Kenyan youth take to Chi­nese cul­ture

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - PAGE TWO -

NAIROBI — Rachael Gi­tau elec­tri­fied the young au­di­ence at a full au­di­to­rium on Wed­nes­day.

Peo­ple were there to lis­ten to her sing a clas­si­cal Chi­nese bal­lad that ex­horted the virtues of love and hu­man con­nec­tions.

The 20-year-old fe­male vo­cal­ist is pur­su­ing a pro­fi­ciency course in Chi­nese lan­guage at Keny­atta Univer­sity’s Con­fu­cius In­sti­tute lo­cated on the out­skirts of the Kenyan cap­i­tal Nairobi.

Gi­tau bagged a cash award and a cer­tifi­cate of recog­ni­tion af­ter emerg­ing the over­all win­ner in the first Chi­nese singing com­pe­ti­tion held at one of Kenya’s old­est uni­ver­si­ties.

Her pas­sion for Chi­nese mu­sic and dance has gone a notch higher, thanks to rig­or­ous prac­tice and men­tor­ship from her train­ers, she said on the side­lines of the con­test.

“When I joined the Con­fu­cius In­sti­tute two years ago, I never en­vis­aged mas­ter­ing Chi­nese mu­sic in a rel­a­tively short span. It has been a jour­ney of many false starts but I am glad I can now stride into the stage and per­form Chi­nese songs whose sen­ti­men­tal­ity is un­ri­valed,” said Gi­tau.

Born and raised in a small town 60 kilo­me­ters south­west of Nairobi, Gi­tau’s par­ents en­cour­aged her to pur­sue her dreams.

Her mu­si­cal jour­ney started at a ten­der age when she joined the school choir to per­form tra­di­tional and neo­clas­si­cal songs dur­ing spe­cial events like prize-giv­ing day.

Gi­tau’s prow­ess in lin­guis­tics earned her a slot at Keny­atta Univer­sity’s Con­fu­cius In­sti­tute where she vowed to im­prove her knowl­edge of Chi­nese lan­guage and cul­ture. Her quick mas­tery of spo­ken Man­darin and dif­fer­ent gen­res of Chi­nese mu­sic has earned her accolades from tu­tors and the univer­sity ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Her per­for­mance at the Chi­nese singing con­test has earned her fame even out­side cam­pus.

“I wish my par­ents were present to wit­ness their daugh­ter hit a new mile­stone in her mu­si­cal jour­ney,” said Gi­tau.

Other Kenyan stu­dents show­cased their mas­tery of tra­di­tional and clas­si­cal Chi­nese mu­sic as well as dance at the com­pe­ti­tion.

Caleb Muthama, a 24-yearold chore­og­ra­pher was crowned the best per­former af­ter elec­tri­fy­ing the au­di­ence with his cre­ative dance moves. Muthama danced en­er­get­i­cally as a tune dubbed de­scen­dants of the dragon played in the back­ground. The youth said join­ing the Con­fu­cius In­sti­tute three years ago has pro­vided him with a plat­form to hone his skills in Chi­nese cul­ture.

“Be­fore join­ing the Con­fu­cius In­sti­tute, I could hardly imag­ine stand­ing in front of a huge crowd and danc­ing as Chi­nese mu­sic played. I look for­ward to mas­ter­ing new songs from China and if pos­si­ble per­form to a big­ger crowd out­side the Univer­sity,” said Muthama.

His per­for­mance in the Chi­nese lan­guage pro­fi­ciency course earned him a six­month schol­ar­ship last year to study at one of the China’s top uni­ver­si­ties.

Kenyan youth have out- shone their peers from other African coun­tries to demon­strate a grasp of Chi­nese lan­guage and cul­ture.

“Kenyan youth are very talented and their ad­ven­tur­ous spirit has ex­posed them to for­eign lan­guages and cul­tures that will ul­ti­mately en­hance re­al­iza­tion of their ca­reer dreams,” said Li Qiang, the Chi­nese Direc­tor of Keny­atta Univer­sity’s Con­fu­cius In­sti­tute.

Dor­cas Mugure, a 20-yearold Chi­nese lan­guage stu­dent at the in­sti­tute said that learn­ing new gen­res of Chi­nese mu­sic has been a trans­for­ma­tive ex­pe­ri­ence. The singer was born in a mid­dle­class Nairobi sub­urb where en­rolling for a for­eign lan­guage or dance les­son was con­sid­ered a mark of pres­tige.

She emerged the win­ner in the sec­ond run­ners-up cat­e­gory af­ter belt­ing out a lyri­cal tune that won the hearts of judges and the au­di­ence.

Mugure said she in­tends to pur­sue Man­darin up to the post­grad­u­ate level.

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