A video of President Barack Obama dancing with one of Kenya’s most famous pop music groups has taken the nation by storm, as the President continues on to Ethiopia in his four-day African tour.
The night before delivering a wide-ranging speech touching on topics from corruption to LGBT tolerance to the Kenyan people, President Obama attended a state dinner in his honor, hosted by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta. Also in attendance was the four-piece band Sauti Sol, whose hit “Sura Yako” has become one of the biggest dance singles to come out of Kenya in the past two years. Sauti Sol performed the song live and did the traditional Lipala folk dance alongside President Obama.
President Obama performed the dance alongside Kenyan First Lady Margaret Kenyatta, National Security Adviser Susan Rice, and Obama’s half-sister Auma. The band members referred to President Obama as “our returning son” and lamented the absence of First Lady Michelle Obama.
The Lipala dance is traditional among Kenyans, though had long fallen out of popularity in favor of other international dances flooding the Kenyan market. “Sura Yako”– or “Your Face” in Swahili– was released as an attempt to reclaim the dance and fill Kenyan dance floors with something native. “The Lipala dance is actually a dance that has been practised by the Luhya tribe for the longest time ever,” Delvin Mudigi, a member of Sauti Sol, told the BBC in an interview. “It’s been a while since Kenyans have had a dance,” says Willis Chimano, the band’s singer. The band told the BBC that they were aspiring to create a Kenyan version of something like “Gangnam Style.”
President Obama stirred tensions in Kenya by calling for the nation to respect the rights of LGBT Kenyans. Homosexuality in Kenya is currently punishable by up to 14 years in prison. President Kenyatta wholeheartedly rejected criticism of his country’s retrograde attitudes towards the existence of LGBT people, telling reporters, “There are some things that we must admit we don’t share. Our culture, our societies don’t accept.” His response has garnered him praise among religious leaders in Kenya.
Despite disagreements over policy particulars, President Obama remains wildly popular in Kenya. In perhaps the most dramatic anecdotal evidence of this, over twenty baby boys named “Obama” (and girls named either Michelle, Sasha, or Malia) have been born in only one hospital since the President landed in Kenya on Friday, reports the nation’s The Standard.