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Clayton_C 08-04-2009 05:52 AM

Picking Up Music in Kenya
Hey all,

So in a month or two (details are fuzzy), I will be dropping everything and moving to Nairobi, Kenya to aid in some Christian missionary work there. I went through a phase of thinking, "well, I'll just drop drumming altogether, it won't come in handy," but now after a week or so I'm realizing that I'm never going to be able to stop playing music.

Here's the problem: while I have a pretty good understanding of Afro-Cuban rhythms, I have been mostly approaching latin and african music from a Jazz standpoint. I love transcribing people like Bill Stewart, Peter Erskine, Antonio Sanchez, etc. I am a jazz freak.

So I know we have a lot of great people on the forum here with different vantage points, from different cultures. I'm wondering: What's the best way to start learning about Kenyan popular music and getting to a place of understanding it? I know that, often, a country's music can be just as complex as the rest of its culture, but I am pretty clueless about where to start with the reggae/afro/latin Kenyan approach, being such a little Americanized whitey myself.

Any advice, links, etc?

mellow 08-04-2009 07:05 AM

Re: Picking Up Music in Kenya
wow, you are in pretty much the exact scenerio of me, I'm going to be going to Kenya to do some missionary in September and living there for six months, and also was wondering the same things you are! all I know is that I deffently want to buy a djembe down there. sorry I'm not much help, but I was just excited to see somone else doing the same thing!

Skulmoski 08-04-2009 07:42 AM

Re: Picking Up Music in Kenya
You might want to read:

African Rhythm and African Sensibility: Aesthetics and Social Action in African Musical Idioms by John Miller Chernoff. This is a pretty good introduction and indepth study of some African drumming (not Kenyan).

BTW, I am not sure if djembes are a traditional Kenyan instrument. That said, you might learn about the differences between high and low quality hand drums so you will be able to make a smart purchase while you are in Kenya.

Have a very nice trip.


Garvin 08-04-2009 08:16 PM

Re: Picking Up Music in Kenya
Djembe is not a Kenyan instrument... Whattup in Abu Dhabi Skul?

Most of what I've seen and heard from Kenya has been vocal, or choral music. I'm sure there are all kinds of cool things going on though.

Clayton_C 08-04-2009 10:28 PM

Re: Picking Up Music in Kenya
@ mellow

Sweet, dude I think I'm going down in either September or October, too! Are you going with a particular organization or just "freelancing" or whatever?

@ Skulmoski

Thanks, I'll check out the Chernoff book. I have actually been playing hand percussion for a bit longer than drumset, especially djembe. I did a little Youtube research on Kenyan trad music and found a lot of drum circle type things. They DID look quite commercialized though, I'm not sure if it was 100% authentic. And I don't think the drums were djembes, at least not the traditional djembe I'm used to.

@ Garvin

I'm under the impression that you're well-educated in African music/culture, so maybe you can verify or discredit this. I hear two terms bounced around a lot when researching Kenyan music: Benga, and Reggae. From what I can hear, Benga is like a 16th note rhythm section thing, almost like a Samba. And of course, Reggae is reggae.

The compound I will be working on actual houses an "evangelistic brass school," which apparently learns young Kenyans in trumpet and trombone for the purposes of playing simple praise choruses in some of the more secluded towns and villages. I am hoping that I'll get the opportunity to help teach some of this stuff, because from pictures that I've seen, I'll be able to teach the music theory classes, no sweat.

mellow 08-06-2009 11:11 PM

Re: Picking Up Music in Kenya
hey clayton, its a freelance kinda thing with four other people but we are involved with Mercy and caring home, which is an orphanage while we are done there.

Skulmoski, thanks for the advice, I'll look into it.

Clayton_C 08-07-2009 05:49 AM

Re: Picking Up Music in Kenya
Cool man. Well I'm gonna send a friend request your way here on drummerworld and if there's ever anything going over there, maybe a drum clinic or something, we can say hi.

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