First off, we had a great opportunity to interview Steve, the Singing Wells Project Manager, on the way to our first session.
Interview with Steve Kivutia
Steve was born in 1982 in Nairobi but his ‘home’ is the village of Kakamenga; his father moved villages to Moi’s Bridge (names after Kenyan President at the time). He was born in Mata Hospital and sent to Maseno Highschool, graduating in 2000. During school he loved Alpha Blondy, a reggae artist from the Ivory Coast, but also loved Hip Hop. He took a gap year and the joined a university to take computer classes in 2002-3. He tried to join the Air Force but his mother wouldn’t let him sign up so he joined Creative Edge a graphics design firm, and then Smoke and Mirrors a multi-media company in 2003-2004. In 2005 Steve moved to Eye 4 Design but later that same year he met Tabu through a friend who sang with Tabu’s band, He knew of Tabu because of his legendary status within Kenyan music. Tabu invited Steve into a meeting where he brought some songs he had worked on. Steve was still a big Hip Hop fan and loved R Kelley. He also liked Salif Keita, an afro-pop singer/songwriter from Mali, his only ‘African music’ influence. Steve’s first job at Ketebul was as an intern working with Jesse and Gabriel on the Spotlight on Kenyan Music series. His feature artist was Makedem who ‘blew him away’ and he still views Ohanglaman as his favourite album. He also says Jesse was the perfect coach, so passionate about good music, but so meticulous about creating great music. Steve has worked on all the Spotlight series and fell in love with Iwdi Aching, a lovely female vocalist who, he says, showed him that African tribal music didn’t need to be ‘old.’ He feels that Singing Wells is the next part of his musical journey. He talks about it as ‘discovering the source’ and ‘training his ears.’ He pointed out that Francis Sembagare from the Birara Dancers (Music of the Batwa) was closer to Hip Hop than much of today’s music. And he also points out the Joginda Boys (recorded for Singing Wells in Kisumu, Lake Victoria) were amazing and more modern than most music today.
Today was the first day we used the ‘clapperboard’. First a little background to this…… Singing Wells has always been about the music so our initial focus was on audio recording. We invested in first class audio equipment and can record using 8 mics directly into Pro Tools. But during the March Pilot programme, we realised that the visual experience was as important as the audio. So for our November trip we invested in two more digital cameras and worked out our new Camera 1-3 approach. Camera 1 is static group shot. Camera 2 focuses on instruments. Camera 3 is context. This worked extremely well but created a separate issue – lots of cameras all shooting the same take created the classic problem of linking camera to audio. We thought about this and decied ‘what would be great is if we could write the name of the song on a sheet and then make a sound that linked all cameras to audio.’ Someone pointed out that what we needed was a clapperboard – something the film industry had discovered 100 years ago and the solutions to all our problems! We were chastened. We asked Nick to be in charge of ‘the clapperboard’ and he got very good at shouting out takes, despite a lot of abuse from the Camera Crew. We now refer to him as ‘Clapper Man’.
We need to talk about the rain. We were completely rained out today. A deluge. We had the tent. We hid under the tent. The tent blew away. Everyone scattered. As we write this we are using blow-dryers to dry very wet equipment. All our “world famous” Singing Wells T-shirts were soaked. All the music groups were soaked. All the cows were soaked. 50 Cows was soaked. A deluge. It meant we had to abandon the day, leaving a separate village and two groups stranded and wet. As we write this we are working out how to see them this week.
Chelagat Lebo – ‘Chela’
Finally, we have been joined by Chela. She’s amazing and was there taking down the tent during the deluge. It should be noted that most of the Singing Wells crew were in the vans by this time. Chela is a professional documentary maker and Kathy interviewed her in detail.
That’s it. We are spending our evening backing up files, recharging batteries and testing Tusker beers to make sure the high quality standards continue everywhere in Kenya. So far, so good.
Singing Wells team