Safaricom Youth Orchestra Concerts a Showcase of Exceptional Playing

Safaricom Youth Orchestra teams up with Ghetto Classics to present their first-ever public concert after two years.

Sunday, the Safaricom Youth Orchestra (SYO)  will be teaming up with the Art of Music Foundation and Ghetto Classics to present their first-ever public performance after two years.

However, the hallmark will be music students being awarded certificates in orchestral music they have learned to play ranging from the Flute, Alto Sax, Trumpet, and Violin. The 8th Safaricom Youth Orchestra graduation.

The previous two have been held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The SYO will perform classical pieces, a James Bond medley from the movies, and a special performance of folk fusion.

“Everything the repertoire has is worth listening to. My personal highlight right now is a folk fusion. That is just amazing as it speaks to so much history,” Levi told me during the rehearsals Saturday.

The concert that will be held at the Jain Bhavan Center in Loresho, Nairobi, the afternoon’s event also intertwines Indigenous contemporary music, art, and fashion.

“You know, we’ve been trying to do orchestra for the last 20 years. We’ve been trying to do orchestra for the sake of our own cultural identity. Sometimes orchestra is us. It is (orchestra) not just like a Western thing and now the orchestra is beginning to speak African. So this piece of folk fusion is a collection of folk songs from different ethnic groups in Kenya and stand really, really well for the orchestra. So the whole concert is, I mean, amazing music, but my personal highlight is the fork fusion,” Levi says.

We’ve got classical music with mainstream classical music. That is really good. We’ve got a film music medley with the James Bond films, which is really good, actually a James Bond medley. I am sure everybody will have something. That’s a highlight for them. Some people like me have where everything is a highlight.” 

If you are looking for how Orchestra can speak that African cultural identity for me, it’s that for fusion?

Future of Orchestra

“Music allows us to speak to each other. Music allows us to listen to each other. Music is the glue of who we are, everything,” Levi Wataka, Deputy Music Director Safaricom Youth Orchestra on what music means to him.

Levi was inspired by music by Mr. Levi Adagala, Director of the Kenya Conservatoire of Music. The Conservatoire exists to promote the teaching and performance of quality music of all styles in Kenya. Its main focus is to ensure that every interested individual has an opportunity to experience the benefits of learning to play/sing music at an affordable cost.

Levi says he was once told that “And he (Adagala) was one of the first people who was like, you know what? If you work hard, you might be able to make something of this musical career. And he not only said that but he actually supported, you. He was there, not just for, not just for me, but for generations of people.”

He believes the future of the orchestra is anchored on the many students who graduate and the ripple effect it has on many others.

“We can’t underestimate the function of time. You need time to play instrumental music to a high level. You need. Time has allowed us to start playing instruments at a very young age, to a high level, to practice for longer. Then the opportunity for us to play together in the same room. That is another thing. And by so doing it, you see all these young people are graduating. They’re going back to the churches, back to their schools, back to their home communities, back to other orchestras, and then imparting the lessons that we’ve learned here over there. So the symphonic form is growing.”

He also notes that the pandemic taught them positive lessons on how to approach future lessons. He tells me the changes are unprecedented. The classroom, we know has changed forever even the way children concentrate, and what they expect of them.

“One of the things that we’ll probably live on going forward is that we will have to repackage the information because young people don’t have to come to class anymore. They can get information quickly. So the information that we can disseminate virtually, we will continue to do that. And then that means when we come together, What do we do? So we have to now learn, how do we use the time together so that we achieve the best. The end result will be a higher standard of playing music.”

For his parting shot, Levi says, “Literally music is how we can access our deepest understanding. It’s one of the ways that we can get to really listen to who we are. I think once you finish making effort, all of us, you finish making effort, You always still have so much more to do. We don’t have enough of everything. So you can only have so much. Then you can see how far you could go as a society as a person. And the thing that feels that gap is music.”

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