The online news magazine, The Theatre Times, just made a wild allegation. Supposedly based on data gathered from Google Trends and something called Adword, the story posted by the Kenyan writer Alex Nderitu claims that the three “most-searched-for musicals in Kenyans online are High School Musical, The Lion King and Hamilton.”
The Theatre Times, being a New York-based publication may claim its research model was ‘global’ and that the researchers scanned the whole world to come up with the data they’ve derived. The research is also said to have covered 15 years. But even so, I can’t help being sceptical of such findings for several reasons. One is because there is not a single mention of Kenya-born musicals like Tinga Tinga Tales or Mo Faya both of which went all the way to New York and won a slew of both national and international awards. Additionally, there was no mention of musicals like Sarafina, Lwanda Rockman or even Grease or Joseph and the Amazing Technicolored Dream Coat, all of which were staged right here in Nairobi.
Okay, Kenyans indeed love searching global topics on the Internet. It is also true that even before they got easy access to Google, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, they like many of their parents were enamoured with Western, and especially American pop culture. They had been inundated with it, first on national TV back when there was just one television station, and on KBC radio which people listened to except if they had access to short-wave and then they went out of their way to access BBC.
But I truly wonder if Kenyans, even those in love with theatre, made multiple searches of High School Musical, which may have been popular in the US. But I wonder what could interest local thespians about the goings-on in a pearly white secondary school where one cannot see even one brown or black person attending that school.
Hamilton was huge in the US, and I admit, I searched it online.
But that was mainly because it’s the first hip-hop musical ever composed and its creator is a Latino man who is highly gifted both as a rapper-song writer and historian.
Finally, The Lion King, like Tinga Tinga Tales has its roots in African folklore, so I could understand Kenyans’ curiosity, I guess.
But I still find the Tinga Tinga Tales results to be dubious at best.