Music of Kenya

The music of Kenya is one of the most diverse in the continent. It is an assortment of popular music forms, in addition to multiple types of folk music derived from the country’s more than 40 ethnic groups.

Some of the most popular genres are Benga, Hip-hop, Reggae, Rock, Taarab and Folk music.


This genre of Kenyan popular music evolved between the late 1940s and late 1960s, in Nairobi (the capital of Kenya). The word benga is sometimes used to refer to any kind of pop music. Guitar, bass and percussion are the usual instruments.


Kenyan hip-hop is a sub-genre of hip-hop music. It is generally written and performed in English, Swahili, Sheng (a slang combination of English and Swahili) and vernacular languages. Kenyan hip-hop started in the early 1990s and really took off in the mid 1990s.


Although there have not been many mainstream Reggae musicians in Kenya, Reggae is one of the most popular genres and it is often mixed with local hip-hop and pop music.


During the late 1990s Rock music started to take root in Kenya and today it has a large and growing fan base. In Nairobi alone there are more than twelve active local rock bands. Quite a number of foreign international rock bands have graced the local scene, which reflects the growing influence and acceptance of this genre.


Taarab rose to prominence in the late 1920s. It is popular in Tanzania and Kenya and is influenced by music from the cultures with a historical presence in East Africa, including music from Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa, South Asia, the Middle East and Europe.


Kenya’s diverse ethnic groups each have their own traditional folk music. This type of music is mostly showcased during national events, cultural exchanges and music and drama festivals. Contemporary folk rose to prominence in the mid 1990s and remains popular with both the young and older generation.

Where To Get Music of Kenya

The compilation music here features some of the most prominent artists in the last five decades.

Rough Guide to the Music of Kenya

This compilation of twelve wonderfully melodic and rhythmic songs is a world beat gem. It contains crisp, throbbing Benga, Taarab orchestras, Kenyan Rap, Congolese Soukous and sparkling Swahili Rumba.

Rough Guide to Music of Kenya and Tanzania

This CD starts off with some engaging pop music from the great Simba Wanyika, and continues to get dancier and jazzier. There is traditional folk, dancy Taarab music and some excellent selections of Tanzanian and Kenyan pop music.

The Mighty Kings of Benga

This CD brings out the best of Benga. It’s the type of music you listen to the whole day, melodic, sweet and relaxing.

Nairobi Beat – Kenyan Pop Music Today

An excellent selection of Benga and Rumba, all the ten tracks s are full of vivacity, melody, enthusiasm and most important of all, a mesmerising beat.

Other Pages That May Interest You

Kenya > Kenya People > Kenya Music

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