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American Folklife Center Collections: Kenya

This guide provides access to ethnographic resources documenting expressive culture in Kenya in the collections of the American Folklife Center, Library of Congress.


American Folklife Center collections from Kenya document the diversity of its expressive culture. Among its unique collections are documentation of various indigenous peoples of Kenya including wax cylinder recordings of traditional music thought to have been made by James Barnes in about 1913, documentation of traditional dance and events by ethnographer Judith Lynne Hanna in 1963, and documentation of traditional music by ethnomusicologist Vida Chenoweth in 1983. In 2009 the American Folklife Center participated in a Cultural Documentation Training for Indigenous Communities program in Kenya, working with the Maasai community and a video of a public program about this project is included below.

Featured Video

Winyo performs traditional Luo songs infused with witty storylines, Afro fusion, Afro jazz, and Benga (a mix of contemporary music with traditional Kenyan Luo music in which the guitar is played to mimic a Luo eight-string lyre called a nyatiti). Winyo sings in Dholuo, Swahili and English. Born Shiphton Onyango, Winyo adopted the artistic name "Winyo," which is a Luo word for "bird." The Luo are a tribe from the Lake Victoria region of Western Kenya. He says that he derives his music and musical strength from his forefathers, whose African music was rich in melody and traditional harmonies. (Event date: July 01, 2014)

Collections of Interest

The following materials link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to digital content are provided when available.

Podcasts and Blog Posts

Public Programming

The international documentary training program discussed in this presentation aims to provide indigenous communities with the technical and methodological skills needed to record, maintain and preserve aspects of their traditional cultural heritage and public representations. The presentation provides an inside perspective into the aims, goals and initial results from the program. It is jointly produced by the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, the Maasai Cultural Heritage Foundation, a community-based organization of Maasai people in Laikipia, Kenya, the World Intellectual Property Organization in Switzerland and Duke University's Center for Documentary Studies. (Event date: April 07, 2010)