22
Jan
2016

The Singing Wells Project : Rediscovering the lost Royal Drums of the Buganda Kingdom

The Singing Wells Project completed a succesful trip yet again and this time the focus was on Uganda. The Singing Wells project, now in it’s  4th year, is a partnership between Ketebul Music and Abubilla Music Foundation, which aims at preserving East Africa’s cultural music heritage now and for the future.

The journey to Uganda began on the 28th of November, 2015 when the team which included, Tabu Osusa, Founder, Ketebul Music Jimmy Allen, Founder Abubilla Music Foundation , Steve Kivutia, Patrick Ondiek, Hunter Allen and Nick Abonyo assembled in Kenya and flew to Uganda in the quest to rediscover the Lost Royal Drums of the Buganda Kingdom, the entenga drums.

Drum Players

Entenga Royal Drummers

Along with flutes, trumpets, strings and the xylophone, the entenga were part of a set of instruments used by palace musicians of the Buganda Kingdom whose job was to entertain the Kabaka (Baganda King). From an interview with Musisi, the last surviving drummer who played in the palace, we learnt that the Kabaka in the early 1960’s loved the entenga drums so much that he had the drummers play every morning at 3am. He felt that the drums were so perfect, that this was the only time of the day when it was quiet enough to appreciate them fully. This music largely died when the Buganda palace was attacked and destroyed on May 23-24 1966. The Kabaka fled, the musicians were disbanded and the drums as well as other instruments destroyed.  Thereafter the  entenge were considered dead.

Big Wala Trumpets

Bigwara Trumpets

That is until we discovered that Livingstone Musisi, who was 16 when the palace was destroyed, was alive and well in his home village. In 2013, encouraged by the works of James Isabirye, a lecturer at Kyambogo University in Uganda, as well as our partner for the Singing Wells project in Uganda who has been actively reviving the bigwara trumpets, we decided to revive the entenga drums. The Abubilla Music Foundation availed funds to James and Musisi and charged them with the task of assembling an entire set of entenga drums as well as putting together a team of musicians and train them in the almost extinct art of playing the entenga drums.

Livingstone Musisi during an interview

Livingstone Musisi during an interview

At the end of November 2015, armed with the recordings of palace musicians that were done by ethnomusicologist, Hugh Tracey, and thanks to the International Library of African Music, the Singing Wells embarked on our field trip which also included repatriating Hugh Tracey’s recordings to the last surviving palace musicians and institutions of learning in Uganda.

All through the few days we spent in Uganda, we learnt a great deal. On December 1, we traveled from Kampala to Jinja to the village of Bukakaire to listen to the Bukakaire Bigwara players led by the last surviving trumpeter from the Busoga palace, James Lugolole.

James Lugolole

James Lugolole

On the 2nd of December  2015, the team together with James Isabirye travelled to a shop called Ssebengwa Drum Makers, a shop run by a man called Abass Miriimu from the village of Mpampire. This village is famously known for their drum making skills. Abbas was a skilled drum maker of various Baganda traditional drums including the entenga.

Abas Miriimi

Abas Miriimu

Step by step he took us through the drum making process which included preparing the wood and letting it dry in the sun for 24 hours, then cutting the dry wood to size, preparing the outside of the drum, the two stages of stringing the drum, drying and rolling the cow hide strings, all the way to the final stage which is tuning the drums.

Preparing the wood

Preparing the wood

Cutting the wood to size

Cutting the wood to size

 

Stringing The Drums

Stringing The Drums

 

Drums being wetted for tuning

Drums being wetted for tuning

We then travelled to two separate villages to interview four other surviving members  of the Kabaka’s Palace musicians. Richard  Sewanyana, a flute palyer, Ssalongo Byakyalo Kakanzu one of the last surviving trumpet players, Ben Nsumbuga Ntabula a drummer and finally Kapolyano Kyobe a xylophone player whose father was killed during the attack.

Ssalango being interviewed

Ssalango being interviewed

December 3rd was our final day in Uganda before we headed back to Nairobi. We identified a whole set of extra ordinary musicians from our 2013 visit to Uganda and invited them for studio recording sessions at the Ketebul Music Studio.

More on the studio sessions soon.

For more on The Singing Wells click here

 

12
Jan
2016

The Passing of a Legend; Michael Kinyany

Ketebul Music wishes to extend our condolences to the family of Michael Kinyany who passed away on the 18th of December 2015.

Michael Kinyany during an interview with Ketebul Music

Michael Kinyany during an interview with Ketebul Music

Michael Kinyany was a member of the group Lang Obiero that played benga and rumba in the 1950’s. Lang Obiero was among the groups recorded by ethnomusicologist Hugh Tracy in the early 1950’s. The group was one of the leading bands at that time and Michael was the youngest member.

Left to right: Michael Kinyany Prof. Diane Thram (Director ILAM), Tabu Osusa (Founding Director Ketebul Music)

Left to right: Michael Kinyany Prof. Diane Thram (Director ILAM), Tabu Osusa (Founding Director Ketebul Music)

In August 2014, Ketebul Music in partnership with the International Library of African Music (ILAM) with the support of Abubilla Music Foundation repatriated some of these recordings which included Lang Obiero’s music. During that time, we met with and interviewed Michael and he gave us an insight on music in the 50’s and his take on music in general.

Kenyany was an astute business man and is a good example of how one can attain good education, be an entrepreneur and still be a great musician.

Left to right: Steve 64 (Ketebul Music, Sound Engineer), Michael Kinyany Hunter Allen (Videographer Abubilla)

Left to right: Steve 64 (Ketebul Music Sound Engineer), Michael Kinyany Hunter Allen (Videographer Abubilla)

Ketebul Music will feature him in our book ‘Shades of Benga’ set to be launched soon.

Keep it here for updates on this and much more

03
Dec
2015

Ketebul Music at Utam Festival

Ketebul Music artists Olith Ratego and Makadem performed at the premiere edition of Utam Festival last weekend, 29th of November 2015.  UTAM FESTIVAL is a Kenyan Annual Multi-Cultural Music Festival that gives a platform for global cultural integration using art. The aim of the festival is to showcase, expose and share East African arts and culture to the world.

The event kicked off at 2.30 pm with a brilliant performance by Olith Ratego, who wowed the crowd with his singing skills. Olith played his signature home-made instrument known as the ‘kodo’. He told melodic stories in his music and invited the crowd to journey with him into his musical world.

Olith Ratego

Olith Ratego

Makadem, also known as Mganga Mkuu, with his charismatic persona and powerful vocal delivery as always had the crowd on their feet. He not only sang to his audience but fully engaged with them throughout his performance.

Ohanglaman Makadem

Ohanglaman Makadem

 

Crowd dances to Makadem's song Mganga Mkuu

Crowd dances to Makadem's song Mganga Mkuu

Several other artists from East Africa such as Ricky Na Marafiki, Wangechi, Sarakasi Dancers, Teto Tutuma, Tetu Shani, Giovanni Kiyingi from Uganda, Swahili Ally from Tanzania, and Ugandan Saxophonist Brian Mugenyi among others were also present and showcased their best.

TetoTutuma

Teto Tutuma

Giovanni Kiyingi from Uganda

Giovanni Kiyingi from Uganda

From poetry to music to dance… The festival was a blissful blend of art.

Poet Tear Drops on stage

Poet Tear Drops on stage

Sarakasi Dancers

Sarakasi Dancers

The little ones were not left behind…

Kids at UTAM dancing to the beat

Kids at UTAM dancing to the beat

The festival offered a cocktail of music, diverse cultures and a beautiful coexistence between different people brought together by their mutual love for music. As the famous Youssou N’Dour once said, “Music is a language”

Photo credits: Quaint Photography.

Ketebul Music Vanessa and Olith Ratego
30
Sep
2015

Ketebul Music Partners with Music In Africa in a Promotional Video

Music In Africa is an information and exchange web portal dedicated to the African music sector. The portal responds to the need for reliable information and networking between music professionals in Africa. It also aims to contribute towards improved collaboration among artistes on an international level, as well as to enhance awareness of African music scenes.

In an effort to adequately meet the needs of artistes in East Africa,  Music In Africa has teamed up with Ketebul Music to create  a video documentation  on their challenges and needs.  The focus will be on highlighting the various areas that the Music In Africa portal has and how it can benefit musicians and professionals working in the music sector.

This is the second video following a similar one that Music In Africa created for the West African region. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wdJC4gJGu3U

Ugandan Artiste Joel Sebunjo during His Music In Africa Interview

Ugandan Artiste Joel Sebunjo during His Music In Africa Interview

The Ketebul Music crew has been on the road from Nairobi to Dar es Salaam to Kampala, interviewing artistes and professionals in the East African music industry for the promotional video.  The targeted artistes include Joel Sebunjo, Legend P, Akello and Giovanni Kiyingi from Uganda, Leo Mkanyia and Ben Paul from Tanzania and Makadem, Kidum, Avril and Habida from Kenya.

Joel Sebunjo is one of Uganda’s best young folk/world music artistes. He is celebrated all over East Africa for his talent. He has also traveled globally and performed alongside legendary artistes like Yossou N’dour, Salif Keita, Miriam Makeba, Oliver Mtukudzi and many more.

Sound Engineer Steve 64 from Ketebul Music and Joel Sebunjo from Uganda

Sound Engineer Steve 64 from Ketebul Music and Joel Sebunjo from Uganda

Stay tuned for updates from Ketebul Music and Music In Africa on the future of African Music!

 

24
Sep
2015

The Spotlight On Kenyan Music 10th Year Anniversary Celebrations

The Spotlight on Kenyan Music Programme marked its 10 year anniversary with a colourful concert held at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre in Nairobi Kenya, last weekend on the 19th and 20th of September 2015. The concert coincided with the Total Motor show, which is a major motor show event in East and Central Africa.

Spotlight on Kenyan Music is a cultural music programme initiated by the Alliance Française in 2005 in partnership with Ketebul Music, with the support of the Embassy of France in Kenya, Total Kenya Ltd, and the Department of Culture.

The concert featured spotlight selected Spotlight artistes such as Lelele Afrika, Juma Tutu, Makadem, Mzee Mwatela and Gargar among others.

On Saturday afternoon the show kicked off with a great performance by Walter Koga, a nyatiti player from Nyakach, Nyanza. He was followed by Mutinda, who is part of the first crop of the spotlight on Kenyan music volume 1, with his song ‘Matopeni.’ His song ‘Simama’ also saw him win the International Song Writing Competition.

Walter Koga on stage at the Spotlight On Kenyan Music 10th anniversary celebrations

Walter Koga on stage at the Spotlight On Kenyan Music 10th anniversary celebrations

Mutinda from performing 'Matopeni'

Mutinda performing 'Matopeni'

Next on line was Mzee Mwatela, a renowned percussionist hailing from the coastal town of Malindi. He is featured in the Spotlight On Kenyan Music volume 6 compilation.

Mzee Mwatela from the Malindi

Mzee Mwatela from the Malindi

The audience was amazed by the mellow voice of Winyo who, though not a Spotlight artiste but a good friend of Alliance Française. Winyo was twice  nominated for the Radio Funds International Discoveries Award and is a beneficiary of the Institut Français.

Winyo serving the crowd a taste of his Benga Blues

Winyo serving the crowd a taste of his Benga Blues

Makadem, also known as the Ohanglaman or Mganga Mkuu (the great healer) wrapped it all up with a high energy performance which had the crowd on their feet and left them yearning for more. His song ‘Nyar Nairobi’ is featured in the 1st volume of the Spotlight On Kenyan Music compilation.

Makadem performing his song 'Mganga Mkuu' at the Spotlight on Kenyan Music stage

Makadem performing his song 'Mganga Mkuu' at the Spotlight on Kenyan Music stage

As a continuation to the celebrations, on Sunday, Mohammed Guyo from Marsabit opened the stage in style with Lelele Africa stepping in after him. Mohamed Guyo is featured in the Spotlight on Kenyan Music volume 5 compilation, which focused on music from Northern Kenya. Lelele Africa is a band made up of veteran Taarab musicians and are one of the few remaining groups that still play the  old style taarab music. They were featured in the volume 6 compilation.

Mohamed Guyo from Marsabit, North Eastern Kenya

Mohamed Guyo from Marsabit, North Eastern Kenya

 

Mwanate Kibwana of Lelele Afrika

Mwanate Kibwana of Lelele Afrika

 

Next on stage was Chepchumba from the Rift valley, featured in the volume 3 compilation. She was then followed by Juma Tutu, a Swahili jazz  musician whose song titled ‘Sukari’ was featured in the volume 1 compilation, going on to become became a runaway hit in Kenya.

Chepchumba on stage, singing the song 'kipla'

Chepchumba on stage, singing the song 'kipla'

Juma Tutu on his saxophone

Juma Tutu on his saxophone

The performances went on with Ontiri Bikundo from Kisii, whose song titled ‘Speed Governor,’ a call for responsible sexual behaviour, appears on  the Spotlight On Kenyan Music volume 2 compilation.

Ontiri Bikundo playing the obukano

Ontiri Bikundo playing the obukano

Gargar, a group  made up of Kenyan women of Somali origin from Garissa, North Eastern Kenya, were next on stage after Ontiri Bikundo. They are one of the major success stories from the Spotlight On Kenyan Music programme, having travelled to perform and showcase in numerous countries internationally. They are the only group that has been featured in two Spotlight On Kenyan Music compilations, the first being volume 4 with their song ‘Aids Wadila’ and the second ‘Shicir’ in the volume 5 compilation.

Gargar from Garissa

Gargar from Garissa

Sarabi are not Spotlight on Kenyan music artistes but in an effort to support young Kenyan talent, they too were invited to perform. They will be performing on Friday, 24th of September 2015, at the Alliance Française gardens in a show that seeks to raise funds for their upcoming trip to Budapest where they will showcase at WOMEX.

Mandela of Sarabi

Mandela of Sarabi

The event was also used to launch Spotlight On Kenyan Music Videos that had been shot and produced by Ketebul Music over a four month period, between May and August 2015.

 

Spotlight On Kenyan Music videos

Spotlight On Kenyan Music videos

 

 

 

 

23
Sep
2015

Meet Anyango, Nyar Siaya. The Nyatiti Diva from Japan!

In 2005, a young Japanese lady by the name Eriko Mukoyama visited Kenya and spent close to a year in a village in Western Kenya learning how to play the nyatiti, becoming the first female nyatiti player in the world. The nyatiti is an eight-stringed lyre of the Luo community.

Anyango and Kenge Kenge

Anyango and Kenge Kenge

Today Anyango, as she is now known internationally,  has mastered the nyatiti and plays at concerts all around the world.

Anyango and Makadem outside Ketebul Music studios after their session

Anyango and Makadem outside Ketebul Music studios after their session

Recently the Japanese musician visited Ketebul Music studios. During her visit, Anyango signed a deal with Ketebul Music that will see the label release and distribute her music in the region. She also recorded a number of songs with Kenge Kenge and Makadem, which will be featured in a compilation album to be released by Ketebul Music.

Anyango and Tabu Osusa sealing the deal

Anyango and Tabu Osusa sealing the deal

For those of you who do not know about this extraordinary artiste, she was born in Tokyo in 1981. While in her third year at the university of Tokyo, she decided to go to New York to study music. The day was September 11th, 2001. It was the day terrorists struck in New York and Washington. Her flight was cancelled and she had to return to Japan. While in Japan, Anyango attended the Kenyan traditional concert in Tokyo and the music at the concert changed her life. She later joined an African band called Burukenge and spent a year touring around Japan.

Her interest in African music led her to Kenya where she learned how to play the nyatiti under the instruction of the late nyatiti maestro, Okumu K’Orengo, from the village of Karapul near Lake Victoria.

Tabu Osusa, Anyango and Kazuo Munakata spotting Soi bags

Tabu Osusa, Anyango and Kazuo Munakata spotting Soi bags

Anyango playing the nyatiti
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