rallies with the possibility of wooing the undecided voters to their side.

This is evident in the Azimio One Kenya Alliance and Kenya Kwanza Alliance political rallies at the national level, which have trickled down to the regional to the county levels for those hoping to ascend to elective leadership positions in all the 47 counties in the republic.

It is and has been a strategy in the past elections and will not be any different this time.

Ace Congolese songstress Mbilia Bel is the latest kid on the block in the Azimio One Kenya Alliance coalition campaigns that have had two shows in different forums for the past two weeks.

The musical legend has so far performed in two campaign rallies attended by Azimio One Kenya Alliance Presidential candidate Raila Odinga and running mate Martha Karua having started her local shows with a performance at Carnivore Restaurant in Nairobi two weeks back.

Bel performed in Nyeri on July 5, 2022, when she urged the residents to vote for Odinga after she was invited to the podium by Odinga himself where she performed her popular tune Nakei Nairobi. Other politicians later joined her as she sang the famous hit.

Then four days later, Bel joined Odinga and Karua at Bukhungu Stadium in Kakamega for similar shows sending the multitude into a frenzy.

Gospel artiste Ben Githae, famed for the 2017 Uhuruto Tano Tena song is also another artiste who has joined the fray by throwing his weight behind Odinga.

Azimio followers have followed the trend in their regional meetings at the Coast, Nyanza, and in Western Kenya where they practice Taarab, Nyatiti and Rhumba beats respectively.

Besides entertaining the masses in rallies, University of Nairobi political scientist Herman Manyora said most of these musicians are being used by politicians to reach the youthful population who are the main voting bloc in this year’s election.

“They (youth) are the major voting bloc and politicians are keen to have them on their side. They (politicians) are trying all tricks in the books to reach them (youth) through music and it is the reason youthful artistes have been hired for the cause,” he stated.

On why Azimio One Kenya Coalition fished Mbilia Bel from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Manyora said Odinga was keen to show the Central Kenya voting block that if they could enjoy the lyrics of a foreign musician, why not trust him as a Kenyan who is ready to serve their interests.

“Odinga has scored in this aspect by bringing a foreign artiste to perform in their campaign rallies and it’ll work in their favour,” he pointed out.

And Kenya Kwanza Alliance presidential candidate William Ruto has also not been left behind as a section of artistes from central Kenya and Rift Valley admire their policies.

Gospel musician Muigai Wa Njoroge, a critic of the Jubilee administration, is among them. He has visited the Deputy President’s residence in Karen several times.

The two leading presidential contenders are battling hammer and tongs for the vote-rich Central Kenya voting block with lucrative promises to spur up their election chances in the company of these musicians.

As it is in Kenya, it has as well been witnessed in other parts of the world.

Former US President Barack Obama had to seek the support of musicians to boost his popularity before he was elected into the world’s most powerful seat in 2008.

Obama reached for the support of Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp, and Tom Morello.