Only in her twenties, Christine Kamau is one of the few female musicians who is not afraid to blow the trumpet. The vibrant afro-jazz trumpeter and composer talked to FLORENCE ONYANGO about her life, family and music
Where did you learn to play the trumpet?
I’ve been playing trumpet for close to eight years now and the saxophone for about eleven years. I learnt the trumpet at the Kenya Conservatoire of Music under Kagema Gichuhi. I taught myself the alto saxophone and trombone. I’m also a classically trained pianist. I initially started out by taking private piano lessons in Nakuru where I grew up.
I went to Limuru Girls’ School, and I was the music prefect there. I already knew how to play the piano, but I learnt the other instruments after high school.
What made you change from the piano to the trumpet?
It was somehow a natural progression from the piano. I started with the piano up until Grade Eight in terms of music class, and then I just took an interest in the saxophone and picked up on it. It was simple curiosity I guess, plus I absolutely love playing horns.
Why do you think most girls pick instruments like the recorder or the flute and avoid the trumpet or the saxophone?
Socialisation. In many bands, the horns (trumpets, saxophones, trombones) tend to be played by boys so I guess with not many girls playing them, horns have come to be viewed as being ‘masculine’. As a result girls tend to pick up the other wind instruments.
In my opinion and from experience, I think women can make really good horn players! For example, Ingrid Jensen is a world famous trumpeter from USA and Sarah Morrow is a jazz trombonist who plays in international jazz circles.
And this is what you do as a full-time career?
Yes. Music is what I have always wanted to do.
What are your aspirations for the future?
To record more albums, to travel and get to perform internationally.
What has been the best aspect of being in the music industry?
Personally, I would say being able to do what I love to do as my career, which doesn’t feel at all like work. I enjoy it a lot.
Do you get some skeptism because of your gender from other saxophonists?
No, on the contrary, people have been quite supportive.
And what perception has the audience had of a woman playing the saxophone when you perform?