A master carver and dhow builder from Lamu Old Town on Lamu Island, Ali “Skanda” Abdalla Ali was born to a family of crafts- and businessmen whose trade reached as far as Egypt and Arabia. His late father is considered one of the pioneers of Swahili handicraft, starting his career as a dhow builder and sailor, and then becoming an internationally recognized Swahili wood carver. Ali is continuing his family’s legacy of dhow building, sailing, and wood carving. He is locally known for his dedication to the preservation of Swahili traditional craft and continuing this work with the community’s youth by providing a workshop and vocational training.
Ali Bakari Bwana, known as Ali Baba, is a Swahili native of Matondoni on Lamu Island. The town is known for dhow building and traditional mat weaving. For Ali Baba, dhow building is in his blood. With no formal education, he grew up knowing that he would always be a dhow builder, so he mastered the trade skills, becoming one of the most well-known contemporary dhow builders in the Lamu area. Today, Ali still lives in Matondoni and is known along the coast as an expert builder and sailor.
Salim Mohamed Atwaa is project coordinator with the Lamu Marine Conservation Trust (LAMCOT), an organization that started as the “Turtle Project.” Today Atwaa continues LAMCOT’s work in turtle conservation by working with the local community in the tag and release of sea turtles caught in fishing nets, turtle nest protection, and beach patrol.
Ahmed Yusuf Suleiman is a Swahili native of Lamu. He discovered his artistic ability in drawing and design at a young age and decided to forego secondary school to become an artist. He apprenticed with a famous carver, Salim Hilu, to learn masonry and the art of plaster carving and design. Ahmed has mastered the techniques that go into masonry and carving and is now one of the most sought-after plasterwork or relief designers and carvers in East Africa. Ahmed’s work can be seen in museums, businesses, and private homes of Kenya, Zanzibar, and Mozambique.
Teresia Mbula Kimei, a member of the Kaunti Women’s Group, learned the art of basketry and weaving from her mother. With time she became a skilled weaver and began making baskets and kiondos (hand-woven bags made of sisal) to sell. These crafts have cultural, functional, and economic value, and basket weavers usually learn this art from family and community members.
A native of Kisumu, Lucy Agutu Okudo works with Zingira Nyanza Community Crafts, a community-based organization that coordinates the efforts of local artisans to produce recycled and locally sourced handicraft products. She is the head of Zingira Nyanza’s weaving department and conducts trainings with local people who wish to pursue a career in sustainable arts and crafts.
Apollo Omondi Omware is an artisan from Kisumu. He works with Zingira Nyanza Community Crafts, a community-based organization that coordinates the efforts of local artisans from all tribes living in the Kisumu area to produce recycled and locally sourced handicraft products. His specialty is paper crafts.
Susana Daniel Chemakwany is a member of the Sengekwo Cultural Group, an enterprising group specializing in Pokot cultural artifacts and traditional costumes, carvings, and food. Susan specializes in beadwork, which she learned from her grandmother. Beads have a significant cultural value attached to them, and the art of beading is shared across the community and handed down from generation to generation.
Susan Naserian Nketoria is a renowned beadwork artist who learned her skills from her mother. She has a real passion for her art, which she combines with storytelling about the Maasai, a community that values beaded decorated artifacts.
Human Origins Researchers
Rahab Njui Kinyanjui is an expert in the microscopic plant remains from prehistoric sites at Olorgesailie, Turkana, and other famed sites in Kenya’s Rift Valley. As a researcher at the National Museums of Kenya, she has worked with the Smithsonian research team in southern Kenya and is currently undertaking Ph.D. studies focused on the vegetation history of the past 500,000 years.
Dr. Fredrick Kyalo Manthi is a paleontologist who heads the paleontology division at the National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi. His research focuses on the broad sweep of human evolution and the small fossil mammals that reveal information about the environments inhabited by our distant ancestors. He directs field expeditions in the Turkana Basin area of northern Kenya.
Joshua Nzioki Mativo has worked with the Smithsonian excavations in southern and western Kenya for more than twenty years. His great enthusiasm for fieldwork and excavation is matched by his expertise in field methods, recording, mapping, and the care of fossil and archeological discoveries.
Musyoka Kilonzi Mwangangi is the lead field technician on the Smithsonian’s prehistory projects in southern and western Kenya. His expertise ranges from fossil preparation, excavation, mapping, and organization of the Smithsonian’s field camp. He is a member of the Paleontology Preparation Laboratory at the National Museums of Kenya.
Tegla Loroupe is a long-distance track and road runner. She was the first African woman to win the New York City Marathon in 1994 and has held many world records. She now devotes much of her time to humanitarian and peace activities through the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation, founded in 2003, and has been successful in bringing members of warring tribes together. In 2006 she founded the 10km Peace Race, which has become an important and significant athletic event. The same year she was named a United Nations Ambassador of Sport and is also a member of the Champions for Peace, a group of athletes seeking to use the power of sport to bring about peace.
Henry Wanyoike was born in 1974 in rural Kenya. In 1995, Henry experienced a mild stroke during the night that resulted in a ninety-five percent loss of eyesight; he went for rehabilitation at the Machakos Technical Institute for the Blind. He entered an Olympic event that enabled him to participate in the national trials for the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney, Australia, where he won gold in the 5,000-meter race, and he quickly established himself as a world-class non-sighted runner. Henry runs with his track guide and childhood friend, Joseph Kibunja, who previously had no running aspirations until Henry approached him about it. Together they have participated in many charitable activities in Kenya particularly to assist the poor, persons with disabilities, orphans, and other less privileged people.
Pokomo Hut Builders
Salma Ndoge Maro and Mwanajuma Malika Badiribu are Pokomo traditional hut builders, a skill that is handed down from generation to generation throughout the community. The huts are made from locally sourced materials.
Dina Anyango Adipo and Grace Akinyi Jakoyo are members of the Oriang women’s pottery group made up of more than fifty members who use indigenous techniques of molding clay to make pots. Pot making is learned through training and apprenticeship passed on through the generations. This group was formed over thirty years ago to help promote, preserve, and safeguard the cultural heritage of the Luo community.
Elkana Ong’esa is one of the most admired and prolific contributors to art in Kenya. He has received the Distinguished Service Award for his outstanding contributions in sculpture and has also been published widely in print and electronic media. Elkana has made many of the monumental stone sculptures found in public and private collections worldwide promoting themes of peace, collaboration, and environmental conservation, including a large piece at the entrance of the UNESCO building in Paris. He is the master carver of the sculpture “Hands Off Our Elephants” in recognition of elephant conservation efforts in Kenya.
Mark Obara Zebedee works under Elkana Ong’esa as a trainee assistant in monumental sculpture. He has also participated as a trainee assistant and store manager during the African Stones Talk Symposium in Kisii County.
Meshack Ndunda Kivuva is one of the prolific artists among the Wamunyu wood carvers. He learned wood carving from his father and specializes in the style of the Akamba community. His pieces portray social themes and are an example of mastery of the art.
Mutunga Japheth Munya is a renowned wood carver and member of the Wamunyu wood carvers cooperative of Kitui County. He developed an interest in wood carving at an early age, and after practicing this art for more than twenty years he is now among the most skilled carvers in the region.
Living and Working with Wildlife
Munira Kavosa Anyonge is an expert on policy and legislation on wildlife conservation and management in Kenya. She is a member of the taskforce charged with reviewing the new Wildlife Conservation and Management Act.
Prior to joining the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT), Celina Butali worked for the Kenya Wildlife Service as a community wildlife assistant and coordinated several health and education initiatives in Nairobi slums. She is successfully engaging several women’s groups in business and product development training and continues to develop the NRT Trading Program.
Ranger Josephat Bwire was born in Busia County in the western province of Kenya. He joined Kenya Wildlife Service in 2007 as a ranger and has served in various wildlife security hotspots in the country, including Lamu, Baomo, and Mokowe platoon. As a ranger, he is always ready to defend native wildlife from poachers and has many stories from the frontlines of the rangelands.
Omar Godana Dida is an elder of the Gabbra people of Kenya. He is the finance chairman of the Nasuulu Conservancy, one of the youngest Northern Rangeland Trust conservancies.
John Lopulo Ekai is a member of the Nakuprat-Gotu Community Conservancy and part of the Northern Rangelands Trust. He is experienced in both the rapid response to issues of security of wildlife in the conservancies and how pastoralists protect and conserve wildlife while keeping cattle as a livelihood.
Josephine Ekiru is a conservationist, leader, peacemaker, and chairperson of the Community Wildlife Conservancy established by the Turkana and Borana communities. Tribal fighting over scarce resources, poaching, and stock theft have contributed to instability and food insecurity in this region. Through Josephine’s efforts, the establishment of the conservancy has brought peace to the tribal conflict area through sustainable wildlife conservation. Josephine is also known for rehabilitating many poachers who are now working to protect and conserve the wildlife within the conservancies.
Mwanamisi Ghofwa Haodo has worked with the Kenya Wildlife Service as a human-wildlife conflict resolution officer since 2001. Her job entails daily patrols in community wildlife areas, animal control, community education, and training for encounters with wild animals.
Tom Lalampaa is chief programs officer for the Northern Rangelands Trust, which brings together the local community, private sector, and government. He is also the chairman of the Kenya Wildlife Conservancies Association, a national body that brings together both private and community conservancies in Kenya. In September 2013, Tom won the inaugural Tusk Award for conservation in Africa, which recognized his outstanding contribution to northern Kenya’s communities and wildlife.
Beatrice Namunyak Lempaira is the manager of the Naibunga Conservancy in Laikipia. The Naibunga Conservancy is unique in that the participating ranches have agreed to unite in the common interest of management and utilization of natural resources while ensuring peaceful coexistence of the different communities. Naibunga’s key programs include security and wildlife monitoring, rangeland management, livelihood, capacity building, and governance. Beatrice brought peace to nine communities who are now working together for wildlife conservation.
Richard Lokorukoru is from the Samburu community in northern Kenya and serves as the community warden and head ranger for the Namunyak Conservancy. His community has organized to take up wildlife conservation as a land-use option.
Jackson Kibui Marubu is a park and community warden with extensive experience and knowledge of both the government side of conservation issues. He works with government strategies to have communities participate in wildlife conservation and management as a means of improving their livelihoods.
Catherine Mwaura works with the Kenya Wildlife Service and is passionate about connecting people to animals and the environment. She brings years of experience and expertise in how human relationships with wildlife have shaped Kenyan society through tourism and other industries.
Ranger Philemon Kimutai Ngeno was appointed special officer in 2005. He loves what he does and will be telling his story about being on the frontlines of wildlife conservation and its challenges. Ngeno is especially concerned about poaching of endangered and threatened species, an issue that is currently a great challenge for Kenya and other range states.
As an employee of the Kenya Wildlife Service, Ibrahim Abdi Ogle has been involved in numerous special projects that serve to protect Kenya’s animals and environment, including anti-poaching operations and climate change adaption in national parks. He has a passion for connecting people to nature and has developed interpretation materials to bring conservationists’ perspectives to people around the world.
Edwin Wanjala Wanyonyi led the Kenya Wildlife Service’s Animal Adoption Program Team that won the Development of Policy, Strategy, and Leadership category at the Public Service Day, marked at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre in Nairobi. This program involves securing baby animals orphaned because of poachers, their care at the animal orphanage, and their eventual release back into the wild.
Jane Wanjiru has specialized in braiding African hairstyles and designs for over ten years. She became interested in braiding at a young age, when she discovered her inherent talent which later translated into a career. Her philosophy is, “there are as many braiding designs as there are human beings.” The mastery of her skills and knowledge was enhanced by training and continuous practice.
Farida Rashid Mohamed and Fatima Simba are henna painters and body decorators. The materials they use, henna and pico, are locally available and can be improvised from the immediate environment.
Brothers Patrick and Isaac Kibe are self-taught muralists who specialize in turning waste materials into masterpieces. Using recycled bottles, tin, bottle caps, broken tiles, glasses, and other resources, they produce whimsical and fantastic homes and other structures.
Before joining Ocean Sole, Jonathan Lento was a herdsman in Samburu and did various casual jobs in different places. He has worked for Ocean Sole for seven years. A father of two, Jonathan says that Ocean Sole “gives good carving experience. I can pay the school fees for my children and feed myself and my family.”
Francis Mutua Muvua was a wood carver before joining Ocean Sole. He has worked with the company for three years and says that through Ocean Sole, he has “met different people. I am able to afford school fees for my children. This work is my daily bread.”
Newton Zadock Kweya is a professional storyteller working with Zamaleo Arts and Culture Trust. Storytelling is an old art form that is not often practiced today but has a vibrant following. Passed along from generation to generation, storytelling is used to entertain, to educate, and to teach about social wrongdoings.
Hellen Alumbe Namai is an integral member of the Zamaleo sigana storytelling community, which uses riddles, music, sayings, dance, and movement to create a dynamic, interactive experience. She began as an actress and soon turned to storytelling full time. As a professional storyteller she has toured internationally performing dramatic narration, banter, chant, recitation, and song.
Ahmed Mohamed Nongodha was born in 1955 and is a Bajun native from the town of Faza on Pate Island, the most northern island of the Lamu archipelago. It was during his early years at the madrassa in Faza that he became interested in making the hand-embroidered Islamic hat known as kofia. Currently, Ahmed lives and works on Lamu Island as the lead ticket clerk for the National Museums of Kenya – Lamu Museums. Ahmed’s kofia making has become a part-time hobby in which he only makes the hats for family members.
Abdulhamid Muneeb Kaderdina was born in Kenya and studied marketing management in Hyderabad, India, and information management in England. He is the descendent of a lineage of Kaderdinas who have been involved in the khanga trade in East Africa since 1843. For his entire life, he has been involved in khanga design, production, and marketing at his family’s business, Kaderdina Hajee Essak Ltd., which has operated in the same building on Biashara Street in Mombasa for over a century.
Mohamed Hussein Abdulkader Kaderdina is a member of the Kaderdina khanga legacy. He is currently the director of the family company, Kaderdina Hajee Essak Ltd. While he now uses a computer in the design process, he is also fluent in the older methods of khanga design, which are done by hand. His khangas are notable for their bright colors, bold designs, and meaningful symbols that appear on the wide border, or pindo in Kiswahili.
Fatma Ali Busaidy was born into the Busaidy clan, one of the native Swahili families from Lamu. Raised in a traditional Swahili household, Fatma learned the art of cooking. She believes being able to prepare and cook Swahili cuisine is an essential part of culture. She credits her love for cooking to her family life where she has been mother not only to her own children, but also to her younger siblings. Although she is known for her cooking, Fatma has had a long career in education. She was a teacher at Lamu Girls Secondary School for almost a decade before joining the National Museums of Kenya – Lamu Museum as a community education officer.Alice Awuir Oduor and Emily Oduor are holistic health and nutritional caterers providing affordable services to health-conscious clientele. In 2005 they founded the catering company Lisa & Kaylie; while at first the services were limited to home deliveries on weekends, growing demand allowed them to extend their services to weddings, office functions, and more. Their menu consists exclusively of traditional cuisine from the Luo of western Kenya and northern Uganda. Amina Harith Swaleh specializes in Swahili cooking, which she teaches at Pwani University in Kilifi County, about forty miles north of Mombasa. Amid a worldwide growing interest in African cuisine, she has been instrumental in the revival of traditional Swahili dishes.
The Ramogi Dancers from Homa Bay County are a traditional men’s troupe composed of two teams, the Kagan and Kochia dancers that perform authentic Luo dances of western Kenya. Traditionally the dances would be performed during burial ceremonies, called tero buru. More recently the dances have been a source of entertainment during state functions, wedding ceremonies and other rites, in addition to burial ceremonies.
Paul Orwa Apiyo
Daniel Akumu Mandha
Alfred Anyango Migure
James Ojuok Ochieng’
Kennedy Odhiambo Olela
John Oyoi Ooyi
Joseph Aludo Owaka
John Owuor Oyugi
Stanbradox Odhiambo Oyugi
Gargar is a group from Garissa in northeastern Kenya, made up of women of Somali origin. The goal of Gargar, named for the Somali word meaning “joining together,” is to preserve traditional culture and empower women through music. Their song “AIDS Wadila” (AIDS Kills) has brought AIDS awareness to communities throughout Kenya.
Amina Bashir, vocals
Luli Bashir, vocals
Anab Gure Ibrahim, vocals
Kenge Kenge is comprised of young Kenyan musicians who perform roots music of the Luo community from western Kenya with lyrical arrangements that reflect influences from the popular benga pop music style. Their mastery of the traditional Luo orutu fiddle and nyatiti lyre has created a new approach to how these age-old instruments are played, much to the appreciation of contemporary audiences.
Tobias Onyango Agola, lead vocals, drums
Boaz Otieno Akech, orutu, oporo
Joseph Ojunga Kungu, horn
George Achieng’ Odero, oruto
Lelele Afrika is a Mombasa-based taarab band with origins in Lamu. Blending cultural influences from the Middle East and India that are also present in many coastal Kenyan foods and crafts, Lelele Afrika has been recognized for its contributions to taarab music by the Spotlight on Kenyan Music Series, an initiative of Alliance Francaise and Ketebul Music.
Mohamed Shigo, taishakoto zither
Mbarak Ali Hadji, harmonium
Mohamed Mwanaisha Abdalla (Nyota Ndogo), vocals
Charles Odero Ademson a.k.a. Makadem is one of the most renowned artists in Kenya, known for his fusion of Kenyan music with his native Luo benga music. He began his career as a tour guide in Mombasa and entertained guests with his guitar. He now combines benga and ohangla styles that he refers to as “Anglo-Ohangla,” a fusion of ohangla (traditional Luo music based on Luo drums), nyatiti (based on a Luo lyre), and dodo (traditional Luo music singing style) styles of music mixed with other modern African beats with heavily accented Luo-English vocals.
Peter Akwabi has been composing and teaching music for over five decades. Born in Khwisero in western Kenya, he has been credited with popularizing omutibo beats, a local form of processional music, characterized by rhythms inspired by a traditional dance of the Luhya community. His first album, released in 1963 when he was still a teen, was a tribute to fellow singer George Mukabi. He has taught performing and creative arts at Kenyatta University, works as a freelance music lecturer, and has thirteen TV episodes and over 250 songs to his name.
Polycarp Awino Onyango performs as Winyo, the Luo word for bird, a name he adopted because his voice has been likened to a birdsong. His songs tell stories and are infused with rich melodies sung with traditional harmonies in the Dhuluo, Kiswahili, and English languages. His musical style ranges from Luo traditional, Afro-fusion, and Afro-jazz, to a contemporary interpretation of benga. Winyo was named as one of ten finalists in the Radio France International Discoveries in both 2010 and 2011. In addition to his extraordinary music career, he is also an actor, TV producer, and gifted photographer.
Born in Moyale on the Ethiopia-Kenya border, Kadir Roba Duba a.k.a. Kadir Kotola now resides in Nairobi. He sings in Oromo, the language of his ethnic group. He writes his own lyrics and plays multiple instruments in the arrangement of his songs.
A singer from the Kalenjin community in the Rift Valley, Doris Tanui Chepchumba began performing as a dancer, drummer, and soloist in the annual Kenya National Music Festivals when she was in high school. In 2006, she won first prize at the Ibiza Talent Search Competition sponsored by leading Kenyan radio stations. She performs solo and with the Maroon Commandos, a well-known military band in Kenya that plays benga, rumba, and other music styles.
Samba Mapangala has been playing music for over four decades, having emerged from the era of Kenyan lingala music, a genre of dance music that came out of Cuban rumba from the Belgian Congo and French Congo in the 1940s. Born in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo, he spent time with various bands in Kishasa and Uganda before forming Orchestra Virunga in 1981 in Nairobi. The group plays a mix of rumba and Congolese soukous but in a Kenyan style, with Samba composing and singing in both Lingala and Kiswahili. He lived in Nairobi from 1977 until the late 1990s, when he resettled in Maryland.
Bosco Mutua Mulwa is a benga artist from the Kamba tribe in the northeast region of Kenya. He is a skilled guitarist as well as a talented vocalist. He is most well-known for his song “Mother,” in which he sings about the importance of mothers in the lives of individuals.
Known for both his impressive music career and his work as a music producer, Mohamed Said Ngana a.k.a. Mr. Bado is involved in all aspects of music. His father was a famous singer and composer, and now Bado draws from his musical background and coastal heritage to create a unique sound. He has released a number of hits, such as “Shemeji” and “Susumila,” which earned him a spot on Safaricom Live in 2010.
John Amutabi Nzenze picked up his first guitar at the age of twelve and couldn’t put it down. After finishing school, he teamed up with Daudi Kabaka and recorded a series of hits which garnered him national attention. He has toured around the world, performing in the twist dance style, and has been recognized by several heads of state, such as former Kenyan President Jomo Kenyatta and the Emperor of Ethiopia Haile Selassie. In 1972 he left the band to perform regularly for tourists.
A multi-talented Afro-fusion artist and activist, Beatrice Achieng' Odhiambo a.k.a. Iddi Achieng' uses her music for change and her popularity to give back to her nation. She grew up in a musical family and sang in a youth church choir, eventually studying professional art and music. She has toured internationally and represented Africa in the 2010 global peace concert in Beijing, China. Her organization, the Iddi Achieng’ Trust, works with marginalized communities to realize positive developmental change through the arts.
Ronald Ontiri Onchuru a.k.a. Ontiri Bikundo taught himself to play the obokano, a traditional eight-stringed Kisii harp, at an early age. His parents passed away when he was ten, and despite his education being cut short, he was able to practice and study music. He sings about various contemporary issues such as AIDS, ethnic beliefs, love, and marriage. He has a broad base of fans that are captivated by his witty lyrics and interactive delivery.
Susan Adhiambo Owiyo a.k.a. Suzanna Owiyo was raised around music, as her father was a well-known nyatiti player. She began her career straight out of high school singing backup for Sally Oyugi. After working with several other artists, she went back to school at the Kenya Conservatoire of Music. In 2002 she won the Kora Award for Most Promising Female Artist. After her success in Kenya, she began touring internationally in places such as Paris and the Netherlands. Her work today combines traditional styles with contemporary rhythms.
Job Ouko Seda is a Kenyan musician and actor. He has appeared in The Kitchen Toto and Out of Africa and also worked for other films as location manager and in the casting department in Kenya.
Eric Wainaina is a singer-songwriter known for his blend of benga rhythm and modern harmonies. He started playing piano at four years old and began singing shortly after. He graduated with honors from the Berklee College of Music in Boston with a degree in songwriting and audio engineering. After completing school he toured around the United States performing Kenyan music, and he continues to share his culture around the world today.
Carol Lynn Atemi Oyungu began singing at age ten in the junior choir at her church and has since performed with various groups, including Thrown Together by Christ, Karisma, and Eric Wainaina’s band. She has also sung as a solo artist and appeared as a judge on the Tusker All Stars reality show. Several of her collaborative projects have supported causes like sex education and river conservation.
Hailing from the coastal town of Malindi, Kombo Chokwe Burns’s guitar lines are rich with coastal grooves, melodies, and rhythms. He is currently the leader and composer for Kombo & Afro Simba Band. This group spent a month in war-torn Somalia, where they ran a program aimed at empowering Somali youth through music training.
As a sought-after guitarist, Thobias Imani Koech has performed with Patricia Kihoro, Gargar, and other East African artists. He originally hails from Kericho.
Iddi Aziz Kunya was raised in Nairobi and Mombasa and became part of the Nairobi music scene at a young age. He combines world sounds with deep African roots to create a unique, Afro-fusion sound. He plays the guitar, flute, and several African percussion instruments. He hopes to inspire others through his music and believes that music can have a great spiritual influence.
Shadrack “Shaddy” Muithya Makau is a Kenyan multi-instrumentalist who has toured with Makadem and other top artists. He plays piano, keyboards, and percussion in addition to providing vocals.
A graduate of Kenyatta University, Linda Wangechi Muthama participated in Tusker Project Fame, a talent search reality show in East Africa. She has also been active on the live music circuit, especially on the Safaricom Live concerts, touring with a host of popular Kenyan artists over the past three years. In 2014, Linda started the Laika Foundation to help women with complications during childbirth and organized a performance by top female acts to raise funds and awareness for this issue.
Marvin “Marvo” Maveke Mutisya is regarded as one of the most talented drummers of his generation. He has played for Eric Wainaina’s band as well as various other groups.
Jackline Kasiva Mutua is a world-famous percussionist from Nairobi who began drumming when she was young, learning traditional drums from her grandmother. Her performance style is influenced by Afrobeat, zouk, samba, reggae, and soul.
Walter Kivure Mwangombe is a keyboard player experienced in taarab, chakacha, mwanzere, and other coastal styles. He has performed with bands such as Afro Simba and the Tutu Band, which specializes in Swahili jazz.
Lydia Mwango Ogoti Onchangu is a gifted and versatile vocalist from Kisii County with a distinct voice. She has been featured extensively on the Spotlight on Kenyan Music Programme for both studio and live performances. She sings in many local dialects and has backed artists from all over Kenya. Lydia doubled as the manager of the Slum Drummers, a group of young musicians who play improvised percussion instruments from collected materials.
Mohamed Mwanaisha Abdalla a.k.a. Nyota Ndogo is from Mombasa and performs taarab-influenced pop music. She has collaborated with numerous hip-hop artists in Kenya, as well as international artists. In 2013, she was among the judges for East Africa’s biggest TV show, Tusker Project Fame. That same year, she won Best Coast Female Artist of the Year.
Matthew “Matayo” Rabala Omondi is a versatile drummer on the Kenyan music scene. He has played for many Kenyan artists including Winyo, Acheing Abura, and Iddi Achieng’. He has toured extensively with Makadem and is also a member of Mwangaza’s band that plays for Spotlight on Kenyan music artists from all over Kenya. Matthew organizes a drummer’s collective called Drum Jam that brings together drummers, percussionists, and bassists to learn various rhythms.
Isaack Gem Ojwang a.k.a. Izzo Gem is a respected bass player and arranger from Nairobi. He has toured with Winyo and many other Kenyan musicians. Some of his performances include Womex in 2010 in collaboration with Kenge Kenge Orutu systems.
David Lawrence Otieno is a much sought-after session and backup musician. He has played for mostly Kenyan artists both in the studio and on stage.
Julius Mathew Wakake Otieno is recognized as one of Kenya’s prolific percussionists. Wakake is a self-taught musician specializing in the nyatiti and a wide array of drums. He has toured extensively and played with numerous local and international artists including the Polish jazz pianist Artur Dutkiewicz.
Charles “Chao” Otieno Owino is a bassist with an uncanny ability to find the right groove for any style of music. He is well versed and experienced with Kenyan rhythms and has toured extensively with Makadem and Yunasi.
Born in Kisumu, Robert Christopher Adwar Oyoo is a music producer, songwriter, and keyboardist. He works as a solo artist and also fronts the band The Villagers. He has served since 2011 as music director for the Kenyan talent search TV show Tusker All Stars.
Henry Ndenge Saha is a much respected studio musician and can play the intricate and polyrhythmic coastal rhythms without losing a beat. He is cited as having trained most of the current crop of drummers and has toured extensively with artists like Eric Wainaina.
Born in Nairobi, Allan Gituthu Wanjohi a.k.a. Sucre is a singer/songwriter, bass player, and CEO of SucrePix, a photography company that caters to musicians. He is also a music teacher at Braeside School in Nairobi. He has collaborated in the past with Ma3 and The Villagers and has recently begun compiling material for a new album.
Nicholas Odhiambo Abonyo was born in Mirogi and raised in Kanyamwa. After studying information technology, he began working as an intern at Ketebul Music in 2011, where he now works in production.
Patrick Ondiek Agengo joined Ketebul Music in 2006 after discovering his love for photography and video in high school. He is also the chief video engineer for Singing Wells.
Walter Mong’are a.k.a. Nyambane is a comedian known for his role in the sitcom called Reddykyulass. The show daringly pokes fun at Kenyan government officials and various political issues.
Stephen Kibutia Murembe joined Ketebul Music in 2005, initially as an intern on the Spotlight on Kenyan Music series after studying computer science and graphic design. He is now a sound engineer for Ketebul as well as project manager for Singing Wells.
William “Tabu” Ogutu Osusa is the founder and executive director of Ketebul Music. He has been involved in the music industry in East Africa for the past thirty years, working as a promoter, producer, composer, and band manager. He co-chairs the steering committee of the Spotlight on Kenyan Music project and has been a part of the Retracing series, which aims to research, document, and archive the musical culture of Kenya through the production of documentaries. Tabu’s many accolades include the management of some of the top recording and performing artists in Kenya.