Lamont, “Lip-Synch Gospel”

Lamont, Mark.  2011.  Lip-synch Gospel: Christian Music and the Ethnopoetics of Identity in Kenya.  Africa 80(3): 473-496.

Abstract:  In recent years there has been an outpouring of Kenyan scholarship on the ways popular musicians engage with politics in the public sphere. With respect to the rise in the 1990s and 2000s of gospel music – whose politics are more pietistic than activist – this article challenges how to ‘understand’ the politics of gospel music taken from a small speech community, in this case the Meru. In observing street performances of a new style of preaching, ‘lip-synch’ gospel, I offer ethnographic readings of song lyrics to show that Meru’s gospel singers can address moral debates not readily aired in mainline and Pentecostal-Charismatic churches. Critical of hypocrisy in the church and engaging with a wider politics of belonging and identity, Meru gospel singers weave localized ethnopoetics into their Christian music, with the effect that their politics effectively remain concealed within Meru and invisible to the national public sphere. While contesting the perceived corruption, sin and hypocrisy in everyday sociality, such Meru gospel singer groups cannot rightly be considered a local ‘counter-public’ because they still work their politics in the shadows of the churches.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *