I added some new photos and descriptions about the long sunday 22/03/09, where we met the Sengenya music and dance group at Mbui’s place. There are also some new photos in the report about the Galana River boat trip to meet the Gonda dance music group.
I also revised all Videos to a better resolution and format. Enjoy.
Oh, by the way, do you wake up or open your eyes first?
Today we arrived in Hamburg, after wonderfull and exciting five weeks in Kenya.
Because of two other projects Sven has to play in april he will start to work on the album based on the Kenyan recordings in mid-May. From this point the production process will be documented by posting lots of mp3s, etc.
In the meantime Agnieszka will add new videos and new photos to the existing posts every few days and we’ll follow up with the reports about the missing days as soon as possible.
Please feel free to leave lots of comments.
Tonight Sven will give a concert with a couple of the musicians we met during the journeys to the West and East of Kenya.
I am pretty sure, this will be a really great event…
While Agnieszka was working on creating a website for the Muziki wa Kenya project of the Goethe-Institut Nairobi, Sven rehearsed with three groups of musicians for the concert today. So we had no time to upload further audio and video reports from the very exciting and extensive journeys until now…
Again we had to get up very early in the morning. We went to a very small village, very close to Kwale . We met with a traditional sengenya group. One of the most important instruments of Sengeya groups is the kayamba, which is a kind of big shaker. Using your thumbs you hit the instrument hard to create strong sounds on top of the conventional shaker sound. It is amazing to listen to eight kayamba players who are all playing the same score over and over again and again.
The instruments that were used by the ensemble are very similar to the ones, the band of Mbui and Mbutch used on March 22nd. For example both groups played very melodic rhythms on a 4-piece drumkit but the sengenya group in Kwale played everything much slower and much more relaxed. In comparison to this band the orchestra of Mbui was really a “high-energy-senenya group”. chapao drums
In the last weeks many of the recording sessions have corresponded to the same sample. First of all the band played about three or four songs they had prepared for the session. Of course some of these introductory songs were really great but all of the meetings and recording sessions became even more interesting after the first part was done. It was very interesting to see how different bands reacted to some of Sven´s requests to play a song in a different way, in a different tempo or without one of these time keeping instruments.
From this point the exchange was always more intense and in our opinion many of the results were very unique.
In Kwale Sven had a talk about the meaning and the sense of some of the traditional songs and finally an old woman began to sing a song that she usually saves for funerals and other truly sad situations. It only took a few seconds for to be accompanied by 6 other women.
We began the day with a boat trip to the other side of the Lamu Island: MatondoniIt took us half an hour during which we could see the beach for miles and in the background green trees everywhere we looked. At Matondoni we met with a traditional Kaswida group. Again one of the musicians was hammering endlessly on a metal plate but everything else was much different from what we had previously seen: First of all the group was made up of three tambourine players. Secondly they used a flute that produced a clear Arabic sound and on top of that many old and also very young singers sang different polyphonic melodies that also had a strong Arabic influence. Listen to some extracts of the Kaswida group of Lamu.
Tambourin section of Matondoni
traditional flute player
In the afternoon we took time out at the wonderful Indian Ocean and continued our research in Lamu town thereafter. Lamu celebrates Allah’s birthday these days, so we went to the biggest mosque in town: the Riadh mosque and found the place in front prepared for a celebration. There was a contest of Kaswida groups from different villages of Lamu. A Kaswida group consists of a dancing group of white appareled men and a music group. The performance was so impressive and the congregated crowd impressed. It would take hours to describe all of our impressions. Such a show and celebration lasts at least until dawn.
Before we had to go to Malindi airport we took a cab to the small Takaye Village where we had spent a few days before. We said “Kwaheri” to everybody and gave them a small present: A small barrel organ playing a song called “Reperbahn nachts um halb eins”. The people of the small village loved it and finally everybody was singing his own version of that famous sailor song from Hamburg. A propos: the white stuff out of the yellow can is the popular coconut tree schnapps…
After having a fun farewell at Takaye Village we flew to Lamu. This time the plane didn´t look that old and dilapidated like on Friday and contrary to our first flight we didn´t lose any fuel and actually arrived at destination! The airport looks like a toy airport. Like at the airport in Malindi, inside the terminal building stands a big red balance with a clock-face where the luggage was weighed. Everything happens here manually: flight tickets are raised by hand; the luggage is loaded manually and subsequently loaded back to the passengers waiting around the luggage van.
To reach Lamu one has first to cross the river by boat. On arriving on the island the first view you get is one of a pretty Italian fishing village: blue-green seawater, many fishing boats around and houses right beside the sea..
But the closer you come the more you realize: this is something completely different. The Arabic influence in the music that fills the streets is unmistakable. The majority of the people at Lamu are Muslim. You see veiled women and men with skirts walking down the streets, donkey riders and camels carying loads. The music at Lamu is much different from everything we have already listened to and you can listen to the muezzin five times a day.
Muezzin in Lamu
After check-in at the Sunsail Hotel right beside the sea, we take a walk through the gradually darkening town.
Between April and October the Galana River is home to many crocodiles and hippos. In March the weather is far too dry to attract even a few of these pretty dangerous animals. Therefore we could take a dugout canoe without fear and embark on a journey to a very small village very close to the river. Besides Raymond, two of his relatives, joined us on our way to the village and it was fun to share our boat with these people. They were singing during the whole journey….
Singing on a boat trip
From the riverbanks it was a long walk in the midday sun and took a bit of time bevor we were bided welcome.
At the village we met with some people who were playing a style called “Gonda”. Gonda music is based on strong rhythms. There is always one person hammering on a metal plate like crazy to give a clear and loud beat to all of the other musicians. Three of the drummers are playing very complex unison phrases while at least 8 women are singing to this very loud and very strong rhythm.
We did some fantastic audio and video recordings at this magical scene and had great views at this outlying place.
Later on we were invited to sit down under the usual phenomenal big tree to relax and have some talks with the people and to eat “Ugali”, a white pulp made out of water and maize. Ugali is the dietary staple of the Kenyan majority. Like all Kenyan dishes, ugali is eaten by hand.
In the morning Sven went to a very small church at Takaye Village to attend a divine service. Sven is pagan and usually he doesn´t go to church. This morning he just wanted to get some impressions about the music that is been played at an east African liturgy but unpredictably he was a big attraction of this Sunday morning. First of all, the preacher asked Sven to talk about himself and where he was from and what he was doing in Kenya. Then the preacher advised one of his assistants to sit next to Sven to translate the whole sermon from Kisuaheli to English. Unfortunately Sven had slept for less than 4 hours the night before and he couldn´t avoid falling asleep momentarily… After more than two hours of preaching the liturgy was at long last finished.
In the afternoon we went to a funeral. Three days earlier an old man who lived in the neighboring village had passed away and Raymond had to pay a short visit. He invited us to accompany him and so we had the chance to spend an hour on a traditional African funeral which lasts 4 days. At first sight it looked as if it was a public festival. Loud music was played, sweets and beer was sold and there were at least 300 people around, some of them dancing, some talking to the neighbours and also some crying as the coffin was lowered into the earth…
In the evening we met with Mbuch a friend of Marie and were invited to come to Mbuis place who has been his teacher in percussion. He is studying traditional music and takes courses at a kind of training camp for musicians. They get up at the latest at 5 O’clock in the morning to work first on their physical fitness. They run about 14 kilometers and pump iron… Later on they begin to practice the many traditional instruments. After smoking some Ganja in the afternoon they keep on playing until they go to bed around 10 O’clock.
It was the first time to record some musicians of our generation who played traditional instruments. They had a modern approach to several traditional rhythms but it was still very well connected to the roots of the older generation.
After the recordings we all just sat down to drink some bottles of cold Tusker and played until night. All these of these musicians were very open minded and warmhearted. Agnieszka had some good conversations with Tempa about the development possibilities in the slums of Nairobi as well as the meaning of hope, help and support in this context for Africans in general. Tempa who has been playing in a band with Mbui and Mbuch has found his destiny in being a development helper in the slums of Nairobi as he told Agnieszka. And Mbui, our host, opened a cultural center in Malindi which takes in musicians and dancers in the form of a camp. All together they coming up with and exchanging ideas – like establishing a tree nursery to keep the camp and the idea alive.
It was a great pleasure to spend this afternoon with Mbuch, Mbui, Tempa and their friends.
Listen to some extracts of their wonderful music.
vocal session at Mbui’s place
last take sengenya music