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Amani’s Nyatiti

When Amani sings, even the birds stop and listen. Well…except for that little sparrow on the window. He just whistles along.

When Amani plays the drums, everyone in Doll Cottage just wants to dance to the sound from the Isikuti drums. He plays them so well. Slow, then fast then slow again.

Some people are good at sports, others at math or drawing or cooking.
Amani’s gift is music. He just loves to play different African instruments. Isikuti drums, Chivoti flute, Kayamba, Lalet, you name it.

Next week is the Doll Village music festival and Amani has been practicing really hard. Yesterday, he went to sleep past his usual bedtime.

It’s a sunny Saturday morning in Doll Village, but things aren’t looking so bright in Doll Cottage. Amani is really grouchy. He yelled at Jameela, because she asked him how his practice was going.

Even the sparrow is silent today, just peeping through the window without a song, ready to fly away if things get too tense in the cottage. He came for a song, after all, but there’s no music in the cottage right now.

Amani is practicing a new instrument for the festival. He will be playing the Nyatiti. He likes it and wants to play it so well that everyone will stand and clap. He really wants to win, but he’s having a hard time.

“I’ve tried my best,” Amani says, “but it’s just no good. I can’t get the song right.
He kicks his Nyatiti, stabs his toe and hops angrily.

Wise Yarn steps in with a proverb from the Luo community, “Kinda ne omiyo opuk oyombo apuoyo,” he tells Amani, who is staring angrily at his Nyatiti.
This means that “Perseverance made the tortoise outrun the hare.”
One step at a time, that’s how the tortoise did it. The hare was really confident, Wise Yarn explains, but the tortoise was really determined.

Amani picks up his Nyatiti with a sheepish look on his face and apologises to Jameela for yelling at her. “It’s okay, Amani,” Jameela tells him. “Don’t give up.”

“I won’t,” he promises. I will continue practicing Nyatiti in the afternoon. He picks up his Chivoti and plays a tune. The sparrow joins in, whistling at the window.

Did you know…

The Nyatiti is an 8 stringed instrument played by the Luo people from the Western part of Kenya. The Nyatiti player sings and plays the instrument at the same time.
There are lots of interesting and unique instruments around Africa. The Kora, an instrument from West Africa, has 21 strings and is usually played to accompany poetry.
The Mbira from Zimbabwe looks like a mini piano and is made of up to 28 metal keys.
It’s actually also known as the ‘thumb piano’.

Musical challenge…

Do you know of any other interesting musical instruments from Africa? Can you find out the names of two instruments from different countries? Maybe you could also listen to or even dance to them if you can.

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