Kenyan youth take to Chinese culture
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.