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Safaricom Youth Orchestra a Symphony of Cultures

Since SYO was founded in April 2014, the tutors have taken their time to carefully go over every note and key to ensure perfection in every sound we hear

SYO Music Director, Duncan Wambugu

In a concert at the Jain Bhavan Auditorium in Nairobi, the Safaricom Youth Orchestra displayed a mastery of art, and harmony as they played charmingly intimate pieces to the audience. This was the first physical event in 2 years. 

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, the Safaricom Youth Orchestra did not fail to impress. As a result, it was able to hold its  8th Safaricom Youth Orchestra graduation ceremony.

Themed “Play it Forward”, students were encouraged to go out into the world and make a difference through acts of kindness such as volunteering their skills or mentoring others who are pursuing the same musical path. 

18 graduates were certificated in orchestral music after learning to play various instruments ranging from the flute to the alto sax, trumpet, and violin. 

“I understand that the role of SYO and indeed all our music platforms serve. They are not only for entertainment but are also instrumental in shaping the nature of the society we live in,”  Joe Ogutu, Chief Special Projects Safaricom spoke with nostalgia. 

Joe Ogutu, Chief Special Projects and

“Since SYO was founded in April 2014, the tutors have taken their time to carefully go over every note and key to ensure perfection in every sound we hear.”

The orchestra made its presence felt in the auditorium as SYO Music Director, Duncan Wambugu and Deputy Director, Levi Wataka exchanged in the sessions to showcase the spectacle. From African folk tunes like – Lelo, a Kalenjin folk song sung to praise their fertile land and warriors. Shake it off rendition by Taylor Swift, film music medley with the James Bond films. 

“This orchestra is going to open up a world of musical experience…people see the value in classical music,” Wambugu says. 

The audience in the auditorium could not help but demand more as the violins and violas picked up songful patterns,  and the special guest drummer hit the right notes to usher in the rhythm.  

The Safaricom Choir was the magic potent during the orchestra. The audience marveled from their “Please don’t switch off your phone”, redefining the world of symphony. 

Safaricom Youth Orchestra a Symphony of Cultures

Going into the future, Levi says .orchestra will be defined by partnerships and the new talent being churned into the market. 

“In the community, in the corporate space, there will be a higher level of playing.  In the recording studio, which for me is a big dream of mine to see people recording using live instruments. And then film music. That’s the big industrial future is for us to contribute, to film music in Africa,” Levi tells Khusoko

“If you need a quality orchestra output for film, we are hoping these are the possible futures out of the symphonic orchestra because you know, that’s what the orchestra is designed to do.” 

The remaining question is how do we make people listen to orchestra music? Levi says music has to be made and played. 

“We can’t make people listen to anything. We just have to play in the space where the people are listening. In the recording studio, we have to talk to the artist. This is how it would fit in. So, rather than making people listen and just collaborate and offer something that people are interacting with already,” Levi adds.  

“We just have to write messages, play about messages that impart our spirit. That is how we’ll speak that, you know because music can only transform Through the message that it’s in part.”

 “So we have to, try and align. Listen to society. If people are frustrated, if people need hope, we have to pass those. We have to contribute to those messages… so we not making them listen, but we are offering something that is viable, You know, people are like, I wanna listen to this. because it’s speaking to Me.”

Safaricom Youth Orchestra: Sustainability in Art Through Orchestra

The Safaricom Youth Orchestra was started in 2014. The Art of Music  Foundation runs the Safaricom Youth Orchestra by providing the administrative framework for the orchestra from running yearly auditions, arranging weekly rehearsals, hiring teaching and support staff and instrument care.


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