A new Kenyan sound on the way
Posted Thursday, October 30 2008 at 17:59
Oususa says that Spotlight on Kenyan Music Volume IV has deliberately gone for traditional songs and rhythms for a much richer blend of African roots music into contemporary arrangement to seek out a genre that could become typically Kenyan.
“We believe this is the way to go,” he asserts before adding, “The reason music from West Africa has been generally successful and easy to identify, for example, lies in the fact that the artists there borrow heavily from traditional cultural styles.”
He says musicians like of Salif Keita of Mali and Senegal’s Youssou N’Dour owe their successes to this very fact. The same could be said of music from South Africa, which is easily identifiable from the first note.
“We need to adopt a similar approach to attract a unique appeal,” Osusa says.
And as Osusa and Alliance Française continue working towards giving the country a musical identity, Sali Oyugi, whose music draws a lot from traditional sounds, could have her third album out by the end of the year.
She says her latest production will be even more deeply enriched with traditional rhythms than the previous ones, and will feature her double heritage from the Luo of Kenya and the Zigua of Tanzania.
Oyugi may not be a prolific musician, but the few songs she has released, coupled with her stage performances, have won her praise, especially abroad. The marks come from her African style, according to reviews.
When she began her music career in 1993, she too received valuable sponsorship from the French government through the French Cultural and Cooperation Centre in Nairobi.
The centre has made quite a name for itself in Kenya as a sponsor and organiser of cultural events, especially in the area of performing arts.
Budding musicians, especially those who are culturally oriented, often find a welcoming attitude at the centre. Indeed, the number of musicians who focus on this type of music, and who have used French support as a springboard to the limelight and useful exposure, both locally and internationally, is worth noting.
Musicians like Abbi Nyinza, Suzanna Owiyo, Iddi Achieng’, Yunasi, Achieng’ Abura, and Makadem,are among those who have received significant sponsorship from Alliance Française.
The centre receives support from the French Embassy in Kenya for cultural and artistic exchange projects, and the gardens at Alliance Française have come to be identified as a regular entertainment spot for culturally-oriented events, so much so that it has lately been attracting a following of evening revellers who have interest in such performances.
“I don’t know. Sometimes I get this feeling that we are overdoing it,” a staffer at Alliance Française once remarked during a chat about their consistent support for Kenyan performing artists.
Indeed, the expansion of performances in Kenya that blend authentic African styles with contemporary forms, often in music and pure dance, is to a large extent the result of the organisational and financial support the emerging groups receive from the French Cultural and Cooperation Centre.
When contemporary Maasai dance performer and choreographer Fernando Anuang’a toured a number of African countries last year, the logistics — both financial and planning, were handled by the FCCC.
Also worthy of mention is Germany’s Goethe-Institut, which has also given Kenyan artists considerable support. On November 2, the Goethe Institut will host the relatively new, three-member Rateng Band as they launch their debut album titled Thumology.
According to a brief from Goethe-Institut, Rateng Band, formed in 2006, is comprises three members whose style transforms “traditional Luo music into a contemporary acoustic sound.”
It is ironical that news about an emerging “Afro-fusion” band in the country should be broken by a foreigner, who also supports traditional rhythms.