Part 3: The Masai Singing Event
We have been mentioning our series on the Masai and our experience with their community for the past few weeks now. Part one was an introduction to the Masai, their culture, and their history. Part two was about our experience of the Masai Christian speaker. Part three will discuss our experience at the Masai singing event. We will conclude with part four next week!
The journey from the Masai Christian speaker location to the location of the Masai singing event could be a blog in its self. We took a Land Rover with 11 people and drove for nearly four hours. We were packed shoulder to shoulder in a form that can only be described as “African style!” We drove through a savannah, a national park, and many villages to get there. There were no paved roads, no gas stations to stop at, and everyone kept joking that “simba” (a lion) could be anywhere!
The distance was only 150 kilometers, which is about 93 miles. That will give you an idea of how rough the roads were. For most of the trip we were driving through a field lined with bushes and Masai bomas. Because we drove through a national park, we were able to see some Tanzanian wildlife such as giraffes and ostriches! It was quite an experience, and we will conclude by saying we were more than thankful to survive the drive to and from this location.
When we arrived at the event location, the Masai Lutheran Church, it was long after dark. Several Masai tribes stayed awake to greet us! After we greeted several individuals, they took us to the boma where we spent the night. They welcomed us into the boma with sodas and food! The hospitality was wonderful! However, as we mentioned, the Masai food is quite unfamiliar to westerners. The meat was undercooked and the taste of the rice something that we will never be able to describe! We found that Coke was useful to lighten the taste of the food.
After dinner we were shown where we would sleep for the night. We were able to stay in a room in a fairly nice house; it was not a mud hut as we suspected, but it was the only house like it the area! We double checked the corners of the room and under the bed in order to ensure that tarantulas would not be sneaking up on us while we slept! We are pleased to report that the bed was very nice and we slept very well!
We woke up early the morning to take a bucket shower and have breakfast. Breakfast consisted of white bread, coffee, and tea. The base of the coffee and tea was milk instead of water. The milk came fresh from the cow and was served at body temperature.
After breakfast, we met with the head of the boma, his family, and an elderly woman who was nearing death due to cancer. Once we made our introductions, met everyone, and said several prayers it was time for church. All of the singing groups were at the church service (see below a photo of the service); we think that there were over 100 Masai in attendance, which meant that the service was moved outside, and that it was very lively! The singing groups sang several times during the service. It was wonderful to hear them sing. They were all very talented!!
After church we were served lunch. Again, it consisted of undercooked meat and interesting rice. We were able to find a couple of Cokes to help with the flavor of the food, but we were coming to the conclusion that we wanted to leave before dinner! Their hospitality was wonderful, but we weren’t sure how the food was going to agree with our stomachs!
After lunch it was time for the singing event! As mentioned, we were selected to be judges along with another Tanzanian gentleman. The first four groups were western style choirs. They wore robes and sang just like any local choir from the west. See the photo below. They were all very talented and one choir even had a song that included electric guitars and a keyboard!
The main event was definitely the five traditional choirs. Not only was every one of their performances amazing, it electrified the crowd of over 100 Masai. As soon as the first choir started walking in – wearing traditional clothes and singing in a traditional format – the crowd went crazy! The energy from the Masai did not end until well after the final group!
It was very difficult to judge the Masai choirs. They were singing in two very different styles. The western choirs sang as any western choir would. The traditional choirs sounded off pitch to us, but they were hitting the correct notes. Although we weren’t terribly confident about our judging abilities, everyone agreed with our selection of the top three!
It is incredibly difficult to describe the event; the experience was beyond words. Watch the video of the winning choir. They were far more entertaining and electric than any other choir. They were also very technically sound when compared with their traditional singing! As we said, all of the choirs were amazing, talented, and intense, but this choir was the best!
Traditional Masai singing is characterized by high pitched female voices, low pitched male grunts, and high shrieks. They all wore their traditional Masai ceremonial clothing during their choir performances. It was fascinating to see their outfits! Women wore multiple large ringed necklaces and some men wore headdresses! Also, their dancing consists of quick shoulder movements and jumping. They tried to teach us, but no one was successful!
After the choirs were finished singing we left to return home. It was just as long of a journey home as it was going there. Once we arrived home we were very grateful to be alive and to not be sick! We were so happy that we were able to have this “once in a lifetime” experience. Melissa was sure to reiterate that although she had a wonderful time, she hopes it remains “once in a lifetime!”
The conclusion of our Masai experience will be posted next week! Feel free to email or comment if you have any questions or if you would like more information on the Masai!!