In a UK Hotel Where Ohangla Songs Rule

Kenyans in London
Kenyans in London. PHOTO | COURTESY 

In a hotel in central London, music — not the usual techno, upbeat or rock that is common in summer — bellows from the speakers, to the tune of Sauti Sol “Sura Yako”. From the number of people rising up from their seats to dance to the pulsating beats of Ohangla and shaking their shoulders to Mukangala tune, I realised not even 50 years living in a foreign country can take away the love for your tribe or home country.

It is a meet-up of Kenyans in the UK at a 'Face of Kenya UK' annual event that congregates people for a night of merrymaking and a climax to support community work in Kenya.

Janet Wainaina and her husband Ken, the founders, started the event to bring Kenyans in the diaspora together, but it soon morphed into a charity fund-raiser.

A cosmopolitan city that London is, it is hardly newsworthy to see many people wearing African dresses in black, white, green, red and white colours to mimic the Kenyan flag.

However, what is interesting about this meet-up is the conversation similar to what we hear in Nairobi, Kisumu or a far-flung village.


I meet a woman who asks where I come from. ''Nairobi,'' I reply. She tells me that no one comes from Nairobi and when I say Homabay, she seems satisfied.

At another table, there is a nurse who has lived in the UK for 16 years who laments at the cost of healthcare in Kenya. She frequently sends money for her mother's treatment as well as for her sibling's upkeep. She is appalled at the rising cost of food. She wonders how Kenyans survive on low incomes yet she earns about Sh650,000 monthly, working two jobs, but she is not comfortable. The conversation from the tragedies in Kenya to rising of living flows smoothly. The nurse rants about the Solai tragedy, and how quickly the country moved on.

Money is not only a sensitive issue for the nurse, but all of them. When the deputy high commissioner to the UK Allan Mburu reminded them to file taxes even though they live in the UK, there were murmurs in the room.

This year, 24-year-old Richie Gathu who had raised about Sh130,000 for a children’s home in Kenya was the winner. There were four other young people competing for the crown, all looking to get money to buy food and pay fees for disadvantaged children in Kenya.