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Kenya's rich culture on display as curtains fall on music festival

Keya Tiwi Secondary School performing on the 94th Kenya National Music Festival hosted in Kisumu on November 23, 2022. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

Kenya’s rich culture and amazing heritage were on display as curtains yesterday fell on the 94th Kenya National Music Festival hosted in Kisumu.

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua graced the gala performance at the ‘Best of the Best’ gala State concert at Kisumu Girls High School.

Alongside Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha, Mr Gachagua and a host of officials from the Ministry of Education gave the festival the ending it deserved as students across the nation got to feel the importance of participating in such event.

It was the last act of the great festival that enthralled the nation - and it demonstrated the capacity to charm and amaze.

With Kisumu City quickly turning into the next tourist destination providing so much more in terms of places to visit, what to see, and activities to do, it was easy to see why the Kenya Music Festival executive chose the lakeside city.

This year’s event was highly successful and paved the way for a more exciting, fun-filled and widely publicised Kisumu as a one-stop tourist destination.

Kisumu offers amazing natural, geographical, and cultural diversity, offering you just as much as other tourist sites in Kenya, if not more.

Famous for its fresh tilapia, Dunga Beach on the shores of Lake Victoria was thronged by students in school buses who had gone to have a bite as the festival ended.

Students from across the country showcased the cultural heritage of different communities ranging from Luhya, Luo, Maasai, Pokot, Mijikenda, India and many more through their respective traditional costumes.

Bububu Primary School from Tana River County kicked off the gala with a Kamba folk song called Igetha Bemba as Olmoran Secondary School from Laikipia presented a Pokot folk song entitled Chemrye.

Both songs are normally sung by young men and women during happy occasions.

They are also performed during weddings to praise the bride or celebrations to young warriors.

Joshua Mutua, a Standard Six pupil at Miangeni Primary School from Machakos, left the audience ajar with his excellent solo verse titled Wendo kwa Syana advocating for parents to stop using their phones too much while at home and give attention to their children.

Santa Maria Secondary School were fortunate to have been photographed together with DP Gachagua after their Keiyo folk song titled, Tumdo, impressed the nation’s second-in-command.

“We are very happy because to be near the Deputy President is not a joke. The song is sung to celebrate a bumper harvest, wedding and birth of a new child among the Keiyo community,” said Diana Kimaiyo, the soloist.

Narok High School from Rift Valley was not left behind after moving the audience with a traditional Maasai dance performed by morans.

 “This is a song normally performed to honour Maasai morans as they graduate to junior elders,” said Abigael Morompi, Narok High School music teacher.

The school was second during the 2019 nationals hosted at Kabarak University and represented Kenya at the 2017 East Africa event in Uganda.

Cultural songs

“The students are always passionate about singing. Rarely do you see young boys like those who we have at Narok High who can spend their time off practising not only Maasai but also divergent cultural songs. I am proud of them,” said Ms Morompi.

National Youth Service from Nairobi also moved the audience after performing Luhya dance entitled Kamabeka, which translates to shaking shoulders.

“This is a happy song associated with the Luhya community during weddings, harvesting and public events that bring people together,” said soloist Meshack Wafula.

Peter Kariuki Secondary School from Murang’a County got the audience on their feet with their top-notch performance of the Isukuti dance under the African Traditional Cultural Group Dance from Luo, Luhya and Suba communities’ category.

A popular piece among Kenyans and which is always performed and danced to during national events, sports games and public gatherings, the Isukuti dance is a traditional celebratory performance practised among the Isukha and Idakho communities of Western Kenya.

It takes the form of a fast-paced, energetic and passionate dance accompanied by drumming and singing.

Speaking after the school’s performance, Peter Kariuki Secondary School principal John Mwangi, who accompanied his students, said they practised Isukuti as a way of teaching and promoting the Luhya culture not only within the school but also nationally despite being a school from Central Kenya.

“The song is an integral tool for cultural transmission and harmonious coexistence between families and communities. This is why it was fitting for us to perform this song. Being a little-known school, I am pleased we are at the nationals,” said Mr Mwangi.

Kenya Navy Primary School from Mombasa, which is trained by Sergeant Amina Said of the Kenya Navy, played Jaljilo, a folk song from the Borana community.

Music and dance adjudicator Sylvester Otieno from Kenyatta University weighed in on the performance of schools in Kisumu, saying it was a success but urged future partners, sponsors and the government to award top performers beyond certificates and trophies.

“We had a very short time to host the festivals and therefore to have such a fantastic show in Kisumu is a plus for everyone involved,” he said.

“However, my prayer and wish is that Kenya Music Festival partners and future sponsors would award winners even more, taking into account sponsorship of fees, travelling abroad for exposure, buying new music equipment and commercialising the show,” said Mr Otieno from the department of music and dance.

Running under the theme, “Kenya My Pride My Future”, the event sought to celebrate some of the unique things about the country.

Peter Wanjohi, the chair of the festivals, said the festival would play a crucial role in developing talents of young learners and assured parents that it was the best step for the children.

Gachagua said he was impressed by the festival and urged schools to continue promoting music.