The singing chiefs of Lamu: Using song to enforce law and order - VIDEO

Lamu's singing chiefs: Enforcing law and order using song

While many chiefs and their assistants across Kenya are known merely for their administrative powers, with some executing their mandates ruthlessly, the chiefs in Lamu are known for something else—using songs to enforce law and order.

With beautiful compositions, a group of 14 chiefs from Mpeketoni and Mkunumbi divisions in Lamu West Sub-County have been belting out their songs to educate, inform, and discourage vices.

Their songs tackle issues affecting society such as, drugs and alcohol abuse, early pregnancies, education, and environmental conservation.

Through their choir, the chiefs have now become familiar favourites among their communities, who turn out in large numbers to listen to the performances.

Lamu chiefs

Volunteer choir master Simon Munene and chiefs in Lamu perform in Mpeketoni on February 2, 2023 during the World Wetlands Day.

Photo credit: Kalume Kazungu | Nation Media Group

For the past year, the administrators have been taking advantage of the various podiums during state functions and social and international events to sing their hearts out on topics touching directly on society and development.

Their unique method has not only made them popular but also likeable in their communities.

Apart from using their songs to communicate state agenda, warn against vices, and education the communities, they also use their singing to as a way to deal with the stress they encounter while performing their day-to-day duties, they told Nation.Africa.

Hongwe Sub-Location Assistant Chief Tabitha Mwangi Mumbi, the founder of the choir, said that their previous mode of administration was a bit challenging and was perceived by residents as “unfriendly”. The administrators were viewed only as an authoritative arm of the state, and not as part of the communities.

“I came up with the idea around April 2022. I shared it with my colleagues who accepted that we come together and form the choir to help address matters affecting our society just through singing.

“Today, the idea has worked perfectly. We’re friends of everyone in this place and we feel our messages and warnings are received very well by citizens,” said Ms Mumbi.

Lamu chiefs

Administrators in Lamu perform in Mpeketoni on February 2, 2023 during the World Wetlands Day.

Photo credit: Kalume Kazungu | Nation Media Group

The chiefs every Tuesday and Friday at 4.30 pm, after work, to compose songs and practice.

Some of the songs they have composed are: Tuyatunze Mazingira, Zingatia Jamii Yetu, Tuishi Kwa Amani, Kenya iende Mbele, Lamu Tuipendanyo and Bwana Tunakushukuru.

Majembeni Chief Moses Muiruri Murigi says singing to the public has portrayed the administrators as real servants to wananchi.

“Instead of us the chiefs sitting on podiums to listen to wananchi entertaining us, we’ve become the entertainers to citizens and this is a plus for us as we appear [as] real servants,” he said.

Lamu chiefs

Administrators in Lamu perform in Mpeketoni on February 2, 2023 during the World Wetlands Day.

Photo credit: Kalume Kazungu | Nation Media Group

The singing has also helped strengthen unity, peace and harmony among chiefs and their assistants, resulting in more harmonised working.

“As chiefs and assistants, we usually share our daily work experiences during our choir meetings. This has enabled us to help one another. We’re one,” said Mr Murigi.

The chiefs have a volunteer music teacher—Simon Munene.

Mr Munene told Nation.Africa that they target to have a chiefs’ choir that can represent Lamu County in the future during state events around the country.

“I have volunteered to train these administrators and take them to a higher level that can enable them get recognised and invited during state functions,” he added.

Mr Munene appealed to the state and well-wishers to help the administrators get music equipment that can help them achieve their target.

“These chiefs are not singing just for fun or entertainment, but rather as part of their service to wananchi. Messages are more effectively received by the public compared to previous days when the chiefs used force and other means to pass government agenda. I believe once they get equipment to boost their music, things will be extremely good,” he said.

Lamu West Deputy County Commissioner Gabriel Kioni, the choir patron, lauded the administrators for coming up with the unique idea of singing to serve residents.

Lamu chiefs

Guests listen to the chiefs' choir performing in Mpeketoni, Lamu, on February 2, 2023 during the World Wetlands Day.

Photo credit: Kalume Kazungu | Nation Media Group

He committed to support the administrators, adding that singing has enabled them to deliver messages to the public.

“Apart from serving or passing government messages to wananchi, singing is also good for the body and mind. That’s why since they started singing, our chiefs always look happier and strong. I will fully support them so that one day, we come up with an entire county chiefs’ choir to serve the same purpose,” said Mr Kioni.

Health and psychological experts who talked to Nation.Africa admitted that singing is therapeutic.

“Singing helps to lower stress levels, improve mood, decrease pain, lessen fatigue and [promote] greater social connectedness, among many other benefits. Let’s embrace it. It’s good for our health,” said Mr Andrew Masama, the chairperson of the Kenya Counselling and Psychological Association (KCPA) Lamu Branch.

He added that in the past, messages were conveyed through singing and poetry which were very effective.