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November 4, 2004

A cappella success in Africa


They are probably the most sought-after singing group in Nairobi. And with an average of 18 engagements per week during peak season, Kayamba Afrika, Nairobi's main a cappella group, can only be described as successful, compared with other similar groups. "The demand is overwhelming," says Juma Odemba, the band leader. "Each voice has a double so that we do not decline invitations or let down our clients when one of us is unwell." Another reason they have two or three people for every voice is because they want to make it an institution.

Because of the high demand, they have recruited more singers and Kayamba Afrika is now comprises 15 singers. This enables them to perform at different functions on the same day, or even time. "We do songs in different local languages, but if a client wants songs only in one language, we can always dig into our repertoire and satisfy such a clients' needs," Odemba says. "Because we can sing in different languages, we have performed in different towns in the country." This is also why Kayamba Afrika gets invited to different towns, and by clients from different ethnic groups.

To learn a song in a particular language, they get a resource person from that community to either teach them the song, or to explain its context and meaning to them, so that they can deliver in meaningfully. "We try to learn the different languages so that we are not too far off the mark in terms of pronunciation and nuances when singing," he explains. In most cases, Kayamba Afrika picks up folksongs and reworks them. The knowledge of a particular language comes in handy when they have to compose new songs in that language. More

Posted by acapnews at November 4, 2004 9:36 PM