How’s the Journey Been thus Far?
Though celebrations started off late with the heavy 12-hour traffic jam on Nairobi-Nakuru Highway, which delayed most performances, Kenya’s 93rd Annual Music Festival started off strong, vibrantly, and successfully on August 3rd. Hosted at Nakuru Country’s Kabarak University, more than 130,000 students from across the nation arrived as both participants and viewers. Various performances including dance, song, chorus, and diverse, global, cultural representations will liven up the stage for the ultimate talent competition between the best of 660 classes before President Uhuru Kenyatta. The melting pot festival can contend as the largest music festival in the region as participants from East African countries like Uganda, Rwanda, and Ethiopia join the festivities with visitors from around the world. The platform provides an ideal place for budding talents to be both nurtured through the disciplining regime of rehearsals and teamwork ethics, and recognized as it encompasses a wide age-range from early childhood learners to college students and working professionals on a national stage. Current label names that once stood on this stage include Size 8, Sauti Sol, Ruffton, Joseph Hellon, and the Moipei Quartet.
Why Embrace the Arts and the Intent of Its Appreciation
Festival management board’s Executive Secretary Ms. Ruth Agesa stated that “[music] and the festival in particular, promotes the preservation and appreciation of the diverse Kenyan cultures to foster national unity, patriotism, nationalism, the Kenyan identity and global recognition among other objectives. The event provides a platform for learners to identify and nurture talent in line with the competency-based curriculum reform initiative”. The opportunity of free expression the Festival aims to provide was visible with the early childhood learners who energetically showcased a rich blend of traditional and Western plays, songs, games, and dances while displaying their creativity through their homemade props and costumes.
With the understanding of how the event can influence the youth and younger population, KCB Foundation’s sponsorship of the Festival and its self-employment category 2jiajiri, through the Ministry of Education, with 7 million Kenyan Shillings can be described as a worthwhile investment. The Foundation is thence educating young people about the same important socio-economic issues that 2jiajiri seeks to address through, with the 2jiajiri’s platform of entrepreneurial opportunities and other program events. As it is, many entries from the 2jiajiri program qualified for the Nationals and performed from 3rd– 8th August with educational material Ms. Agesa described as “enlightening” to the youth and general public on alternative ways to create employment and earn a living.
“Our aim,” said KCB Foundation Managing Director Jane Mwangi, “is to influence culture at the nascent age all through to adulthood by inculcating the spirit of entrepreneurship through songs, poems and drama. By adulthood, these students will have entrepreneurship as the default thinking as opposed to job seeking. We are re-setting the mind sets of our youth”.
Consequently, everyone is looking forward on how various learning institutions will package the Educational Ministry’s values and intent for change; encouraging ideas to Kenya’s green shoots of innovation, to combat the country’s unemployment crisis, and of supporting development of distinct expressions, for cultural and artistic diversification.
The Important Bit: Chorus! Dance! Music!
fete is a gathering of schools and colleges with their musical extravaganza
presenting various Western, Eastern, and African compositions including African
adaptations and elocutions in English, French, German, Arabic, and Sign
Language. Such an exotic mix of performances was noted as a perfect source of
exposure to the children and youth of the nation to Kenya’s richness, uniqueness
and identity, as well as to other cultures beyond our borders. On this note, Nakuru
Governor Lee Kinyanjui encourages the Festival and, possibly, the Education
Ministry by extension, to promote talents in school and after graduation. Many
remarked that the blending of western performances with local presentations would enhance understanding of other cultures while also preserving local traditions.
The Scottish and Oriental pieces were performed on the 6th Festival day, on August 7th, and are categorized under the Western Traditional Cultural Group Dances for Primary Schools which attracted 14 entries from all regions across the country. Looking back at the development of the National Music Festival, it has become much more inclusive and less ethnocentric for, before, foreign performances were reserved for elite schools and they dominated the Festival. Peter Wanjohi, the Chairman of the Festivals acknowledged that they have grown to include more foreign performers and categories, capitalizing on these interactions to train the young ones with great artists from around the world. Just as well, increased consideration to local cultures and dance also occurred, therefore resulting in a more universal diversity on the stage over the years.
“We have Arabic, German and French performances,” said Ms. Agesa, “and we are currently receiving partnerships even from other countries including Chinese who want to sponsor Chinese pieces”. A number of countries have expressed interest in cooperating on future Festivals. This will raise the authenticity of the performances as well as drawn in a more racially and culturally diverse range of performances, participants, and fete-goers.
Here’s to the Remaining Half
As the Festival continues until the 15th and the Finalist show Kenya, and the world, what they got, here is to our future creatives, leaders, and teachers. The role of arts culture and sports in the character and skill development of the youth cannot be underestimated. It plays a strong role in the growth and sustenance of communities, the development of social skills and cohesion, in promoting economic development, innovation, and- maybe- even the solidarity of Kenya as a whole.
All are invited to Kenya’s National Music Festival! And, please, let us all support the various talents and gifts present in Kenya for they are part of defining the culture, values, and future of Kenya.
Nakuru, Kenya | 9th August, 2019
By: Ann Yebei