';
×
× Digital News Videos Opinions Cartoons Education U-Report E-Paper Lifestyle & Entertainment Nairobian SDE Eve Woman Travelog TV Stations KTN Home KTN News BTV KTN Farmers TV Radio Stations Radio Maisha Spice FM Vybez Radio Enterprise VAS E-Learning Digger Classified The Standard Group Corporate Contact Us Rate Card Vacancies DCX O.M Portal Corporate Email RMS
×

Arts & Culture
When she first played the eight-stringed instrument in public, male chauvinists sought to know her mental status.

Nyatiti Player Jennifer Atieno Sanna

When she first played the eight-stringed instrument in public, male chauvinists sought to know her mental status.

They complained that she had gone against Luo culture barring women from playing the Nyatiti. It is rare, almost an abomination to find a woman playing the Nyatiti.

But nothing could cow Jennifer Atieno Sanna. Sitting on a low traditional stool and dressed in cultural regalia, she belted one melody after another, attracting a huge crowd at a Kisumu hotel. Slowly, she won the hearts of those viewing her as a cultural rebel.

SEE ALSO: Stars who came for music and found eternal resting place

That was weeks ago. Today, Atieno - known to her fans as Ati Sanna, is one of the most sought after entertainers because of her unique performances. We caught up with her at the hotel where she was performing as part of her campaign to preserve dying Luo music traditions.

“Our culture is our identity and our identity makes us because that is who we are, so we should not be ignorant and shy away from it,” she said. The 40-year-old Nyatiti player stands out among many other legendary songstresses like Suzanna Owiyo in embracing Luo culture through Nyatiti music.

Today’s society

“I am a cultural ambassador and my music embraces our Luo tradition; my songs entail indigenous information that has been ignored by today’s society,” said the mother of four.

“I started by doing jazz music and I can confidently say that I am able to do any genre of instrumental music and Afro fusion at large,” she said.

SEE ALSO: Nameless: I am taking this time to learn, reflect and love

In 2010, Ati Sanna ventured into playing Nyatiti after learning from her father, her mentor.

“My father was a jazz musician, he was a saxophone singer, and my grandmother was a dodo singer. My grandfather was a horn blower. All of them motivated me to venture into traditional music,” she said. The folk singer mostly does live performances, and one of her outstanding songs is Bidii, meaning hard work in Swahili. Ati Sanna, who will launch her first music album next year, said she recorded the song in 2015 at Dynamic Studio in Nairobi then later on performed at Alliance Francaise.

“In 2017, I was called to perform at Alliance Francaise, where I collaborated with various international jazz artists,” she said.

The growing Kisumu film industry has also embraced Luo culture through writing and producing comedy dramas.

Robbie Odongo, a film writer and producer, has won the hearts of many by his latest dholuo comedy drama, Jonarobi.

SEE ALSO: Music umbrella organisations deny receiving Uhuru’s Sh100m pledge

“I write and produce vernacular films because it is the only way of telling our stories. Besides, some information may be distorted while passed through different languages like English,” he said.

Willis Otondi, Chairman of the Luo Council of Elders, said he is impressed by efforts made by youth to embrace culture.

“The only way of keeping culture alive is by telling traditional stories to the young generation through practice and action, where they can easily learn and copy,” he said.

Ken Otieno from the Ministry of Tourism, Sports and Culture, said an annual cultural festival will be held at the end of October.

“The event will include exhibition of traditional food, art, medicine, dancers and singers,” he said.

SEE ALSO: Legacy lives on: Veteran musicians who died in the past two months

He said in November, Kisumu will host the Cinemadamare, an annual international film festival comprising 200 film makers from all over the world.


Nyatiti Jennifer Atieno Sanna Music