Kenya has a culture born of countless sources. This region has been crossed by the paths of a long and complex history. From the prehistoric records of early man to the present day, Kenya has been a land of unending change, contrasts and diversity.
The early tribal states saw cycles of migration and shifting power, with Kenya as a meeting place for peoples from the plainlands of the south, the forests of the West and the deserts of the North.
The sea brought influences from the outside world, and the passage of the spice trade created the unique coastal culture, where lines between Africa and Arabia blurred. The open coast brought European influences into this world of change and began a turbulent struggle for control whose exotic history lingers today.
The first explorers discovered a land of great peril and greater beauty, and their great adventures created the most unique colony in the British Empire. This was a meeting place of cultures, where adventurers and soldiers of fortune mingled with a complex tribal society, and the arrival of labourers and merchants from India brought new and pervasive influences.
The colonial legacy lives on in the traditions of the great safari, and the pursuit of adventure and freedom.
Kenya has drawn on all of these influences to develop its own unique culture. This is the nations greatest strength- the ability to blend the best of many worlds into a strong, singular identity.
Today, Kenya welcomes the world to its shores and continues to evolve a modern culture that is born of endless variety, and yet purely, proudly Kenyan.
Take a Cultural Safari through Kenya’s Wilderness ad enter a world where mankind and wildlife have lived in harmony for an eternity.
Kenyan Music and Dance
Traditionally, Kenyan music originates from several sources.
Many of the Nomadic tribes of this region share some common ground in the use of songs and chants, particularly among Maa speaking groups.
Masai Manyatta insideMaa song has always played a large role in ceremonial life, and continues to. One of the best known Maasai ceremonial songs is the Engilakinoto, sung after a victorious lion hunt. Structured around a deep rhythmic chant it is accompanied by a spectacular dance in which warriors display their strength and prowess by leaping directly and vertically into the air.
Elsewhere, the use of drums became widespread and central to elaborate traditional dances. The word Ngoma (drum) is still used to describe most forms of traditional music and dance.
A variety of drums were used throughout the country. The Luhya of Western Kenya developed a very distinctive dance style called Sikuti after the local name for a drum. This extremely energetic dance is usually performed by paired male and female dancers, and accompanied by several drums, bells, long horns and whistles.
The Kamba and Chuka people both developed a distinctive drumming style, in which a long drum is leant forward and clasped between the thighs. The Kamba were well known for their athletic, almost acrobatic dancing.
Other instruments were developed, including reed flutes and basic stringed instruments. One of the finer of these was the Nyatiti, similar to the medieval lyre. The Nyatiti is commonly played throughout Kenya’s West. It has a gentle, relaxing sound, and is usually played solo with a single singer, and sometimes accompanied by light percussion or bells.