Former first lady Mama Lucy Kibaki adopted the Makongeni SDA church in Nairobi for the amazing sounds, they become a Statehouse choir.
By Silas Gisiora Nyanchwani
The best choir ever to grace the world according to me is the Milimani SDA Choir, Migori. Man, those Luos from South Nyanza can sing the way Nandis can run
The composition was top notch. Back in the day, before SDA choirs invented the phony stretching of sopranos in the songs, the songs were like hymns. In fact in their albums, the Milimani choir never used any instrumental.
The composers did a great job in ensuring each voice was felt. And boy, the bass used to send chills down our spines. The sopranos were uplifting. The altos comforting and the tenors pulsating.
Too bad, they were a great choir in the 1990s when we had no internet or much connectivity, they could only do well in the Southern-West tip of the country. I don’t know how much they sold.
When I say they were good, what I mean is that you could not skip a song in their album. Not one song was boring.
See, in the days of albums, mostly released on tape, you did like 6 or 7 songs. About 3 will be good, 2 will be there there…and the other two will be terrible and experimental.
There tapes. The tapes used to be either C45, C-60 or C-90. I think the numbers indicated the minutes. So, side-A will have what the artist felt were awesome and side-B, well, often bad songs. Except that sometimes Side -B could have jams. The most famous side -B jam is Many Dibango’s Soul Makoussa.
Anyway, for Milimani choir, both sides were awesome. It makes me cry that their songs are not YouTube and presently maybe, there is no one with the tapes to digitize them for future consumption.
And that is the most frustrating thing about Africa.
Recently, I was talking with a renowned professor about our archiving abilities. Honestly we are doing badly.
Last time I visited the national museum, I noticed that all those fossils of dinosaurs and such are stored like firewood in a village. I saw some good museums in Berlin, a while back, and boy!
I am sure, that whereas YouTube has helped you rediscover some of our old classics, not all songs are online.Even on other streaming platforms. Often, after searching for a song for like 100 years, someone thankfully uploads it and you go to the comments and you see people relieved to rediscover their songs.
Sometimes, you listen to the song and it is not as good. And maybe that is where contemporary artists can give us a better rendition.
There is an old Ekegusii interdenominational song I have searched for such a long time and hopes of ever getting it dwindle every day. Unless, I attend all church services in Kisii, maybe I could be lucky.
We all sing hymns in church, composed by Europeans and Americans. The hymns have stood a test of time, but our music rarely lasts more than five years.
A while back, for SDA, it was Kurasini SDA choir from Tanzania. I no longer hear about them. There was Makongeni in the aughts.
But the most prodigious choir was the Muungano choir from Tanzania. I hear they used to be SDA, then became interdenominational. By the time I stopped listening to them in the late 90s, they had chucked 35 or albums.
Their 1998 album that came after the bombllast had some of my favourite songs but they are not anywhere in the internet universe. Who owns their catalogue?
A few years back, while seeing someone off to his stage along Ronald Ngala Road, down the road where Nakunatt used to be, I heard Muungano Choir songs singing, and the dude was charging me Sh 4,000. I would readily pay, but I lost his number and not sure if I can remember the building well. Worse, when I play the songs, the dotcoms in my house think that I am ancient. He he he.
Anyway, let us find a way to archive our artistic productions. I heard there was a time Google wanted to help KBC digitize their treasure trove, but some top dog wanted a bribe. To a tune of millions. Problem, those Google guys don’t work like that.