We take a look at our first year of field operations and pull together some musical highlights…
INTRODUCTION: We are now approaching the start of our second full year of field visits for the Singing Wells Project. It seems like a good time to step back to review the goals of the project and our progress and learnings. For those of you who are new to our work, this is a good place to start.
OVERVIEW OF THE FIRST YEAR OF ACTIVITY: By the end of March 2012, we will have completed the following sets of field visits:
- March 2011 in Malindi, Kenya: This was our our pilot project, working our way across the Malindi coast recording 8 separate musical groups. Our major learnings here were: A) our audio equipment kit was extremely good, including when working with a generator. B) but we needed to raise additional funds to significantly upgrade our video capabilities. In this early pilot, we did a very good job of ‘preserving’ the cultural heritage of the region, but also discovered the importance of what we called ‘Influences’ sessions, where we work with local tribal artists to create more contempory songs. Read more here.
The first video is a good example of us working on ‘preservation’ and the second is a taster of more contemporary music, which we have used for fund raising (they look the same because they share a screen shot, but they are different!)
- Lake Turkana Cultural Festival, Kenya: The Ketebul Music team travelled to Lake Turkana in May 2011 for the Singing Wells project and recorded some wonderful groups at the festival, particularly tribal dance. Read more about the Festival here.
- The Batwa Project in Kisoro, Uganda: This visit was partially funded by the Institute for International Education (read more by clicking here). We recorded music from 6 Batwa communities from the Kisoro district and subsequently invited 10 musicians back to Nairobi to record them in the Ketebul Music studios with professional musicians. Below we’ve included three separate videos. The first is a recording of Francis Sembargare with the Birara Dancers. The second shows the ‘Togetherness’ group. And the third shows Winyo and Jovah from the Mperwa Dancers singing together in one of our Influences sessions:
- The Luo Project, Lake Victoria, Kenya: We travelled to the Nyanza region, recording the Luo tribes, capturing the Nyatiti and Orutu in full action. Please read here for more. We also worked hard to find tribal musicians who were creating music that sounded wonderfully fresh and modern. Much of this we captured in what we called ‘Magic Minutes.’ Below, you will discover the Otacho Young Stars, with their modern take on the Orutu. But then watch the magic of the Nyatiti and Luo drums in two ‘magic minute’ sessions:
- The Kalenjin project, Great Rift Valley, Kenya: Scheduled for March 2012, we will be travelling to the Great Rift Valley to record the music of the Kalenjin tribes. The majority the world famous Kenyan athletes are from this tribe and we will be capturing the traditional music of their region as they prepare for Olympic gold at London 2012.
To date, we have recorded roughly 150 songs, across 25 tribal groups, with roughly 20 high quality performance videos, and hundreds of hours of local interviews. All of this is gradually moving ‘on line’ in our Music Map of East Africa. (See Discover the Music). More importantly, we now have a fully trained team of Kenyan sound and video engineers, with all the necessary expertise and equipment to do full field recordings (up to 8 microphones and 3 digital cameras) throughout East Africa.
PROJECT BENEFITS TO EAST AFRICA : We are on a journey. When we started, we knew the critical importance of capturing the cultural legacy of East Africa with tribal music, before it was lost to all of us forever. We were reminded of the importance of this in December, when one of the most extraordinary musicians we’ve recorded, Okumu K’Orengo, died only weeks after our visit. Ironically, his last recording with us was a funeral song that our team at Ketebul Music felt was the best version they’d ever heard sung. Here it is:
But, this journey is not just about preservation of the music. We are continuously reminded that this music is vibrant, fresh and contemporary. This was on full display for us at the close of last year when we brought 10 musicians from the Batwa communities of southern Uganda to Nairobi to record some of their songs with Kenyan musicians. Here are three examples of the audio from these sessions with video to follow:
1. Tiny Moses, Challenger and DJ, with the Ketebul Musicans, including Bishop and Winyo:
2. Jovah, with Jesse on Piano:
3. Francis Sembagare from Birara Dancers with Jesse from Ketebul Music on Guitar:
We hope you are excited by our journey and enjoying the music. If you’d like to support our artists or the project please don’t hesitate to contact us.
The Singing Wells Team