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  • Writer's pictureThe Sound Cafe

'Maasai Footsteps' Celebrates the Ancestral Song and Dance of the Maasai People of East Africa

“Tradition is what makes people who they are",says Anuang’a Fernando, creator of Maasai Footsteps. "If you lose it, you lose your identity”.

The project celebrates the ancestral songs and dance of the Maasai people of East Africa, performed at schools and on European stage through contemporary dance. While capturing and honouring the aesthetic and culture of the Maasai nomadic tribes Purko, Loodokilani and Kisonko, Anuang’a uses his passion for contemporary dance style - learned in Paris, France - to share his heritage and make it accessible to modern-day students.

Through chants, whistling, group song and instrumentation, a story unfolds. We begin with a song used by the Purko clan to relax the cattle while they graze, followed by Emburkoi, voiced in chorus by the Loodokilani warriors to give them courage while hunting.

We hear a wise elder sing to the younger generation of females about the importance of Maasai tradition, and a praying song to the god Enkai, sung by the Purko clan. Meanwhile, Enkairishi is heard as the warriors return home from the hunt and endeavor to protect the community with the use of gathered herbal medicine. Oleng'wesi is an educational song about protecting yourself from wild animals and how to use a shield effectively.

For Anuang’a, interest in Maasai dance began with the music and dance festivals held in his local villages, Kitengela and Magadi. After debuting in 1990 with the famous Rarewatts dancers, he worked with African Heritage in Kenya and abroad. He explored every avenue which dance could take him, and soon found himself in Asia, Europe, and particularly Paris, where he developed his own style of contemporary dance at the masterclasses of Carolyn Carlson. Today, he enjoys recognition through the likes of Africa Connections, who selected him as their featured artist for Black History Month, October 2020 - “Grace personified”.

The nineteen tracks on this album are thoughtful, sentimental, encouraging and speak to a historical beauty captured here in song and dance. Life, and the victory of unity is celebrated. The album includes an exclusive video of the staged dance performance filmed by Joshua Nteng'a, featuring 45 Maasai dancers from the three clans. The vibrant performance is sensational to watch, with natural harmony of song and movement. The jumping, for which the Maasai are famous, is something to behold. “A performance you won’t want to miss.” – Business Daily Africa

Maasai Footsteps reveals the evolution of the Maasai culture and shows the value of their traditions in the world today.


Maasai Dance

The Maasai traditional dance is unique among the African dances. One can compare the body movement to a wave where it evolve in turn: the neck, the shoulders, the chest and the back bottom. The gestures are rather sober, the arms remain close to the body and the legs budge in vertical jumps: the energy is channeled. The Maasai people draws in dance and songs the forces to confront nature.

Traditionally there is no instruments: Voice, the feet and the jewels rhythmically regulate the dance. The Maasaï warrior shows his enthusiasm inside a human circle where each one comes to jump as high as possible. The more they sing and dance, the more the songs thrust the warriors in a state of trance. From that time, the MORANS are ready to confront their initiation in the savannah and ready also to fight against the lion eater of cows.

Being very bashful, the Maasai use dance and the song to choose his wife. While the circle of the female dancers crosses the circle of the male dancers, with a brief bow of the head, they throw their long hair on the shoulder of the selected girl. The whole village that attends the ceremony knows then the future wife. The Maasai culture is a daily reality. The collective memory is oral: – Imagine a book open on the Savannah where the text would be the song, the image would be the dance. - Anuang’a Fernando

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