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During this festive period, the Safaricom choir has been serenading us with their melodious voices as they sing the Christmas carols as part of the Uteo wa Furaha campaign. We had a conversation with Esther Ndunge on her journey as a Safaricom choir member and this is what she had to say;

Tell us about yourself?

My name is Esther Ndunge Mang’uu, i work as an IT Service Desk Manager at Safaricom plc. I am also actively engaged in mentorship programs under Women in Technology (WIT)-47/47 High school outreach program and a member of Nairobi Connect Rotary that fosters opportunities for service, participating in CSR activities, networking. I love singing which is how I found myself in the Safaricom choir.

How did you get into music?

I remember as a child during the Christmas season, we would travel to the village and have a family sing out in the evening after meals. I come from a musical family, some sing others played instruments and our grandmother was the choirmaster and teacher 😊. During Sunday school, I would also lead choruses.

However, the first time that I performed was in Standard three, this is after my then music teacher noticed my vocal abilities and included me to participate in National Music festival team- set piece as a soprano.

Generally, music has always revolved around me and I have also managed to find myself in spaces where there is an opportunity to sing.  However, joining Safaricom choir nurtured my voice to a point that I can call myself a singer.

How did you get involved with the Safaricom choir?

Back then around 2011, the choir used to practice at the cafeteria, and I would pass by and enjoy the melodies. I decided to audition mostly as an extra-curricular activity to enjoy after work and i have to say that i have enjoyed the Thursday evening sessions for 10 years now.

Tell us about your journey with the Safaricom choir

It has been an amazing journey so far whereby we have done different genres of music and also improved on our musical abilities. However, it was not always like this because when I joined the choir back in 2011, just a passionate batch of people who loved singing be it in church choir or the infamous “Bafu records”. However, what I credit Ken Wakia our then Choir Director, for is getting us mentors for all the voices who walked the journey with us in terms of voice coaching, these techniques have really helped us improve.

Ken really believed in us which was evident when he signed us up for participation in various concerts over the years. Courtesy of this, there are some guys who have become so confident in their art that last year, they sat for Associated Board of  Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) music exams which goes to show that over the years guys have really grown to an extent  that they can even sit for professional exams.

How do you manage to strike a balance between work and singing?

My employer has made it easy for us whereby every Thursday we have choir practice as from 5.30 – 7.30 PM. It is usually a time for us to relax, breath, learn, bond and create music, I look forward to this day of the week.

During the Covid-19 period, we have not been able to meet physically, and luckily technology came to our rescue.  We have been getting the songs, practicing on your own, recording, getting reviews from the mentors and making corrections. Thereafter, the voices are merged to create the music as it is currently. This has been an interesting challenge for all of us, as one got to understand and work on their weaknesses, strengthen the set vocals and have sessions with the mentors on how best to improve.

However, during this time, balancing work and singing has been quite a challenge. This is because we have to record and submit the music within a specified number of days and at the same time, one might have a backlog of work-related tasks that are time barred. In my case, I have been finding myself recording at the wee hours of the night when birds are not chirping and there’s no noise from Matatus & Nduthis to ensure that the recording is crisp.

What would you say has been a highlight of your time with the choir?

In as much as the virtual meetups for the choir have been a challenge, I would say that this has been the best moment that I have enjoyed in the choir. This is because, I have built the confidence that I can really sing because I have had to do the solo recordings and send them to the Director and getting positive feedback has been the best thing ever.

This is because when singing as a group, one is not sure of their abilities as the others are able to hide one’s weaknesses. But having to do the solo recording has ensured that I have to put in practice everything that I have learned from my mentors, and this has not only made me a better singer but also boosted my confidence.

What does Uteo wa Furaha mean to you and how does the choir embody it?

The Uteo wa Furaha campaign by Safaricom is all about giving back to the community and also being able to celebrate together with our customers this festive season. As the choir we are doing this by singing, as a matter of fact during the festive season we usually sing Christmas carols in Malls but this year we were not able to do it courtesy of Covid-19 hence the reason the carols are being posted on Youtube.

Any advise that you can give upcoming musicians?

My advice is that if you feel that you can sing, just start doing it and utilize any platform that is available to you whether it is in church, bafu records, music festivals among others. Also, there will be times when you will doubt your ability to sing but I honestly believe anyone can do it, all one needs to do is look at the ways that you can improve yourself. For example, techniques on improving vocals, warming up your vocal cords before singing among others.

Lastly, endeavor to get a mentor that can help you grow as a musician. In my case, I have learned a lot for my mentors, and they have really helped me nurture my voice which has made me better.