Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

Music in Kenyan Christianity: Logooli Religious Song

Music in Kenyan Christianity: Logooli Religious Song

by Jean Ngoya Kidula

See All Formats & Editions

This sensitive study is a historical, cultural, and musical exploration of Christian religious music among the Logooli of Western Kenya. It describes how new musical styles developed through contact with popular radio and other media from abroad and became markers of the Logooli identity and culture. Jean Ngoya Kidula narrates this history of a community through


This sensitive study is a historical, cultural, and musical exploration of Christian religious music among the Logooli of Western Kenya. It describes how new musical styles developed through contact with popular radio and other media from abroad and became markers of the Logooli identity and culture. Jean Ngoya Kidula narrates this history of a community through music and religious expression in local, national, and global settings. The book is generously enhanced by audiovisual material on the Ethnomusicology Multimedia website.

Editorial Reviews

Carol Muller

"The archival and ethnographic research is outstanding, the accounts of mission history, and then the musical explanations of a variety of forms of change that have accompanied mission intervention, the incursion of forms of modernity, and globalization at large are compelling and unparalleled." —Carol Muller, University of Pennsylvania

Eric Charry

"The author has extraordinary access and insight into how song functions among the Logooli. The book contains an excellent mix of deep personal understanding of the culture and copious documentation." —Eric Charry, Wesleyan University

From the Publisher
"Music in Kenyan Christianity: Logooli Religious Song is an important contribution to the study of music in Kenyan Christianity. The book explores contemporary African music through the prism of ethnographies through the people’s engagement of Christianity as a unifying ideology in the context of history, modernity, nationalisms and globalisation." —Journal of Modern African Studies

"One of the real bonuses of the present book is that Kidula has provided many sound recordings to accompany the transcriptions on a companion website, and the URLs for each passage are clearly listed in the preface." —Anthropology Review Database

"This is an essential text for thinking about world Christianities, because it approaches a particular African Christianity from both insider and outsider perspectives." —Global Forum on Arts and Christian Faith

"Music in Kenyan Christianity is a significant study in performance practice in contemporary East African Christianity. The meticulous and sometimes highly sophisticated musical analyses, transcriptions, and the rich historical and ethnographic perspectives illuminate not only ongoing discourses and contestations of syncretism and related analytical notions, they also represent a plausible model of a balanced approach to ethnomusicology—i.e., musical and ethnographical.... I strongly recommend this book to researchers, teachers, and libraries in African Studies, Religious Studies, Ethnomusicology, and globalization studies." —International Journal of African Historical Studies

"The archival and ethnographic research is outstanding, the accounts of mission history, and then the musical explanations of a variety of forms of change that have accompanied mission intervention, the incursion of forms of modernity, and globalization at large are compelling and unparalleled." —Carol Muller, University of Pennsylvania

Anthropology Review Database

"One of the real bonuses of the present book is that Kidula has provided many sound recordings to accompany the transcriptions on a companion website, and the URLs for each passage are clearly listed in the preface." —Anthropology Review Database

Product Details

Indiana University Press
Publication date:
Ethnomusicology Multimedia
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
File size:
8 MB

Related Subjects

Read an Excerpt

Music in Kenyan Christianity

Logooli Religious Song

By Jean Ngoya Kidula

Indiana University Press

Copyright © 2013 Jean Ngoya Kidula
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-253-00702-5



Music and religion are both incarnational processes and archival resources. As processes, they narrate themselves in lived experiences as dynamic forms; as resources, they inscribe, crystallize, and document social identity. Starting in the nineteenth century, music practices in Africa have been transformed by contact with modern Christianity. These practices are as diverse as the religious, ethnic, and national groups found in Africa. The individuality of the musics might be concealed under a historical association arising from an overarching 'Christian' umbrella. However, the varieties of Christianity and African ethnic groups underscore distinctive musical identities. These musics have struggled for recognition in music studies given that European church music is, and was, recognized as a category of European art and folk music, whereas African church musics neither fit indigenous molds nor gained acceptance in the canon of European church, popular, or art musics. Nonetheless, the musics are vibrant religious, artistic, and popular expressions on the continent and in other spaces.

Musics of African Christianity have historically garnered a variety of responses from different interested parties. Some missionaries questioned the legitimacy of an African Christian music and banned its use in public arenas; others advocated for Africanizing Western songs. Several promoted the idea of an African-style church music to mitigate the foreignness of Western hymns, leading to compositions in African forms. Researchers commented on the appropriation of Euro-American hymn styles and on the use of indigenous music among independent Africanist church groups. Meanwhile, different musics embracing African concepts, traits, and aesthetics have adjudicated the continent's identity starting in the nineteenth century and to date.

At the same time, religious, historical, and anthropological studies in and of Africa recognized the indigenization of European hymns and songs and the creation of afro-centric repertoire that essentially presenced an 'African Christianity.' Research in these disciplines had little musicological analysis, although music's enormous role was implied or described. Meantime, musicologists and ethnomusicologists were slow to acknowledge a Christian music considered indigenous African, different from that of the missionary or the American (European or African American). The African music academy was also so overpowered by European ideologies that it had few avenues to display African works on the world stage. In addition there were concerns in the appropriate disciplines about what constitutes African music, who should study it, and how it should be (re)presented outside the continent.

Given the (post)colonial and denigrating readings of Christianity in Africa, there was little academic tolerance of Christian musics as bona fide African expressions. Meanwhile, Christian musics were many and diverse. Some had become African traditions and were practiced by different groups as indigenous to their understanding, practice, and interpretation of Christianity. Others had grown out of grassroots Christian movements in Africa. The route to dissect indigenous African Christian musics began to be justified when studies in popular music recognized and analyzed African continental forms and due to interest in the work of music in identity construction. Missionaries and missiologists also documented African Christians' musical expressions and promoted these processes in Christian communication. Such interests helped to legitimize studies of Christian popular music in the African urban or urbanizing space. Since then, an explosive interest has developed in Christian musics as a historical, current, and indigenous continental African practice.

This text therefore sets out to explore contemporary African music through one ethnic group's engagement of Christianity as a unifying ideology in the historical tide of modernity, nationalism, and globalization. The group, Avalogooli, mostly located in Kenya, was evangelized from the early 1900s. As with other colonized or marginalized cultures, Avalogooli learned Eurogenic musics to express their adoption of Christianity processed through a European hermeneutic. They also summoned indigenous musical resources to articulate their understanding and interpretation of biblical Christianity. Avalogooli therefore adopted, appropriated, and developed Euro-American hymn and gospel traditions. They also embraced and composed 'songs of the spirit' birthed in the religious movements of the late nineteenth century in North America and the twentieth century in Africa for theological and musical agency. The dynamic outcome is a compound historical and contemporary repertoire that is at once local, national, and global.

From the 1920s, Christianization and colonialism led to a reconfiguration of Logooli political identity amidst the superstructures of the emerging Kenyan nation. By the 1940s, Christianity had been integrated into local worldviews. In the 1960s, it became a vehicle for national assimilation and distinction. Since then, local, national, pan-African, and global processes have continued to reconstitute the layer of ancient, revised, novel, and contemporary music practices. Therefore, a study of the Avalogooli's historical and current invocation of Christian song may offer some understanding of the intricate dynamics of modern Africa's religious activities and also explicate the agency of music in the formation of contemporary identity.


Avalogooli (sing. mulogooli) are classified under the broad linguistic group known as Abaluyia, a Bantu people found in many parts of Eastern, Central, and Southern Africa. The prefix aba/ava means 'people of,' 'descendants of,' or 'belonging to.' Thus Abaluyia are people of Luyia descent or Luyia lineage. The root 'Luyia' without the prefix is also an index for the group. Abaluyia are further identified as a set of language groups with cultural similarities, living in contiguity with each other, resident mostly north of Lake Victoria in Kenya. These subgroups include, among others, the Bukusu (Avabukusu), Idakho (Avidakho), Tsotso (Avatsotso), Isukha (Avisukha), Tiriki (Avadirichi), and Logooli (Avalogooli). Abaluyia generally adhere to similar customs, varied due to migratory paths and contact with non-Abaluyia. Abaluyia's neighbors are the non-Bantu Luo, Teso, and Kalenjin groups and Elgon Maasai (see fig. 1.1). To distinguish them from other lacustrine ethnic groups, the British colonial government initially referred to Abaluyia as the Bantu of North Kavirondo, Kavirondo being the name given to the Lake Victoria region (Wagner 1949, 3). Avalogooli reside at the southernmost part of Luyia land, known as Ivulogooli. Their immediate Luyia neighbors are Avadirichi, Avanyore, and Avidakho. In Luluyia (language of Abaluyia), Lulogooli is placed at one extreme, almost unintelligible to Lubukusu at the other end.

The history, migration, location, and social systems of Avalogooli support interaction with other Luyia and African culture groups and the incorporation of their ideas into Logooli worldviews. More so, because of mutual intelligibility with other Luyia languages, Logooli music repertoire includes texts and styles from these groups, borrowed, adapted, assimilated, and appropriated due to resident proximity. Further, according to Osogo's pioneering studies (1966), as was the case with other Luyia groups, Avalogooli maintained a history of relocation due to family or other conflict, broken taboos, overpopulation, and exogamous marriage preferences. Consequently any given village sustained cultural diversity from voluntary or obligatory movement. To compound the identity structures extant in Logooli locales and worldviews, diverse Christianities were introduced to the Luyia complex. The result was a rich palate of religious beliefs and rites with their concomitant musical and other artifacts.

In order to provide a backdrop for this dynamic junction, I will narrate part of my Logooli background as an expositional exemplar. My story resonates with that of others born and raised in the 1950s and 1960s, a period of marked political angst, change, and independence in many African nations. This was an era of realignment, of ideological and religious liminality, a regrouping for both the elders and the children of these times. The population nurtured in that epoch navigated the potent effects of colonialism and the stirrings of African self-governance. This generation, with deep ties to their parents' ethnic heritage, also embraced the political and socially sensational processes of nationalism, pan-Africanism, and globalism.


I grew up in the 1960s in Goibei village in Western Kenya, a place of mixed heritage, diverse ethnicity, and plural nationalities (see fig. 1.2). I spent my first ten years in Goibei before leaving to study in other parts of Kenya for primary, secondary, and university education. Until I graduated with my first degree, I lived in Goibei for at least three months a year. I was (and still am) recognized in this village as mulogooli by language and culture. Goibei's initial inhabitants were Nandi peoples. From the 1920s, migrants from different Luyia groups, particularly Avalogooli and Avadirichi, relocated to the region. These patrilineal, patrilocal, and exogamous societies suggest the presence of more culture groups in the village through wives.

Goibei was also trespassed by the Luo, a non-Bantu ethnic group that passed through the village at least twice a week on their way to the nearest market, Serem, to sell fish and buy commodities. Several Luo words became part of village rhetoric. Some families in Goibei therefore spoke various languages although they recognized themselves as belonging principally to a specific cultural lineage. Thus Goibei, while initially habited by the Nandi, was in the 1960s a village of immigrants with cultural and ethnic diversity. Each group in Goibei and the vicinity retained its language or dialect even if individuals learned other tongues. Community meetings required a translator, or English and Kiswahili were employed.

Beyond culture and language, Goibei had religious diversity. Each culture and language group maintained its indigenous belief systems. Additionally, each group had been Christianized by different denominations such as Pentecostals, Quakers, Salvation Army, Roman Catholics, or African independent churches. Most Logooli of my paternal grandfather's generation began as Quakers. While some stayed Quaker, others became Pentecostals, Salvation Armists, or members of indigenous Christian movements such as the African Israel Church Nineveh (AICN). Not all villagers embraced Christianity; 'pagans' continued to frequent ancestral shrines associated with their respective groups. There also existed such a gap between the practice of missionary Christianity and African life that most people embraced varying syncretic levels of cultural, social, religious, and denominational beliefs.

Little effort was made to create seamless order or homogeny from the worlds of villagers and any other. The other was more than just the colonist and missionary; it included other African and Kenyan cultures that informed the -scapes of our existence. One required a strong sense of self or a clear cultural affinity more than a social or political alliance. Apart from religious and ethnic affiliations, we negotiated possibilities brought about by increased population, changing landscapes, European-style formal education, and urban migration. We had relatively stable cultural and linguistic roots and great tolerance for different church groups. Thus we were tacitly affiliated with one Christian denomination in the face of the evolving socio-political order. Even if a kinsman changed Christian affiliation, we all assembled at rites of passage. At these rites we conducted some affairs according to our cultural heritage and others in line with religious association. Things had and still have their place so much so that when I return to the village, I embrace its ambiance in mannerisms.

Growing up in Goibei therefore introduced me to things Logooli and to things of other cultures. I have elsewhere discussed circumcision rites of Avadirichi (Kidula 1999b). When I turned 5, I went to grade school. I was the youngest member of my class. By fourth grade, only two of my original girl classmates from first grade were still in school. Most others either got married or dropped out to earn a living. Since many of my classmates were essentially approaching puberty by the time we were in third grade, I did not fully appreciate what I learned from them through work and play until I was grown.

Social and cultural education was conducted in public and private through stories, songs, and by example. For instance, when I was 4, my maternal grandmother explained male-female relationships to me through story and song. Such was village life. Other elements of cultural education included those sanctioned by the school or church. For example, most village children within 5–7 years of my age were familiar with solfège whether or not they went to school. Children who attended the Pentecostal church and/or school participated in choral activities. They learned hymns and other Euro-American social songs initially through solfège. They traveled to other villages, schools, and churches to perform or compete against other choirs. We were familiar with brass bands through the activities of the Salvation Army. We were introduced to the guitar and popular Logooli, Kenyan, Tanzanian, Congolese, and South African songs on radio. The radio playlist also included popular contemporary repertoire of Europe (Britain) and the Americas (North, South, and the Caribbean). Thus musical resources in the village were varied. They included the indigenous cultural works of different ethnic groups, mediated and live popular songs, the repertoire of various Christian groups, and music learned in schools with a colonial British curriculum.

Goibei residents were not only familiar with European, North American, and African cultures; the British colonial system that encouraged the migration of South Asians to their colonies enabled an acquaintance with certain aspects such as food, clothing, music, and beliefs. Further, Arab Muslims, who were guides for early explorers and colonists, proselytized local populations. Goibei was particularly dynamic because it had a Pentecostal mission station and a resident Canadian missionary, Iris Scheel, who lived there for more than fifty years (1954–2005). Goibei also boasted day and boarding schools since the 1930s. In the 1970s, a center for national religious education was built. Such institutions ensured that Goibei catered to more than just local villagers.

My village life can well be a metaphor for Logooli identity in conflux with Christianity and its music. Kesby (1977, 90) concedes that Luyia people (amongst whom Avalogooli are grouped linguistically) "recognized a diversity of groups among themselves." Avalogooli also acknowledge separate migratory routes for the various clans that are the basis of their communal identity. Diversity and migration were therefore inherent in Logooli selfhood. Two distinct Christian groups, Quakers and Pentecostals, were the initial proselytizers. These groups' mission stations were first located in no-man's-lands bordering Logooli country. Avalogooli initially commuted to listen to missionaries. Beyond these two denominations, missionaries associated and worked with Anglicans, the African Inland Church (AIC), the Salvation Army, and other entities, including British colonial officials. 'Christian villages' were created in the 1920s (Strayer 1978), where Christianized Logooli relocated without cutting ties with non-Christian family and clan members.


Excerpted from Music in Kenyan Christianity by Jean Ngoya Kidula. Copyright © 2013 Jean Ngoya Kidula. Excerpted by permission of Indiana University Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Jean Ngoya Kidula is Associate Professor of Music and Ethnomusicology at the Hugh Hodgson School of Music, University of Georgia. She is author (with R. R. King, T. Oduro, and J. R. Krabill) of Music in the Life of the African Church.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews