Barack Obama’s New Influence on Pan-African Music

Africanmusicobamasplash Drew Hinshaw in PopMatters:

Of all the Kenyan contributions to Obama-mania, the most thrilling might be the dream-like “Obama”, by Tony Nyadundo, a middle-aged bandleader seeking to revive traditional-esque Ohangla music with pattering drum synths and topical storytelling. On “Obama”—title track from his sixth record—he weaves quite a tale, which according to East African Standard reporter Caroline Nyanga, translates as such: On his first trip to Kenya, the future senator and the humble musician chanced into one another, and, so impressed by the singer’s immaculate English, Obama decided to give the guy 100,000 Kenyan shillings (U.S. $1,600, roughly) to buy a guitar and spread his message. It’s a demonstrably false account, and a disturbing example of Obama’s expectations being set impossibly high, and in specific dollar amounts to boot. All the same, here’s how Nyanga characterizes the anthem’s reception: “Revellers in Kenyan dancehalls usually go into a frenzy and dance with abandon as soon as Obama’s song rends the air.” Yes, they can.

Yet the best song in the Obama catalogue may well have been the first. On their “Obama”, the half-American/half-Kenyan foursome Extra Golden sing their praise for the senator, but mostly their thanks. During his 2006 tour of East Africa, Obama helped the band’s Kenyan members get a visa to tour America, thereby routing them around that prickly New Immigration Law that Coco Tea was harping about. (If Obama wants to earn the support of his African followers indefinitely, may this writer humbly suggest some comprehensive immigration reform aimed not only at the Mexican border, but at the African continent as well, where getting a visa seems to be some byzantine art of secret-society-system-working.)