Lip-Synch Gospel: Christian music and the ethnopoetics of identity in Kenya

Lamont, Mark. 2010. Lip-Synch Gospel: Christian music and the ethnopoetics of identity in Kenya. Africa: Journal of the International Africa Institute, 80(3), pp. 473-496. ISSN 0001-9720, [Article]

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Abstract or Description

In recent years there has been an outpouring of Kenyan scholarship on the ways popular musicians engage with politics in the public sphere. With respect to the rise in the 1990s and 2000s of gospel music – whose politics are more pietistic than activist – this article challenges how to ‘understand’ the politics of gospel music taken from a small speech community, in this case the Meru. In observing street performances of a new style of preaching, ‘lip-synch’ gospel, I offer ethnographic readings of song lyrics to show that Meru’s gospel singers can address moral debates not readily aired in mainline and Pentecostal-Charismatic churches. Critical of hypocrisy in the church and engaging with a wider politics of belonging and identity, Meru gospel singers weave localized ethnopoetics into their Christian music, with the effect that their politics effectively remain concealed within Meru and invisible to the national public sphere. While contesting the perceived corruption, sin and hypocrisy in everyday sociality, such Meru gospel singer groups cannot rightly be considered a local ‘counter-public’ because they still work their politics in the shadows of the churches.

Item Type:

Article

Identification Number (DOI):

https://doi.org/10.3366/afr.2010.0306

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Anthropology
Research Office > REF2014

Dates:

DateEvent
2010Published

Item ID:

5950

Date Deposited:

12 Nov 2011 20:46

Last Modified:

08 Apr 2015 11:19

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.

URI:

http://research.gold.ac.uk/id/eprint/5950

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