Sound Pressure Levels

Sound Pressure Levels is a field recording project documenting the current political atmosphere in Kenya.

The coming presidential elections in August 2022 in Kenya are already raising political and social temperatures. In Kenya’s political past, ethnicity has been narrated by mainstream national and international media as a defining factor for winning an election, one which would be instrumentalised by politicians in their campaigns. Now a new narrative is on the rise: “Hustlers vs. Dynasties”, suggesting that this time the lines are drawn along social classes. It seems in Kenya’s political scenario words and sounds can be the deciding factors in winning, holding or losing power.

We aim to document this moment in Kenyan history through the medium of sound, recording the voices and noises of the time. With a diverse team recordists we will collect field recordings, seeking everyday conversations and live experiences in private and public places in different parts of Nairobi from April 2022 until election day.

As we expect social places will turn into places of political discussion over the course of the project. How will the sonic atmosphere change in different places? Can one detect a certain underlying tenor in the soundscape of the city? Will the Sound Pressure Levels rise in the wake of this event?

A diverse group of recordists will ensure access to a variety of places and social groups. Through that we complicate a dominant narrative saying politics is a male domain and show how the voice of everyone is an important one in the story of this election. The field recordings will enter the SON archive and can thus function as documents to study. They will be a resource for future generations shaping and complicating the mainstream and stereotypical ideas of what politics mean in Kenya.

In a 3-month recap phase we will organize public discussions and conversations to investigate, how to use the newly acquired sonic information as a data set to detect stories that can contribute to meaningful, diverse narrations of this election. To democratize and distribute this knowledge we will focus on cross-disciplinary collaborations between social justice organizations and sound artists based in Nairobi resulting in a critical podcast.

Many thanks to everyone who supported the Fund Raising Campaign for this project. Although we only raised 10% of the needed money, it is not a lost cause. As we could acquire some more funding the project will go ahead and with your help, we can now not only do the recordings over a 4 month recording phase but also organize a workshop to introduce more people to the wonderful and exciting world of sound and help us accomplish this project.
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