If the chilly weather is getting you down, you could do worse than brew up a cup of chai and take some time out to listen to the haunting, soul-soothing sounds of the Kenyan Boys Choir.
As the pure harmonies fill your ears, you can ponder the musical rags-to-riches story that lies behind the formation of a group that has come to be known as “Barack Obama’s favourite choir.”
This internationally acclaimed choir is made up of about 25 boys and men, aged between 13 and 24, from various tribes.
Everyone knows the story of how they were invited to sing at Obama’s inauguration in 2009, an event that catapulted them into musical stardom. On their way home from Washington, while in transit in Heathrow, they were met by representatives from Universal Music and signed by Decca Records.
The choir was founded in 1998 by Joseph Muyale. The idea was to help poor boys raise money to pay their school fees.
The boys perform traditional Maasai and Samburu chants as well as contemporary African classics, like Nkosi Sikelel’l, and European pieces.
They released their debut album “Spirit of Africa” in 2009, and followed it up a year later with “My Kenyan Christmas”. Among their most famous tunes are Homeless and their version of that tourist classic Jambo Bwana. At Obama’s inauguration, they sang Kapchasan, a hero’s welcome chant from the Kalenjin tribe.
To describe their music as stirring seems an understatement. The harmonies are complex and the sound profound and spine-tingling. Their voices dip and lilt with purity and precision.
In September, the choir is scheduled to take part in the Free the Children We Day festival in Canada. If you want to see the boys in action here in their home town, head to Braeburn, Garden Estate on June 18 for their Choral Odyssey.
Tickets: Adults KSH 500, students KSH 300.
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