Arusha, Tanzania – The three ringleaders of the internationally noted Loruvani Choir, the choir which has taken the world by storm with their astoundingly unique vocals-only Maasai music, announced today that the choir will take a three year hiatus from competing in Tanzania’s regional choir competitions. After sixteen straight years of winning their competition category and with three best –in-show wins, the directors have decided that it’s time to allow some other choirs to shine.
Tanzania’s North Central Diocese has more than 900 choirs, most of which compete in annual competitions at the parish, district, and, finally if they’re good enough, the diocese level.
As Catherine Elibariki, an assistant choir director, conductor, composer, and key soprano, says, “It’s time to give the other choirs a chance. We’ve won so much and so often that the others are discouraged. If they compete their way up to the diocese level and we’re there, they don’t feel comfortable.”
Hezron Abel, the choir’s director, conductor, and sometime composer, stated that the choir will spend their next three years touring, giving concerts of a wide variety of musical styles (not just Maasai music) in other regions and countries, and practicing new compositions to prepare for both diocese and future national inter-diocese competitions. Currently there are no national inter-diocese competitions in Tanzania. Bishops, however, are in the planning phase for these and predict they will begin within the next few years.
During the off time, Catherine and Hezron plan on pursuing masters degrees in music. Catherine has her eyes set on conducting. Hezron will study composition. Catherine and Hezron, along with Lucas Joseph, also an assistant director, will continue to develop the choir’s talents while they study.
The choir recently made a worldwide release of Songs of the Maasai Steppe, which includes twelve songs of their own composition all with the Loruvani Choir’s distinctive and memorably exciting style. Reviewers and listeners have termed that style as you’re-in-the-middle-of-the-party … somewhere out on the African plains … and you’re swept away by it.
The choir is currently in the studio working on two as yet untitled albums. The first will be of their own new compositions in the style for which the Loruvani Choir has become known. The second will be an album of old public domain Maasai songs which will be accompanied, uncommonly for this choir, by both modern and traditional instruments.
Arusha, Tanzania - Hezron Abel, the director of the award winning Loruvani Choir, told us today that rehearsals and studio work were disrupted over the past week by what nearly amounted to a riot near Makumira University, Hezron’s base of operations.
The fuse for demonstrations was lit by a small local bus running over and killing a well respected Makumira student. Local busses have been the cause of concern for many years. Owners are noted both for hiring unqualified day-labor drivers and for owning and operating poorly maintained vehicles which are not road worthy. Drivers are paid by the mile, so they drive at furious speeds and regularly kill people.
Upon hearing of the accident, university students poured out of class, blocked the highway with stones, and threatened local bus drivers as they arrived on the scene. Police responded quickly and used riot tactics and teargas to disperse the crowd. Student demonstrations and protests over the next week justified the end. Massive speed bumps were immediately installed.
Hezron says that, though work was interrupted, he and the choir are back on track for an upcoming tour of Singida in central and Tabora in western Tanzania in which they’ll both perform and offer instruction to choirs in these regions.
Studio work will continue with the Loruvani Choir’s next album due in mid-Spring, just prior to their tour of Sweden and Finland.
A Funeral in Arusha and Maasai Stoves
Arusha, Tanzania - Catherine Elibariki and Lucas Joesph, Assistant Directors of the Loruvani Choir assembled choir members today to sing at the funeral of Mr. Abel Mashauri. Mr. Mashauri was 92 years old and going strong when he was bitten by a malaria carrying mosquito. After a short stay in a local hospital, he passed away quietly.
Unlike at many hospitals in East Africa, Mr. Mashauri received excellent care, even though there was a nationwide doctors’ strike in progress when he was admitted. Malaria kills more people in Africa than any other disease.
During the four hour service, the internationally acclaimed choir sang, along with some new compositions, several of the songs that caused such a stir on their recently released Songs of the Maasai Steppe album. The service for Mr. Mashauri was attended by over 1500 people, all of whom were fed by the stricken family.
Hezron Abel, son of Mr. Mashauri and the Director of the Loruvani Choir, said emphatically after the service that he’s 44 years old, his father was 92 when he died, and that leaves 48 years in which he can do something about the dire condition of Maasai in Tanzania. Many Maasai live in much more than substandard situations and Hezron intends to do what he can to fix that. He’s following in his father’s footsteps.
When the choir began to record music, all involved agreed that proceeds from sales would be used for community projects. Hezron will head the first one, a stove and chimney building project which will help reduce smoke in Maasai huts by up to 90% and cut deforestation by 60%. Hezron says he remembers the days when there were trees all over the slopes of nearby mountains and hills. They’re gone now. He also remembers his friends who had serious health problems caused by smoke inhalation. They’re gone now, too. Hezron and the choir members have an idea about how to build efficient clay and brick stoves for almost no cost. These will replace the traditional, smoky method of cooking on three stone fires.
Travels to Scandnavia
Scandinavia has adopted Loruvani. Hezron Abel, choir director, and Sululu Seth, a senior music teacher at Makumira University, traveled to Sweden for several weeks. They worked with local choir masters who are interested in Maasai music. And they studied with other conductors to hone their skills on western classical music. Their schedule was so tight and they were so much in demand that they didn't have any time for sight seeing. They'll take in the attractions of Scandinavia when they return with the Loruvani Choir on its up and coming concert tour.
Concerts around Tanzania
The Loruvani Choir has been exceptionally busy during the past few months. In addition to performing almost every Sunday at the Loruvani Church in Sanawari, they've also given concerts at the St. Jude School and the Oldonyo Sambu College of Evangelists near Arusha. On the national front, the choir recently performed at the National Museum and the Azania Front Catherdral, both in Dar Es Salaam.
Currently studying with the Loruvani Choir are six students from Arcadia University in a study abroad program and, periodically, professional choral directors from Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, and the United States.