Musical Composition: The merger of indigenous Abagusii and Western Classical Musical Idioms in the Arrangement and Composition of Contemporary Kenyan Music
Obaga, Andrew Oroo
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This study was undertaken against the background that the Abagusii community has had contact with Western culture since the beginning of the 20th century through colonisation and missionary activities. It has been observed that the musical thought process and taste of the Abagusii contemporary musicians have changed due to practices related to Western education and Christianity. Musicians have attempted to give indigenous music of the Abagusii a new touch inclined towards the contemporary popular music and Western Classical styles. Most of the compositions in Ekegusii display the use of new melodic themes while employing Western musical instrumental idioms. However, the incorporation of the indigenous songs of the Abagusii as sandwiches in some of them was notably not effective. The indigenous songs were not integrated in the compositional styles. It was also noted that the resulting products of these efforts exhibited limitations that hindered effective integration of the indigenous musical idioms of the Abagusii and those of Western classical music. One of the hindrances noted, among others, was the general lack of scholarly documentation of the indigenous Abagusii musical idioms, which could be adapted and/or merged with Western musical idioms in contemporary musical compositions, without upsetting and/or alienating the idiomatic musical elements of the indigenous music of the Abagusii. As a response to the situation cited above, this study was designed to establish guidelines for the composition of music using indigenous Abagusii and Western Classical musical idioms. The procedure was to collect transcribe, and analyse the indigenous songs of the Abagusii in order to: identify the characteristic indigenous musical idioms of the Abagusii; identify compatible elements of the indigenous Abagusii and Western Classical musical idioms; determine the applicability of the indigenous musical idioms of the Abagusii within parameters of contemporary musical styles; arrange and create pieces of music by merging indigenous musical idioms of the Abagusii with those of the Western Classical tradition. The study was guided by the theories of Systematic descriptions and Syncretism, which facilitated the identification and selection of compatible musical idioms of the indigenous Abagusii and Western Classical music and their merging in the creative arrangement and composition in the contemporary Kenyan style. The field study was carried out in Bonchari of Central Kisii District, where songs were collected by recording live performances by a cross-section of members of the Abagusii community. After transcription and analysis of the indigenous songs, a comparative study of the same and Western Classical music was made, leading to the identification of musical idioms that were either similar or different. This facilitated the identification of those that could be borrowed and merged for creative musical works in contemporary styles. The merger was then done through two pieces ofmusic: an adapted arrangement "Nyariancha Kerubo' Michira!" and an original composition "Nyasae Tata ere Omotongi". The creative works that have resulted from this study provide useful information on techniques and guidelines that can be used in the merger of indigenous Abagusii and Western Classical musical idioms. Furthermore, they have added to the repertoire of Kenyan art music of the Afro-classic genre. They will also serve as reference material for comparative musical analysis, research and composition to scholars, teachers and students in high schools, colleges and universities. Finally, this study has provided scholarly guidelines on how to achieve this unity in diversity, which would contribute to the promotion and preservation of not only the Abagusii musical heritage but that of other Kenyan communities as well.
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