Africa in One Calabash: the Kenya National Music Festival



It was Africa all in one calabash at the 88th  edition of the annual Kenya National Music Festival that took place between August 4th  – 17th  at Mombasa County, Kenya hosted in five venues: Coast Girls High School, Aga khan High School, Aga khan Academy, the Star of the Sea, Mbaraki girls Secondary and the Government Training Institute.

The venues were literally invaded by school buses from all over the country, with over 100,000 participants coming in to perform at the cultural event. Security was tight, not even a fly could harm. The government was committed to protect its future musicians and artists.

World Youth Alliance Africa provided me an opportunity not only to attend the Festival but to also look for avenues of engagement and advancement of cherished WYA ideas to the many young people that flocked the event either to perform or just to have a pie of the beautiful presentation from the talented young artists. The Ministry of Education Science and Technology and the Department of Kenya Music Festival for this yearly arrangement did a commendable job.


From primary schools to colleges, young Kenyans took to the stage representing their provinces with traditional songs, dance, poetry and gospel music. Every school brought to Mombasa some unique aspect of their regional culture, colorful clothes, body paintings, songs and of course barefoot dances to the rhythm of traditional African drums.

The world-renowned Maasai tribe presented a harvest dance, the Luhya tribe performed a circumcision ceremony alongside dances from Tanzania, Uganda and from all around Kenya, ranging from marriage ceremonies, gospel chants and much more.

The jest was on the Zilizopendwa songs where the hall at the Aga Khan Academy was full to the capacity both the young and old generation scrambled for spaces just to enjoy African Love songs that paid tribute to celebrated African Artists like the Dem Mashrooms. They were very educational, from the heritage of values in African marriage to defending the rights of the baby in the womb.  The performances spread the message on current issues facing Africa and calls for amicable solutions that are African and in keeping with the culture in Africa, opposing Western ideas that keep on being pushed.

The festival provided me with an opportunity to meet and interact with other cultures and socializing with students. I was excited and at times I found myself literally getting saddened when verses on lamenting elephants, Rhinos on poacher’s bullets, and violation of human dignity through terrorism and abortion were recited on the stage.

All the performances went on stage successfully. The overall winners presented the performances to the head of state at State House in Mombasa. It was a happy moment coupled with my visit to the cool beaches of Mombasa and enjoyment of madafu (young coconut water) and coconut juice. I thank World Youth Alliance Africa for giving me this opportunity. Indeed culture deepens our understanding of who we are.


By Benjamin Masika, Intern World Youth Alliance Africa Regional Office. If you are interested to do an internship with WYA Africa, visit this webpage

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