Where should cultural events draw the line for sponsors?

This is the question I was left asking myself after attending the Fahari Yetu Festival at Safari Park Hotel on Saturday 27th,2008.

The event which is posed to be an annual showcase of music, dance and drama will not only feature Kenyan culture but music and culture from other countries in Africa and as well the world.

The hosts were The Boys Choir of Kenya – a group of young students formerly known as Aquinas Boys’ Choir who burst into the limelight in 1999 at a concert to commemorate the 1998 bombing of the US Embassy in Kenya. From then on, they have gone on numerous tours performing in such places as Kansas, Chicago, Quebec, North America and other major cities.

I was not surprised to learn that they are more renowned internationally than locally (read – our lack of appreciation of our own until the world discovers them).

I was however perturbed when after the MC announced the Boys Choir as the first act, they emerged adorned in corporate branded, green and white t-shirts and white Kikoy shukas.

It was a total disregard for the traditional music that they proceeded to sing.

This was despite the fact that in performance of traditional songs, it is an unwritten rule to adorn the regalia that the particular community wore (in this case the Mijikenda and Teso of the Coastal Province). And not just any garments that the community wore daily, specific attire worn for that specific dance. This not only emphasized the meaning of the song, but also went on to distinguish, say a circumcision song sung by Men to a harvest song sung by women.

I have absolutely no problem with a corporate/org sponsoring a cultural event. But to change items of cultural significance to their own benefit not only robs the audience of a fulfilling experience of how say, the Kikuyu dressed when singing their Mwomboko, or the Luo while playing the Nyatiti, or Kisii with the Obokano, but also leaves the musicians feeling like the dance has no cultural meaning anymore and has became a mere marketing tool.

It is quite alright in other disciplines, especially in sports as it is more of a recreational activity meant to create entertainment, I however feel that in a country where the youth are quickly loosing the value of our culture, languages and traditions to western influences, then events of Cultural significance should not be crowded by over commercialization of these sacred traditions. More photos here

Am I being a Purist? What are your thoughts on this?

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Showcasing the best in Kenyan Arts;Music,writing,Poetry,fine art and art reviews as well as info on emerging art trends. “Art is not about thinking something up. It is the opposite…getting something down.”