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Verbal interjections and the making of Awillo Mike as a social representation of “lived lives and storied lives” in live music performance in Kenya

Eric Masese


Live music performance takes a narrative form where experiences are narrated collectively by a “live band” both in song and performance. In such a performance, one band member often becomes a social representation of “good performance” for the audience. This paper seeks to contribute to this debate on “liveness” by exploring how “Awilo” Mike Otieno, one of the lead singers of Ja-Mnazi Africa Band in Eldoret-Kenya, uses verbal interjections — in between speech narrations during live music performance — to endear himself to the audience. This paper is based on data collected using unstructured interviews with “Awilo” Mike Otieno and purposively selected Band members for a period of six months. Augmentative data was obtained by participant observation and informal discussion with regular members of the audience. Based on Critical Discourse Analysis, the paper argues that verbal interjections in live music performance are not mere discourses. Instead, they are sites and means for the musician to exercise his/her power over the audience. By exercising this power, the musician is able to shape, (re)define (re)negotiate and contest (pre)existing subjectivities among the audience, and that of the audience towards him/her due to their diverse social positions in society. This subsequently aligns their physical and emotional realities. In addition, verbal interjection enables the musician to create new meanings on the narrated experiences to that which the audience can identify and relate with in their everyday lives, despite both being decontextualized. The ability to create congruity using verbal interjections proves the effectiveness of an artiste's performance and accounts for his or her popular acceptance.

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print ISSN: 2343-6530