Editorial

EDITORIAL

Kenyan hotel pop nostalgia in Sanremo days

That eighties sound of Kenya good for tourists

03-02-2022 by Freddie del Curatolo

Observing from planet Africa the heaviness of Italy, even during the days of an allegedly soft pop event (like a vegan Ligurian meatloaf) like the Sanremo Festival, amidst the baptisms of out-of-tune youngsters and the extreme unctions of plucked eagles, the nostalgia for true, total, even slightly silly lightness like that of the 1980s comes back.
When, here in Kenya, itinerant musicians had their own genre, which was called "Hotel Pop", that is, hotel songs, catchy refrains that stuck in the memory like the soundtrack of an unforgettable vacation.
In the days in which Amadeus has nothing to do with Wolfgang Mozart (who was he?), with the orchestra of the Ariston theater devoted more than ever to non-melodies that no longer have evocative power, not even in banality (so much so as to make us nostalgic for "Poppies and Ducks" or "Finche la barca va"), a parallel with Kenyan "Hotel songs" comes spontaneously to mind.
The most famous for tourists is undoubtedly "Jambo Bwana", which is learned by the mzungu and proposed by the beach boys in the simplified version of the Safari Sound Band, while the original, from 1982, is the more adventurous one of Them Mushroom, a historic group with Afro-Beat intentions and with many substances in its body. The original lyrics, for example, said "let's sing, let's dance, Swahili is the language of Africa, Michael Jackson uses it, Lionel Ritchie uses it..." to conclude with a sibylline "mushroom soup is very good". It was probably hallucinogenic mushrooms. The splendid ballad "Malaika", written by the Kenyan Fadhili William in 1960 and played for the first time in 1963 with the Jambo Boys, just when a Tanzanian from Dar Es Salaam was claiming its paternity. A few years later Miriam Makeba heard it and recorded it with Henry Belafonte, making it a worldwide success. Much less glory for "Karibuni Kenya," perhaps the first real "Hotel Pop" song written in the country. The author was the Kenyan-Indian from Mombasa, Nabil Sansool, who recorded it with his group "Nabil and the Savannahs" in 1979 for the glorious Polydor label. Other ditties celebrate Kenyan ways of saying and living, from "Pole pole" to "Lala Salama," while today's young Kenyans prefer New York rap and hip-hop and write accordingly.
It makes you want a vintage event between Malindi and Mombasa: a big Hotel Pop festival on the Kenyan coast?
Frangipani and crows, other than "poppies and ducks" (Papaveri e papere)!

TAGS: sanremo kenyahotel popjambo jambomalaika

by Freddie del Curatolo

Jambo!
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