The culture of Kenya consists of multiple traditions. Kenya has no single prominent culture that identifies it. It instead consists of the various cultures of the country's different communities.
Notable populations include the Swahili on the coast, several other Bantu communities in the central and western regions, and Nilotic communities in the northwest. The Maasai culture is well known to tourism, despite constituting a relatively small part of Kenya's population. They are renowned for their elaborate upper body adornment and jewellery.
Additionally, Kenya has an extensive music, television and theater scene.
Kenya has a number of media outlets that broadcast domestically and globally. They cover news, business, sports and entertainment. Popular Kenyan newspapers include:
- The Daily Nation; part of the Nation Media Group (NMG) (largest market share)
- The Standard
- The Star
- The People
- East Africa Weekly
- Taifa Leo
Television stations based in Kenya include:
- Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC)
- Citizen TV
- Kenya Television Network (KTN)
- NTV (part of the Nation Media Group (NMG))
- Kiss Television
- K24 Television
All of these terrestrial channels are transmitted via a DVB T2 digital TV signal.
Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o is one of the best known writers of Kenya. His novel, Weep Not, Child, is an illustration of life in Kenya during the British occupation. The story details the effects of the Mau Mau on the lives of Kenyans. Its combination of themes—colonialism, education, and love—helped to make it one of the best-known novels in Africa.
M.G. Vassanji's 2003 novel The In-Between World of Vikram Lall won the Giller Prize in 2003. It is the fictional memoir of a Kenyan of Indian heritage and his family as they adjust to the changing political climates in colonial and post-colonial Kenya.
Since 2003, the literary journal Kwani? has been publishing Kenyan contemporary literature. Additionally, Kenya has also been nurturing emerging versatile authors such as Paul Kipchumba (Kipwendui, Kibiwott) who demonstrate pan-African outlook (see Africa in China's 21st Century: In Search of a Strategy (2017).
Kenya has a diverse assortment of popular music forms, in addition to multiple types of folk music based on the variety over 40 regional languages.
The drums are the most dominant instrument in popular Kenyan music. Drum beats are very complex and include both native rhythm and imported ones, especially the Congolese cavacha rhythm. Popular Kenyan music usually involves the interplay of multiple parts, and more recently, showy guitar solos as well. There are also a number of local hip-hop artists, including Jua Cali and afro-pop bands such as Sauti Sol.
Lyrics are most often in Kiswahili or English. There is also some emerging aspect of Lingala borrowed from Congolese musicians. Lyrics are also written in local languages. Urban radio generally only plays English music, though there also exist a number of vernacular radio stations.
Zilizopendwa is a genre of local urban music that was recorded in the 1960s, 70s and 80s by musicians such as Daudi Kabaka, Fadhili William and Sukuma Bin Ongaro, and is particularly revered and enjoyed by older people—having been popularised by the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation's Kiswahili service (formerly called Voice of Kenya or VOK).
The isukuti is a vigorous dance performed by the Luhya sub-tribes to the beat of a traditional drum called the Isukuti during many occasions such as the birth of a child, marriage and funerals. Other traditional dances include the Ohangla among the Luo, Nzele among the Mijikenda, Mugithi among the Kikuyu and Taarab among the Swahili.
Additionally, Kenya has a growing Christian gospel music scene. Prominent local gospel musicians include the Kenyan Boys Choir.
Benga music has been popular since the late 1960s, especially in the area around Lake Victoria. The word benga is occasionally used to refer to any kind of pop music. Bass, guitar and percussion are the usual instruments.
Kenya is active in several sports, among them cricket, rallying, football, rugby union and boxing. The country is known chiefly for its dominance in middle-distance and long-distance athletics, having consistently produced Olympic and Commonwealth Games champions in various distance events, especially in 800 m, 1,500 m, 3,000 m steeplechase, 5,000 m, 10,000 m and the marathon. Kenyan athletes (particularly Kalenjin) continue to dominate the world of distance running, although competition from Morocco and Ethiopia has reduced this supremacy. Kenya's best-known athletes included the four-time women's Boston Marathon winner and two-time world champion Catherine Ndereba, 800m world record holder David Rudisha, former Marathon world record-holder Paul Tergat, and John Ngugi.
Kenya won several medals during the Beijing Olympics, six gold, four silver and four bronze, making it Africa's most successful nation in the 2008 Olympics. New athletes gained attention, such as Pamela Jelimo, the women's 800m gold medalist who went ahead to win the IAAF Golden League jackpot, and Samuel Wanjiru who won the men's marathon. Retired Olympic and Commonwealth Games champion Kipchoge Keino helped usher in Kenya's ongoing distance dynasty in the 1970s and was followed by Commonwealth Champion Henry Rono's spectacular string of world record performances. Lately, there has been controversy in Kenyan athletics circles, with the defection of a number of Kenyan athletes to represent other countries, chiefly Bahrain and Qatar. The Kenyan Ministry of Sports has tried to stop the defections, but they have continued anyway, with Bernard Lagat the latest, choosing to represent the United States. Most of these defections occur because of economic or financial factors. Decisions by the Kenyan government to tax athletes' earnings may also be a reason for defection. Some elite Kenyan runners who cannot qualify for their country's strong national team find it easier to qualify by running for other countries.
Kenya has been a dominant force in women's volleyball within Africa, with both the clubs and the national team winning various continental championships in the past decade. The women's team has competed at the Olympics and World Championships though without any notable success. Cricket is another popular sport, also ranking as the most successful team sport. Kenya has competed in the Cricket World Cup since 1996. They upset some of the world's best teams and reached the semi-finals of the 2003 tournament. They won the inaugural World Cricket League Division 1 hosted in Nairobi and participated in the World T20. They also participated in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011. Their current captain is Rakep Patel.
Kenya is represented by Lucas Onyango as a professional rugby league player who plays with Oldham R.L.F.C.. Besides the former European Super League team, he has played for Widnes Vikings and rugby union with Sale Sharks. Rugby union is increasing in popularity, especially with the annual Safari Sevens tournament. The Kenya Sevens team ranked 9th in IRB Sevens World Series for the 2006 season. In 2016, the team beat Fiji at the Singapore Sevens finals, making Kenya the second African nation after South Africa to win a World Series championship. Kenya was also a regional powerhouse in football. However, its dominance has been eroded by wrangles within the now defunct Kenya Football Federation, leading to a suspension by FIFA which was lifted in March 2007.
In the motor rallying arena, Kenya is home to the world-famous Safari Rally, commonly acknowledged as one of the toughest rallies in the world. It was a part of the World Rally Championship for many years until its exclusion after the 2002 event owing to financial difficulties. Some of the best rally drivers in the world have taken part in and won the rally, such as Björn Waldegård, Hannu Mikkola, Tommi Mäkinen, Shekhar Mehta, Carlos Sainz and Colin McRae. Although the rally still runs annually as part of the Africa rally championship, the organisers are hoping to be allowed to rejoin the World Rally championship in the next couple of years.
Nairobi has hosted several major continental sports events, including the FIBA Africa Championship 1993 where Kenya's national basketball team finished in the top four, its best performance to date.
Kenyans generally have three meals in a day—breakfast in the morning (kiamsha kinywa), lunch in the afternoon (chakula cha mchana) and supper in the evening (chakula cha jioni or known simply as "chajio"). In between, they have the 10 o'clock tea (chai ya saa nne) and 4 p.m. tea (chai ya saa kumi). Breakfast is usually tea or porridge with bread, chapati, mahamri, boiled sweet potatoes or yams. Githeri is a common lunch time dish in many households while Ugali with vegetables, sour milk (Mursik), meat, fish or any other stew is generally eaten by much of the population for lunch or supper. Regional variations and dishes also exist.
In western Kenya: among the Luo, fish is a common dish; among the Kalenjin who dominate much of the Rift Valley Region, mursik—sour milk—is a major drink.
In cities such as Nairobi, there are fast food restaurants, including Steers, KFC, and Subway. There are also many fish and chip shops.