Gusii - Music and Dance


This page is as yet incomplete - please bear with me.
In this page:
Dancing
Lyres - obokano
Drums
Wrestling - and music


Dancing

Traditional Gusii dances were frequent and invigorating affairs, often performed in the evenings after meals, as well as during funerals, wedding ceremonies and at beer-parties for elders, after which the old men and women 'danced vigorously'. Young men of the warrior age group enjoyed war-dances, whilst young women danced to local tunes which they composed and sang, either alone or accompanied by instruments. The Gusii instrument par excellence was the obokano lyre (see below), although horns, flutes, gourds and drums were also played.


Lyres - obokano

Like the other two Bantu societies in the west of Kenya (Kuria and Luhya), the Gusii play lyres, which is an instrument otherwise absent among Bantu-speaking people. This is explained by the long period of contact the Gusii 'enjoyed' with the Nilotic-speaking Luo, Kipsigis and Nandi.

The Gusii call their lyre obokano (or obokhano), and is not to be confused with the one-stringed musical bow of the Kuria, which is also called obokano. The Gusii obokano has eight strings made from animal tendons, and is accompanied by singing from the same player.


Drums

There were of course drums. A hollow cylinder was made from the soft trunk of a tree 60 cm long and 30 cm in diameter. Either one or both ends were covered tightly with leather. The Gusii preferred the leather from the skin of an anteater, but sometimes the leather was from the hide of a cow, goat or sheep.


Wrestling - and music

One of the most popular pastimes for Gusii males was wrestling. The boys wrestled with other boys and the men wrestled with other men. Wrestling was done mainly when people were looking after cattle in the field. Sometimes organized wrestling was arranged between villages or clans. The best wrestlers became very famous, and lyrists and girls composed songs of praise about them.


 
 
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