Happy new year from Singing Wells

Happy new year! We hope your 2016s have gotten off to a good start, and that you’ve been bringing in the year by listening to lots of traditional East African music.

Before we start posting exciting news about the upcoming year, here’s a quick recap of what we got up to in 2015:

1. We went discovering the lost music of the Ugandan Kingdoms

Musisi's work: drummers setting up to perform

In Nov/ Dec 2015 we travelled between Kampala and Jinja in Uganda in search of the lost music and musicians of the royal palaces. We posted regular updates about our journey and the incredible people we met along the way. You can read them on our Field Reports section. Here’s some further background written the beginning of our journey to discover the lost royal drums of the Buganda Kingdom.

2. We met Musisi and heard his story


Musisi is one of the last remaining drummers of the Buganda Kingdom in Uganda. He performed for the King during his time at the Buganda Palace before fleeing in fear when the government arrived to shut the palace down. Here’s is Musisi’s incredible story.

3. We checked in on the preservation of the Bigwala trumpets


The Bigwala is a trumpet-style instrument made from gourds. Singing Wells has been supporting the work of James Isabirye to preserve this fantastic traditional instrument, so in 2015 we went back to Uganda to check on the progress of the project.

4. We learned about the art of drum making

Drum making

During our 2015 trip to Uganda, we had the privilege of being able to watch and record the making of the Entenga drums. It’s an incredibly skilled job, requiring the maker to cut up a tree and shape the wood, soak and cut cow hide to size and string the drum – ensuring it’s in tune. Here’s how it’s done.

5. We visited the Ketebul team in Nairobi and interviewed Tabu


In early 2015, one of our team members moved to Nairobi and so went to visit the Ketebul studios and meet the team. Harriet interviewed Tabu, who talked about some of the most exciting upcoming artists in Nairobi who are using traditional music to influence their work, as well as the importance of the Singing Wells project overall. Here’s Tabu’s interview.

6. We surpassed 500,000 YouTube hits!


In September 2015 we were delighted to see we had surpassed 500,000 hits on the Singing Wells YouTube channel. Our channel features videos from our trips across Kenya and Uganda, including visiting the tribes of the Kenyan Coast, Central and Eastern Uganda, our work to share the music of the Batwa community and the Luo community. We’ve told the story of repatriating Kenya’s music heritage after 50 years and celebrated magic moments – where we’ve found an extra-special artist on our journeys and recorded their work.

7. We spoke to a young Kenyan about the future of traditional music


During our outings in Nairobi, we’ve gotten into the habit of chatting to young urban Nairobians about their opinion of traditional music. So, yes, we spend a lot of time speaking to complete strangers. We had a particularly compelling conversation with entrepreneur Edwin Maganjo. Here are his thoughts on the future of Kenya’s traditional music.


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Published in: News & Views