A New Old Song

October 11, 2013

Under the cover of starlight and skyscrapers, a group of musicians more attuned to the harsh nomadic lifestyle of northern Kenya sang, danced and shared songs that celebrated their Turkana culture. And for one evening they were celebrated as stars as they launched their debut CD.

Ewaala Turkana is the title of the Loiyangalani Star CD, which features 13 Turkana songs performed by the six members of  the group

Loiyangalani Stars is a collective of singers and performers from the Loiyangalani area on the western shores of Lake Turkana. The group consists of traditional musicians from the Turkana community and were ‘discovered’ in 2011 by Hivos partner Ketebul Music as they were carrying out the Singing Wells project. The core mission of the project is to record, archive and share tribal music from marginalised people groups. The Turkana community of northern Kenya are one such group.

“The more marginalised a community, the more musical they are,” says Steve Kivuthia Ketebul’s project manager. “They don’t have much infrastructure or modern conveniences so they choose to entertain themselves through song. We also discovered that the Turkana are natural musicians, as song is part of their day-to-day life, because they have lots of ceremonies and these are accompanied by song and dance.” 

The members of the Loiyangalani Stars are Longori Star, Lomkuni Lowale, Fransisco, Akolong’, Atitipu and Rosa. All six live in Turkana and have no formal musical training. But they have now mastered how to dance, sing, use the microphone and perform to a crowd. Watching the Loiyangalani Stars perform is a fascinating experience as modern and traditional merge on stage. The performers are resplendent in their colourful traditional garb, surrounded by bass guitars, drum sets and stage lights.

The music on the album also carries with it the fusion of two cultures and can be described as refreshing and eclectic.

Hivos believes that art and culture perform a particularly vital role in the advancement of democratic and diverse societies. Ketebul Music is therefore a valuable Hivos partner in terms of increasing the quality and diversity of publicly-accessible cultural productions.

With the album launch now out of the way, Ketebul Music is hoping that the next step for the  Loiyangalani Stars will be more performances at regional and international festivals.