Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
World

Kenya's Opposition Unites With Theme Song

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Let's listen now to the sound of the opposition movement in Kenya.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NASA")

ONYI JALAMO: (Singing in Swahili).

SIEGEL: This is the opposition's theme song. Through a long election season marked by violence and legal drama that threatens the country's stability, that song has kept people dancing. NPR's Eyder Peralta reports.

UNIDENTIFIED MEN: (Singing in Swahili).

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: Opposition protests in Nairobi usually involve some chanting, some drums, sometimes some burning tires. But when the song for the opposition coalition known as NASA comes on, everything stops.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NASA")

JALAMO: (Singing in Swahili).

PERALTA: At a recent protest, all the anger that had been pent up about what opposition supporters see as a rigged system melts, and people just dance. So this has become the scene in Kenya - this song playing during protests. And what you see is you see people dancing. And it's very hip-heavy. They swerve, and they shake. And a lot of people here say that it just - it makes their blood hot.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NASA")

JALAMO: (Singing in Swahili).

PERALTA: The song uses local chants to cheer opposition politicians, but the music transcends politics. Across the way, I see a group of women, eyes closed, swinging to the beat.

What do you think about the song?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: This song...

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: This song so sweet. I like Baba.

PERALTA: (Laughter) What does it make you feel?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMEN: Wow.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: (Speaking Swahili).

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: They can't make us stop. We are on top.

PERALTA: They take off before I get their names. But Omar Tonje stops me. This song, he says - he just can't get enough.

OMAR TONJE: Our national song that is used to unite all of Kenya.

PERALTA: The song has been played more than a million times on YouTube, and it's made the singer, Onyi Jalamo, a superstar. He's a guy with humble beginnings who wrote this song, he says, from his heart. And he says it has touched people even on the other side of the political spectrum.

JALAMO: So sometimes maybe if you play this song somewhere, they want to dance, but they can't dance because what you are speaking in it is against them.

PERALTA: So he's working on a remix that preaches peace by ditching politics and keeping the beat.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NASA")

JALAMO: (Singing in Swahili).

PERALTA: Eyder Peralta, NPR News, Nairobi.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NASA")

JALAMO: (Singing in Swahili). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.