Sylvester Makobi has performed with the Kenyan Boys Choir for many years, and sang with them at President Obama’s first inauguration. He recorded as a soloist in three of the choir’s albums, singing one of the most popular Swahili love songs (“Malaika”) and an arrangement of “Kyra Sillo,” as well as in a commercial for Okobos wear. He is the co-founder and former director of Taifa Mziki (which translates as Music Nation), an all-male vocal ensemble whose repertoire includes arrangements of traditional Kenyan music. Makobi has toured with the two groups to different parts of the world including, the UK, France, China, and the U.S., to great acclaim. Currently a student at the IU Jacobs School of Music, he has broadened his vocal expertise to include opera and musical theater, and last summer he began teaching African music at a summer camp in California.
For the Lotus Blossoms World Bazaar performances, Makobi will be joined on-stage by Moses Kisilili Mayabilo. Both from Kenya, Makobi and Mayabilo met at Kenyatta University Students Choir where they were soloists; Mayabilo is also currently studying voice performance at the IU Jacobs School of Music.
The performance will feature vocal repertoire from Kenya, as well as an introduction to several important Kenyan musical instruments, including bul and kigamba. The bul drums originate from the Luo culture in Kenya and are made from cowhide. They are typically played in a set of four to eight bul drums plus a long cylindrical lead drum known as ohangla or kalapapla, made from monitor lizard skin. Kigamba (plural: Ciigamba) is a type of rattle or bell that originates from the Agikuyu culture and is a key rhythmic accompaniment for songs and dances. It is made from cast iron, dry seeds or iron balls, and an elastic band (traditionally a skin strap). Most players use one to six ciigamba, depending on the performance and the sizes of the ciigamba.
Photo by Chelsea Sanders, Blueline Media