It’s almost two years since Kenya’s iconic cultural ambassador and a legendary nyatiti musician Ayub Ogada passed away.
The late Ayub Ogada is regarded as the pioneer who modernized Nyatiti music and a rebel who brought Nyatiti music to the world.
His most popular song Koth Biro remains one of the greatest inspirations to many of Kenya’s young generations of Nyatiti musicians; this was witnessed during his tribute concert held at Alliance Francaise Nairobi.
The tribute concert was organized by the new generation of Nyatiti musicians with the support of Alliance Francaise and other partners to honor and remember Ayub’s contribution to shaping Kenya’s traditional and contemporary music culture.
He was a great storyteller who captured many through his music and songs, he taught us that it is okay to be different and one should not be ashamed of sharing and telling their stories.
Ayub set the pace which has created paths and opportunities for future generations, but how are we going to create new paths and rebuild on the already existing paths if we are afraid of sharing and telling our stories to ourselves? This is the question that Nyatiti Stories idea seeks to tackle and how together as musicians we can work together in keeping the Nyatiti music alive.
It is amazing how after Ayub tribute concert, so much has been happening in the Nyatiti music scene, the young generation of musicians especially from Nairobi managed to create an informal platform that enables them to continue to engage and exchange ideas, share experiences and also connect with each other.
Most important is how these groups of artists have managed to create and develop new sounds which continue to create interest among Nyatiti followers thus enabling them to break barriers that exist around Nyatiti music.
Mak Adem, one of the most respected musicians, has been quite instrumental through his Nyatititronics concert series in reviving Nyatiti sounds within urban settings. Nyatititronics concert series provides an opportunity for the urban population in Nairobi to listen to and interact with new sounds from Mak Adem and his band at different joints mostly in Nairobi.
Nyatiti’s family is growing with both old and new artists connecting to find ways on how their voices can be amplified.
This generation of artist are open-minded in breaking rules but at the same time keeping important elements of Nyatiti music tradition.
Rapassa, Atis Sanaa, Judith Bwire, Walter Koga, and many more are at the forefront to promote the music among the young generation.
It is also very interesting to see more women emerging to play the nyatiti instrument redefining the role of women in shaping Kenya’s music cultural scene. Inspired by Japanese Nyatiti player Anyango Nyar Siaya, we have witnessed the likes of Atis Sanaa, Demba Ochenga, and Judith Bwire taking the mantle to inspire more girls and women to play nyatiti.
Perhaps through these simple actions, artists are demonstrating that it is possible to keep our culture alive while we continue to experiment and explore, keeping our forefather’s dreams and memories alive, nyatiti stories.