The setting of Kiswahili words to music: a study of textual analysis in musical composition
Gichuhi, Kagema W.
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This is a study in music analysis and composition. It is mainly concerned with the writing of music for Kiswahili Christian text. Many of the Kiswahili hymns in use in the Christian Churches in Kenya, Nairobi in particular, are translations from English Hymns. The music used in the Kiswahili Hymns is the same as that in the original hymns. Naturally, the two languages have differences in accentuation, rhythm, intonation and contour. The use of music originally intended for English text therefore gave rise to the distortion of the rhythms and contours of several words in the translated Kiswahili texts. This is because the rules that apply to spoken language in terms of rhythm and contour should still apply when the words of that language are set to music. The study analyses selected hymns and by this attempts to bring out the distortions mentioned above. Choruses, or short musical passages are also analysed. The analysis shows how the natural stresses and flow of some words are misplaced. The study also comprises an original composition in Kiswahili, whose aim is to illustrate that music can be written for the language without resulting in distortions of the language without resulting in distortions of the language. Choirmasters and church members were also interviewed to give their views on the uses of these hymns, and also to ascertain whether the said distortions have affected their use in church activities. The findings in this study should encourage Kenyan composers to write refined music particularly in the local languages.
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