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New sound of Akorino music

ARTS & CULTURE
By James Wanzala | August 26th 2016
Akurinu De Band members, Phillip Mwangi, Peter Kamau and Phillip Waweru, the trio behind the popular song 'Muk?r?n? N?. [PHOTO:COURTESY]

Gone are the days when Akorino were known for being reserved and conservative.

In days gone by, the sect shunned publicity and it was difficult to get them to talk, something that may have stirred up the misconceptions about their faith.

Even their singing was spontaneous and their songs had very little influence from other genres of music, but that has changed with the emergence of a younger generation of Akorino musicians.

The way their youths are participating in events like weddings and music performances is changing too, signalling a metamorphosis of the Akorino music in a revolutionary fashion.

M?k?rin? (literally translated, Kikuyu for ‘Who is the Saviour?’) by Ak?rin? De Band is just one of the current hit songs receiving huge viewership and airplay on local vernacular TV and radio stations as well as on social media.

The song by Peter P.K, Isaac ‘Izzoh’ and Waweru ‘Wech’ has a different style of composition, with a bias towards modern pop style and does not necessarily rely on revelation or scripture readings.

This new style is reflected in the music of younger artistes such as Hezeh Ndung’u, Dan Gift (who has since left the sect) and Allan Aaron who draws inspirations to sing outside their sect with a mixture of hip-hop and pop fused into their music.

The music is changing and they even have replaced the solo drum with disc-jockeys like DJ Ng’ash. Perhaps it is a reflection of the bigger picture where they are venturing into politics, medicine, banking among other ‘modern’ fields.

Danny Gift, whose real name is Daniel Ng’ang’a, is one good example of contemporary Kenyan gospel musicians. He was born in Mwiki, Nairobi and raised in a strict Akorino family.

He ‘rebelled’ in 2008, removed his headscarf but still stuck to Christianity, a move that put him at a crossroads with his family for more than two years since he had worn the turban for 21 years.

Today, he is a full-time praise-and-worship leader at Divine Destiny Church in Kasarani. Danny Gift describes his music as a ‘mixture of taarab and bongo’ music.

UNIQUE DRESSING

However, even with the modern musicians, there is still a certain character of their music that has been retained especially in the vocal style, that hymn-like delivery, which remains distinct from other forms of Kenyan music.

One of the vestments is a white turban that is used to identify Akorino as peace makers. The turban is a band of cloth wrapped around the head several times into a neat headdress. The women wear white headscarfs and white ankle-length robes.

Another vestment is the robe called ‘kanju’, adapted from the Swahili ‘kanzu’, which is used during church services. The Akorino are well known for their production of spiritual hymns in the Gikuyu dialect.

“Initially we used ndarama (drums) and karing’aring’a (metallic ring used as a musical instrument) but today we are now using a set of drums and keyboard,” says Lilo Wakorino, Divine Family’s Revolutionised Dancers crew leader.

Lilo, however, is quick to explain that this does not mean that they are moving away from their faith but rather adapting with the changing times.

“It’s because we are living in a new generation. Sometime back, our people would not go to school, but today they are going to school and getting educated. They are now using that education in a newer and more different and open way than it used to be,” says Lilo, revealing that the change was gradual because elders of the sect did not accept anyone singing in reggae beat and that when Allan Aaron did W? Mutheru (You are holy), he was really fought before some accepted and appreciated what he does.

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