Culture as an economic force; The rise of Sub-cultures in Nairobi

One perk, perhaps the only one, of being a wall flower is perfecting the art of watching. The art of analyzing the nuances of human life and smiling at yourself for the stories made up in your mind about people’s identities. To the story you realize they are creating about themselves.

The sub-cultures around me began to intrigue me anew after attending an art installation by cyclists in Nairobi. Well, come to think of it, I have always had a keen interest in understanding human behavior.

Many facets of our identities are chosen for us before we have the aptitude to make decisions. From religion, to geographical location, to culture. But the beauty of life is that you always have a choice of how your life will turn out. You cannot change yesterday but you can fully embrace today and work towards a tomorrow that excites you.

Sub-cultures happen organically. They occur when people, who would ordinarily never meet, are drawn together by mutual interests. I believe that the powerful bond these associations wield is because they are our brainchild. We guard our babies fiercely. Any association that we choose, away from those predetermined by factors outside ourselves like birth place or parents ethnicity, is painstakingly nurtured as we relish the new found community.


However, the questions that beg to be answered are;

  1. Are subcultures formed out of a need to relieve stress or life pressures?
  2. Are subcultures formed as a result of the quest for community and authenticity away from the numbness of modern day living?
  3. Are subcultures formed as a result of a far more complex plethora of factors that we have not yet uncovered?
  4. Do subcultures form as a conscious or subconscious rebellion to the norm? Whatever normal may be?


I don’t know the answers. Yet. However, I will start from Claude Fischer’s ( 1975, 1995) subcultural theory of urbanism. It loosely translates to the assumption that urban dwellers have both a public (aloof and transactional) and private (passionate and engaged) life. I neither agree nor disagree with it, but seek to explore it.


A destination free drive around Nairobi reveals more than meets the eye if you are paying attention.


You cannot fail to notice the bikers roar by in their loud machines. As they nod in acknowledgment to any fellow biker who they come across. A kinship of thrill seekers.

Kenyan Bikers
Image credits:




Or the hard core metal fans with bands and underground gigs. Busy professionals who have an alter ego that growls all night to an excited crowd with resilient eardrums and a love for black attire.


Or passionate Latin dancers in clubs noone hears about unless you are around regulars. The long nights lost in elegant turns and twirls. The friendships made and memories made.

Image credits



Or the cyclists that dart past you in traffic, dressed like they are in Tour de France. Who have the confidence to go neck to neck with Nairobi motorists, who are at times insane.

Image credits Tony Karumba,Getty images




These are but a drop in the ocean of subcultures. However, they open up a whole new market for different kind of products, alternative types of services and new ways of approaching marketing. A whole new world of ever expanding possibilities. I will dig in, a subculture at a time. With the intention of uncovering what really drives the growth and congregation of vastly different people under one hobby.

As we speak I am soothing my aching legs from being tossed and twirled in Latin dance class. I love it though. Although at this point in time, I am doing more tumbling than dancing. In addition to nursing the occasional dizzy spell from practicing my turns.


Are there any subcultures you have noticed in and around Nairobi that you would like me to possibly explore? Please leave a comment and I shall brace myself to explore them on your behalf. Cheers!

[inbound_forms id=”form_869″ name=””]

Related posts

Leave a Reply