DJ Shadow: The Kenya I saw

Soon after the hip-hop star DJ Shadow visited Kenya, the country errupted in violence. And the crisis is far from over

When the sunshine illuminated its green hills last spring, the Rift Valley in central Kenya looked every bit the lush paradise that attracted the wealthy British settlers who made it their African playground in the 1920s.

Among the travellers passing through the region was the Californian musician DJ Shadow, who stopped off to take photographs of the stunning scenery during a tour of Oxfam projects aimed at reducing the tribal conflicts and cattle rustling that have destabilised some rural Kenyan districts.

The tensions then were barely perceptible to the outsider and certainly gave no indication of the mob violence that would sweep the country before the year was out, in the wake of allegations of corruption in national elections. One of the towns that Shadow visited was Eldoret, where dozens of people were burned to death on New Year’s Day as they sought refuge in a church.

Three months later and 87,000 people are still in refugee camps in and around Eldoret, part of the estimated 300,000 Kenyans who remain displaced by the violence. As the rainy season now begins in Kenya, the displaced face heightened risk of disease in camps which were originally makeshift but are now expected to be their homes for the rest of this year.

Speaking to The Independent during a visit to London, Shadow (real name Josh Davis), spoke of his affection for the Kenyan people and appealed for support for Oxfam’s attempts to alleviate suffering in the camps.

“I remember seeing on the news that people had been attacked and the number of bodies that had been found and thinking ‘Damn, we were there.’ It was sad and shocking,” he said. “A lot of the violence occurred on the route we followed out of Nairobi heading west.”

During last year’s tour of Kenya, when he visited remote north-western villages and the urban slums of Nairobi, Shadow was shown Oxfam’s work in reducing the availability of firearms. The focus of the charity’s activities has now switched to the refugee camps. “There’s a large number of people displaced and the priority is providing food and medical care to people stuck in the camps.”

Vincent Kock, Oxfam’s Humanitarian Advisor in Eldoret, said there were up to 20,000 sheltering in the Eldoret Showground, 3km from the town centre. He said many camps had been built as short-term solutions, with no expectation that they would have to house people for many months.

Though a form of peace has been brokered at national level between rival Kenyan leaders President Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga, following the deaths of 1,500 people, Kock said that it would only be meaningful if it translated to a local level. “It requires above all a political situation at district level and security guarantees. The information we are getting is that a number of people who chased others away are not unhappy with the current situation,” he said. “The focus of the international community was very much on the political process headed by Kofi Annan. Rather than focusing on the humanitarian impact the focus was on dealing with the problem and that has maybe taken attention away from the plight of the displaced.”

Oxfam is working alongside the Kenyan Red Cross to maintain high standards of hygiene in the camps amid fears of the rapid spread of disease. “The biggest need at the moment is proper hygiene and drainage, especially with the rains coming and increasing the risk of hygiene-related diseases.”

Shadow encouraged people to support the "Oxjam" series of musical events taking place in Britain next month, some of the money from which will go towards helping those in the Kenyan camps. “The Kenyan people were open, friendly, unassuming and unpretentious,” he says of a nation ripped apart by ethnic violence. “They were willing to give their stories and heritage to an outsider and not worried about being judged in any way despite the relative poverty. I would love to go back at some point.”

Oxjam , billed as the UK’s biggest musical event, takes place throughout April

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Anthony Hopkins in Westworld

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rock and role: Jamie Bell's character Benjamin Grimm is transformed into 'Thing' in the film adaptation of Marvel Comics' 'Fantastic Four'
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Katie Hopkins veered between sycophancy and insult in her new chat show
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
In his role as Hamlet, Benedict Cumberbatch will have to learn, and repeat night after night, around 1,480 lines

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Belgian sexologist Goedele Liekens with pupils at Hollins Technology College in Accrington
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Judges Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The rapper Drake

music
Arts and Entertainment
The gaffer: Prince Philip and the future Queen in 1947
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Style icons: The Beatles on set in Austria
film
Arts and Entertainment
By Seuss! ‘What Pet Shall I Get?’ hits the bookshops this week
Books
Arts and Entertainment
The mushroom cloud over Hiroshima after Enola Gray and her crew dropped the bomb
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Elliott outside his stationery store that houses a Post Office
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Rebecca Ferguson, Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible Rogue Nation

Film review Tom Cruise, 50, is still like a puppy in this relentless action soap opera

Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams in True Detective season 2

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Off the wall: the cast of ‘Life in Squares’

TV
Arts and Entertainment

Books And it is whizzpopping!

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
    Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
    Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

    Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

    Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
    Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

    Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

    The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
    Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

    Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

    His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

    Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future