Striving for the Best

Published on 26th July 2005

From a distance, one would think it is a radio or a tape recorder but on moving closer, he discovers it is a symphony of both the blind and the sighted singing their hearts out that they have seen the Lord in His beauty.

Masumbuko:  Indeed we have seen God’s care and protection. Stones were being thrown all over. Everyone was on the run. Shops were being broken into. Teargas canisters exploded. Human flesh tasted the sting of bullets. Our offering plate knocked down and benevolent coins found their way across the wad. Children clung tightly to their mothers. One man tried to take off with our box speaker but was knocked down in the stampede by another fleeing person. We were knocked, trampled upon but finally found shelter in a street corner where we formed a human shield over each other.

African Executive: What other negative experiences have you gone through?

Selinah: Since our alms basket is usually exposed. We’ve had pilfers swooping down on it and melting into the mammoth crowds. In each town we visit, we rent a house for one month. The house acts as our base where we carry out our practice. We don’t bother about furniture. We spread out lessos, which act as our table and chairs. We then embark on logistics of how to travel to town daily. When we have no fares we walk, depending on the weather conditions. Some people take our snaps and film us with pledges of support but we never hear of them.

A.E: What is the highest amount you earn in a day?

Masumbuko: Ksh.1,000 but it goes as low as Ksh.200. The income keeps on fluctuating.

AE: What do you use it for?

Selinah: We pool it together, buy food and eat. As for other necessities like clothes, we buy them in turns. We have a list of who will receive first, second, in that order. This is because we hardly realize a boom that can cater for all our needs at ago. We usually purchase second hand clothes, as they are cheaper. The money also facilitates our movement.

AE: What inspired you to form a singing group?

Selinah: As you can see, I am blind. I asked myself, what am I able to do seeing that I can’t see. Upon self-evaluation, I discovered I was gifted in singing and being a Christian, I felt I should use this talent to proclaim praises to God. We only sing gospel songs. 

AE: What expectations should one meet to join your choir?

Selinah: One has to be a Christian, talented in singing, willing to learn, morally upright and self-disciplined.

AE: Do you compose the songs yourself?

Selinah: Helen, a member of this group, is quite talented in composing but she was adopted by a church to train its choir. Helen is blind too. We sing the songs she helped us compose and other songs too.

AE: Where are you stationed?

Masumbuko:We hail fro Sirali, on the Kenya –Tanzania border but move from town to town. We have visited such towns as Nakuru, Eldoret, Kericho, Kisii and Kitale.

AE: What kind of musical instruments do you use?

Selinah: We have two guitars, a skin drum, amplifier, car battery and one box speaker. Soda bottles filled with pebbles act as our shakers. We have both glass and plastic bottles.

AE: Did you buy them yourselves?

Selinah: A passerby was enthralled by our music and bought us the two guitars. We bought the speaker, amplifier and battery from our savings.

AE: Masumbuko, who taught you how to play a guitar?

Masumbuko: My guitar skills are self-taught. I then taught my other two colleagues, one who is blind. We carry our choir practice on Mondays.

AE: What are your future plans?

Selinah: We would like our songs to be recorded. This will   boost our income. One gentleman told us he would lend a hand to make this dream true. He would ask us to see him one day, sing one song then see him the following day. We did this until all our songs were in his radio cassette player. We have never heard of him ever since. We intend to purchase a keyboard and a bigger speaker if all goes well. Since the music scene is dynamic, we look forward to having some of us join a music school to become professionals.

AE: What conditions should someone meet before you perform in his function?

Masumbuko: We have no fixed rate but ought to be treated as human beings with dignity. We’ve had people inviting us to perform. They urge their congregations to finance our movement but we never see the money. Sometimes we are offered one-way fare back.

AE: Mama Selinah, what message do you have for the physically challenged and everyone in general?

Selinah: People should assess their areas of strength and make use of them. I have a friend who is blind like me but shines peoples’ shoes. Many people prefer going to him not out of sympathy but his excellent service. We need to overcome our barriers and be what we are meant to be. People always like associating with the successful hence the physically challenged should reject  being rejected and accept being accepted. The very fact that Imani Choir comprising thirteen members has some members who are sighted is a call for people to join hands and pool ideas together with a view of progress. People should do what they are good at. We can’t all do the same thing. I have two sons and daughters in this team. Some can see. They act as our eyes apart from singing.

AE: Will you come to this city again?

Selinah: Quitters never win and winners never quit! Risking is a virtue one should not do without. The demonstrations over constitutional review in Nairobi city were quite unfortunate for turning violent. We should reach a level of maturity where we solve problems amicably on a round table.









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