Cultural Continuity and Change: A Historical Study on Music and Dance among the Bukusu of Bungoma County, Kenya, Circa 1900 – 2012
Barasa, Maurice Wekesa
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Traditional Bukusu music and dance have suffered an authenticity crisis since the 20th century. This, we found out, has been as a result of globalization that has seen the adaptation and appropriation of Bukusu folk melodies and dance styles. Of significant influence on Bukusu music and dance have been the activities of colonialists, acculturation and the post- colonial socio-economic, political and cultural dynamics. Innovation and advances in media technology have also greatly impacted on Bukusu music and dance. This research established that blending of Bukusu traditional music and dance with foreign musical cultures has had profound effect on the former giving rise to a new genre of music and dance in the community. This study was necessitated by the fact that previous research works on Bukusu music and dance were anthropological and not historical. Through the use of in-depth interviews, content analysis of recorded music and observation of dance and music activities among Babukusu, we show how, when and why the function, form, presentation and performance of Bukusu birth, circumcision, marriage and death music and dance have been changing in the period 1900- 2012. The interviewees included local musicians, funeral orators, teachers of Oral Literature and Music, Bungoma County Director of Culture and Bukusu music programmes producers on radio. The period 1900 to 2012 was appropriate for this study because it was characterized by varying socio-cultural, political, economic and technological environments, all of which have influenced Bukusu music and dance. Continuity in aspects of Bukusu music and dance from 1900 to 2012 is discussed as well as the abandonment of some musical practices in the community. This study was guided by three theories: - diffusion, social learning and syncretism. Diffusionists believe that cultural traits move from one society to another through migration, trade, war or other contacts. The social learning theory acknowledges that people learn from one another through observation, imitation and modelling. It was used to explain the imitation of other music cultures by some Bukusu musicians. This study found out that indeed Bukusu music and dance have been changing over time due to the community’s interaction with and learning from foreigners. Syncretism was used to explain the impact of blending Bukusu musical traditions with exogenous ones. Change in Bukusu musical culture, we established, has also been due to the dynamism in the socio-political environments in which it is performed. However, some aspects of it were found not to have changed.