Kenyatta University clinched 36 trophies to win the best university award in the just concluded Kenya Music Festival.
Presenting more than 40 items in various categories, the university that prides itself with an annual cultural week and a rich faculty of Performing Arts and Media studies not only produced the largest number of items, but also raised the bar in terms of choral and vocal quality.
One of their best performances was the Buganda cultural song Nsambira which is often performed during a Luganda wedding in praise of the bride and to wish the newlyweds a prosperous life.
The performance directed by Dr Elijah Adongo and led by soloist Melvin Turphena was applauded for the synchrony of voices and warm, entertaining harmony.
“I was so overwhelmed and happy at the same time time performing before the President at State House last wednesday,” recalls Truphena, who is a third year music student at KU.
According to Dr Adongo, the special ingredient that made the performance tick was his ability to ‘tame’ the voices of the over 40 singers to a level where shouting was avoided.
Adongo, whose alma mater is the University of Florida, said he worked hard to achieve excellence in choral performance with the Kenyatta University choir by working on the basics including tone colour, rhythm, pitch precision and dynamics.
The choir boasts of accomplished trainers including Dr Isaiah Oyugi and Sylvester Otieno, and student composers and conductors including Faith Kairu, Benjamin Ouma, Patrick Namenya and Andrew Kizito.
KU also took centre stage in the category of own composition where MaryAnn Wambua, a student with visual disability, swept the audience off their feet as she belted tunes from her own writing titled Before I Go.
Performing in the new class dubbed KMF Pop Talent Show, MaryAnn sang about her own life and asked why society is discriminating against people like her.
She was backed by four background vocalists namely Maureen Wambui, Dorcas Sharon, Abigael Rono, and Rose Achieng singing to an originally produced sound track.
“This is one of the Talanta Hela inspired categories at the festival and we want to immediately monetise this content,” said Cabinet Secretary (CS) for Youth Affairs and Arts, Ababu Namwamba, during the State Concert in Nakuru.
Listening to Double Double originally sang by Congolese Nyboma and arranged and adopted for choral rendition by maestro Sylvetser Otieno, the audience was wowed by the sheer talent and work undertaken to achieve such high level of dynamic performance.
In the song, Nyboma is lamenting after discovering the love of his life is cheating on him with his best friend. He asks why all this, when he had done so much for her.
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And in yet another new class of Zinazovuma, an offshoot of the Zilizopendwa where music topping charts since 2006 to date are arranged and adapted in a similar fashion, the university took gold with Tanzania’s Diamond Platnumz hit single Number One, also directed by Sylvester Otieno.
The University also won in several other categories including arrangement of male voices, Kikuyu folk song, solo African string, Kisii dance, Mijikenda folk song, piano solo, own choice sacred, advanced original composition among other categories.
In total the university presented 52 items and won over 30 of the categories.
During the Wednesday State Winners Concert in Nakuru, KU Vice Chancellor Prof Paul Wainaina received the Best University award at the festival from President Ruto.
“I am proud of the achievements of the mighty KU choir at this year’s festival,” said Dr Wambugu Miano, Head of the Music department at the University.
Adding: “The big win demonstrates the level of musicianship at the department and quality of standards, as well as consistency in the university management led by Prof Wainaina.”