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Cook with passion for music helps varsity choir sing its way to fame

By Charles Ngeno

Narok, Kenya: When David Tamba, then working as a cook in the catering department at Moi University, was transferred to the Narok University Constituent College in 2009, his heart sank.

Tamba had been a dedicated member of the university’s choir and to him, the transfer heralded an end to a pastime he cherished.

“There were very few students when I joined Narok University College (Now Maasai Mara University) and I thought I would not sing again,” said Tamba.

But never one to give up, Tamba says immediately he reported to his new station, he approached the Dean of Students and asked to establish a choir.  Much to his surprise, the Dean endorsed the idea and even asked him to be the patron.

He then put up a notice inviting students interested in joining the choir to audition.

 “The shock on the faces of some of those who turned up was discernable, with some dropping the idea altogether and instead choosing to be spectators,” he says.

But he would later win the confidence of those who signed up after proving his mettle as an accomplished musician.  And he has never looked back since.

200 members

While the choir initially had only 24 singers, today it boasts a bountiful 200 members.

The choir’s first public appearance was during the 2010 Madaraka Day celebrations in Narok where they performed Mbinguni Hakuna TKK (There is no bribery in heaven).

The song warns those who engage in the bribery to ditch the vice or risk facing the wrath of God.

“The public demanded that we perform another song but unfortunately we had only prepared to present one.

They then demanded that we perform the Mbinguni Hakuna TKK again and we obliged. By the end of the ceremony, we had sang the number four times,” he says, chuckling.

In 2011, the choir’s attempt to take part in the the Kenya National Schools and Colleges Music Festival came a cropper due to lack of funds

But lady luck would come knocking on the choir’s door when the Presidential Events Organising committee slotted newly chartered universities to perform during the 2011 Mashujaa Day celebrations.

Riveting performance

Although Narok University had not been given a charter yet, Tamba’s name preceded him in musical circles and that is how the choir earned a slot to perform at the function.

“We were told to propose a song to present at the function and we selected three. When the day came, our performance was among the best,” said Tamba, adding that their riveting performance prompted the university to buy them uniforms.

Tampa who doubles up the as the choir’s director says, “I liked music since childhood. I later studied it at Maseno School under the tutorship Mr Artickson, a Briton.”

He recalls that while in Form Three at Maseno school, the institution’s choir, in which he was the conductor, emerged tops in the annual music festival.

In the 2012 National Music Festivals held in Meru, the choir also scooped several awards.  The catering professional promises to give other universities a run for their money in this year’s fete being held in Nakuru.

Most of the songs that the choir presents revolve around patriotism, heroism, peace, love and unity.

But it has not been all rosy for the musician as singers leave college upon completion of their training, forcing him to scout for fresh talent.

Tamba, a father of four, attributes the success of the choir to discipline and dedication

“Lateness or making and taking phone calls are not allowed during the one hour session that the choir trains every day. We also put God first in everything we do,” says the director.

The 46-year-old from Lugari, Kakamega County also composes songs on contemporary issues. One such songs is Amani kwa Ajili ya Watoto (peace for the sake of the children) which highlights the trauma children go through during civil strife, which he composed after the 2008 post-election violence.

Tamba is also the proprietor of Semi-Breve Music School in Narok that offers lessons in piano, guitar, song writing and voice to upcoming musicians. There is no going back for this chef turned accomplised musician as he seeks to win even more awards.