Music that soothes our ghetto life
By Lilian Kaivilu
The choking smoke from the neighbouring Korogocho dumpsite does not deter the youngsters from exploring their musical talent. Fears that dangerous criminal gangs are in control the dumpsite do not seem to dampen the spirits of the kids who spare hours every week to sharpen their talents.
Seated at the edge of the St John’s Catholic Church in Korogocho compound, just bordering the Korogocho dumpsite are 15-year-old Cynthia Mbatha and 13-year-old Daniel Ochieng. The two are trainees at the Ghetto Classics programme. This church compound has been their training ground every Sunday afternoon.
Ochieng’, a Class Seven pupil at St. Claire Primary School in Korogocho says he has found his passion in music. “I want to pursue this for life. I am now learning to play the trombone. I started playing it in November 2015,” he says. Ochieng’ says that the National Anthem by Ghetto Classics one Sunday in 2015 drew him to the program.
The duo have attended the class since the last year and they hope to sharpen their musical skills beyond primary and higher education.
Their trainer Simon Kariuki is also a graduate of the music training programme targeting children in informal settlements. The program teaches the students not only how to play different instruments, but also the skills needed for music such as hard work, determination and discipline.
Kariuki explains that his love for music started at the same venue in 2009. “We used to have casual meetings over snacks here at church in 2009. We could also sing during these meetings. But slowly, Elizabeth Njoroge, the founder of Ghetto Classics introduced us to the music instruments,” says Kariuki.
In 2010, the group started getting old instruments from well wishers. All this time, Kariuki says he was not an active member. “But Elizabeth gave me a Saxophone and offered me more opportunities. This is what deepened my interest in music. At times she would even offer me some allowances to go teach music lessons in the neighbouring schools,” he remembers. Previously, Kariuki would sing at the St Johns Catholic Church choir. Nirali Chandaria was my Piano teacher and she is very tough. “Open the page. Play what you see,” Kariuki remembers his training sessions with Nirali.
Born and raised in Korogocho, Kariuki says he is determined to bring a change in his community by helping talented students in the area achieve their dreams. Kariuki is currently a Bachelors of Music student at the Technical University of Kenya. “In this society, we sometimes lack directions on what to do. But luckily I got directions and I have a clear vision to change my community. I saw how art can change my community,’ says Kariuki who is now a full-time trainer at Ghetto Classics.
Majority of the other trainers in the programme are volunteers from the area and other parts of Nairobi.
60:Children from Korogocho who play in the National Ochestra
300 Total number of trainees currently in the Ghetto Classics programme
2000 Students that are indirectly reached by the Ghetto Classics in Korogocho and its environs
14: number of tutors in Ghetto Classics. 10 of them are former trainees at the programme
60: Number of Ghetto Classics trainees from Dandora alone
7years: The youngest trainee at the training in the programme
10-12 years: The target age group for the programme trainees