Echoes of Foucaldian ‘Discourse, Knowledge and Power’ in Political Kalenjin Music

Echoes of Foucaldian ‘Discourse, Knowledge and Power’ in Political Kalenjin Music


  • Dr. Wesonga Robert University of Kabianga


In his 1979 exhortation titled On Governmentality, Michel Foucault asserts that everything is political. Deuber-Mankowsky (2008) slightly shifts from Foucault’s position by stating that although nothing is political, everything can be politicized. Treating these two scholars’ assertions as the point of departure, this paper posits that all art; all cultural productions, ranging from paintings, sculptures and music, to literature, can be, and are in fact, political. This political nature can either be latent (nuanced), or manifest (overt). This paper interrogates how the question of power – the struggle for it, the retention of it and its agency – has been discoursed upon by various Kalenjin political singers. The paper purposively sampled Kalenjin songs from the independence days, and contemporary artists with each of the songs authored by a different artist. The study brought together four songs that illustrate how musicians of Kalenjin linguistic and/or ethnic orientation have interpreted and spoken about the dynamics of political power. Two of the songs, which emerged shortly after independence, were studied to interrogate how music was used at the time to inform the discourse that attended to the transfer of power from the colonizer to the first generation of African leaders. On the other hand, two songs, characterizing contemporary Kalenjin music, were studied to give insights into how power and contemporary politics have shaped the discourse in the music. The songs were transcribed with the help of native speakers of the various Kalenjin dialects, and subjected to close reading and analysis. Theoretically, the paper adopted Foucault’s theory of discourse and postcolonial literary theory.