Dancing for survival: Using music to create awareness of climate change

Although climate change poses a global threat that can only be tackled through urgent collective and concerted action, a large section of Kenya’s population are still not aware of its direct impact to their lives and how to respond to the threat. Worse still, the understanding of and action on climate change among the youth in Kenya is still very low, yet they play a significant role in any attempt to bring change either at the community or national levels.

“Big words like global warming and climate change do not make sense to ghetto (slum) people like me,” says 26 year old Nyangolo Abasa, an artist from Dandora, an informal settlement located in the southern side of Nairobi.

Kenya continues to experience the impacts of climate change through erratic weather patterns leading to extreme weather conditions like droughts and floods that have had negative effects on the lives of many Kenyans especially those in rural and informal urban settlements commonly referred to as the slums.

In 2009, over 3.5 million Kenyans faced severe food shortages as a result of drought.

A campaign dubbed Rauka Ama Hatutasurvive (Wake up or we will not survive) to educate the Kenyan youth on climate change and help them be heard by the Kenyan policymakers was recently launched with a free concert in Dandora near Nairobi’s biggest dumpsite.

The concert which included public hearings, was a first of its kind with the main artist of the event being Kenya’s hip-hop artist and the country’s Youth Climate Change ambassador, Julius Owino, popularly known as Juliani, supported by a host of other gospel hip hop musicians.

The artists used music to pass on climate change messages - Juliani encouraged the youth to be active participants on any discussions that can help address the impacts of climate change and to get involved in environmental conservation activities like tree planting programs.

Among the songs he sang was the campaign signature tune, Rauka! (Wake up!), the climate change song that encourages people to make wise environmental choices that will give the next generation a cleaner environment.

Although majority of those who attended the concert had heard about climate change, they considered it a distant concept. “Climate change is about the weather changes, like now we experience hotter sunny conditions than we did three or four years ago. The world super powers like America and Britain need to do something or we will all perish,” says 17 years old Anne Wanjiru.

As the concert wound up, young people lined up to sign an environmental charter displaying their commitment on what they will do in the next year to improve their environment. This environmental charter will be presented to the area Member of Parliament, in a bid to get his support in ensuring Dandora residents get a cleaner environment.

Other recent Rauka ama hatutasurvive campaign activities include a clean-up and a tree planting exercise which were part of the Global Week of Action that took place from 10-17th October 2010 including Global Work Party on 10th October 2010 (10:10:10) organized in Kenya by the Kenya Climate Change Working Group (KCCWG), a national civil society network on climate change, with the support of Oxfam.

Read more about how local communities are speaking up about climate change.

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