By Edwin Makiche
The evening fire casts shadows of those seated around it on the wall of granny’s hut. Save for the buzzing of the night insects and bleating goats, the other sound here is the fading voice of the elderly woman as she narrates a chilling ogre story to her enthusiastic grandchildren.
Occasionally, she changes her tone to imitate the ogre, sending jitters among her captivated audience.
This was common when we grew up. Generally, children nowadays have no such privilege. They are bogged down by loads of homework and grandmother lives far away. Others spend their evenings on the coach watching soap operas or browsing the Internet for entertainment.
They might never know how important oral tradition, one of the key pillars of African literature, was in teaching young people moral lessons.
Through the genre —folktales, folksongs, proverbs and tongue twisters, among others — provided a connection between the young and elderly. This relationship nurtured the children as they grew up.
The oral tradition is now found in a few literature books. With the older generation being phased out by age, it is alarming that their knowledge may be buried with them.
Traditional music and drama has also been greatly diluted by Western influence. The annual drama and music festivals don’t capture the real tradition.
And that is why one woman, passionate about tradition, has decided to bring this genre, which she defines as the facet of the rich African heritage, to the family table.
As if racing against time, Janeth Rono, 32, goes around villages in Bomet collecting narratives, folksongs and proverbs from the older people and documenting it, word for word.
She says modern ‘traditional’ rhythms have taken toll on historic Kalenjin accompaniments such as Ndureret (the flute) and Kimeng’eng, which might be phased out if not preserved urgently.
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