Suzanna Owiyo
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Suzanna Owiyo

Band World Singer/Songwriter


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The Matter Hospital in Nairobi has Intoduced the
first programme of its kind in Africa Aimed at
Fostering patient's holistic healing throgh music
by involving the body and spirit ,

Pains and aches are momentarily forgotten as some patients nod their heads and tap their feet in tune to the songbirds catchy dholuo lyrics. Others, perhaps surprised but excited to see the tall belle strumming her guitar at a hospital lounge, simply stare. As the song comes to an end, Owiyo throws a dimpled smile at her appreciative audience, excuses herself and swiftly makes her way to the hospital's Lourdel ward, where she is scheduled for another performance. This time, for the in-patients.

Barely 10 minutes later, Owiyo is at it again, belting out another popular hit, much to the delight of a group of nurses and patients gathered at one end of a long corridor.
"Please play Malaika," pipes one of the patients, a middle aged woman with short cropped hair, donning a green hospital gown. Owiyo obliges and the woman's face breaks into a smile as the songbird croons....
Malaika nakupenda malaika
Nami nifanyej4 kijana mwenzio...

A nurse standing in the group reaches to the woman and gently takes her hand. The pair then slowly waltzes around the `miniature ballroom' formed by the circle of hospital staff and patients.

This scene is just one of several that now characterise operations at Mater in the institution's quest to embrace an 'Arts in Medicine Programme'. The programme, which comes at no additional cost to patients, is the first of its kind on the continent and is aimed at fostering an individual's holistic healing by involving both body and spirit.

The concept, though used successfully by dozens of hospitals in the West, is new to Africa and has Mater, working in partnership with the Centre for the Arts in Healthcare Research and Education at the University of Florida, as the pioneer institution of such a programme.

A medley of golden oldies popularly known as 'Zilizopendwa' wafts down the hospital's corridor as Owiyo sings her heart out. The familiar tunes draw the attention of several patients curiously peeking at the group from the wards. Some opt to move closer.

A middle-aged man is wheeled out onto the corridor by one of the hospital's orderlies and promptly handed a triangle by one of the nurses. It only takes him a few minutes to get settled as he picks up the rhythm....
"Kola kolola, mama kolola kolola,
Embe dodo embe dodo
Limelala mchangani

The man begins to hum along to the song and smiles as the group breaks into a popular chorus.
Tembea na Yes ... Amen
Tern bee na Yesu ndugu....
Amen, halleluyia Amen

"I have never seen anything like this before, but I am happy that I chose to leave the ward and come here," says the male patient, Mr Titus Wandaki.
"This makes me forget my pain for a while. It makes me feel like part of the world again and reminds me that I am not alone," he says, as he slowly adjusts his neck brace.

Wandaki recalls how he first heard of the programme from nurses doing their rounds in the ward and decided to have a first hand experience. So far, he has not been disappointed by its activities.
"When I come out here and join in the singing, my loneliness disappears and I stop feeling sorry for myself," Wandaki says. He, like several other patients seated in the midst of the group, appear subdued at the start of the session, but gradually warms up to the activities, egged on by the soft singing and cheery faces of the nurses who form part of the team.

As the jingle of a tambourine and clang of a triangle fills the air, the erstwhile taut muscles on the patients' faces begin to relax, their eyes brighten and their aching bodies slowly begin to move; a shaking of the head here, a snapping of the finger there, and the tapping of feet, slowly begin to inject life into the patient's faces.

Laughter comes in large doses too as some of the patients shyly take the hands of the volunteers, mainly nurses at the hospital, and join them in a dance.

The nurses apparel is equally cheerful with tiny multi coloured raffia crowns perched on their heads. Their aprons, though white, bear a rich mix of embroidery and other hand woven patterns. The musical instruments are simple. Save for a tambourine, guitar and triangle, the group largely depends on their melodious voices and beaming faces to work the magic of healing.

"When we first went to the women's ward we were told that none of them could move out of their beds but look at them now," says an excited Winnie Ojve-Njenga, the programme's co-ordinator. patients here," Njenga says.

Owiyo, who first heard about the project last year, says getting involved with such projects is one avenue through which people can give back to the society.
It is one way of sharing your time with people who have less access to the arts because of their condit - STANDARD, DECEMBER 2, 2006) |





Born in Kasaye village – Nyakach, near the lakeside city of Kisumu, Suzanna Owiyo was introduced to music at a tender age by her grandfather who was a prolific Nyatiti player. As she grew up, it was her privilege to watch him play to elated audiences not knowing that one-day music would be her calling in life.

In high school, her talent enabled her school to win many trophies during the provincial and national music festivals. After high school in 1989, she joined a Nairobi based singer Sally Oyugi as a back up vocalist. Two years later she parted ways with Sally to team up with a local band in Nairobi; Bora Bora sound and later on went back to sing in Kisumu. It was here that a young business entrepreneur with a keen ear for music spotted her talent and offered her, her first guitar. She then went back to Nairobi and undertook music lessons at the Kenya Conservatoire of Music whilst continuing to sing at a club in Karen.

It was while preparations were being made for the centennial celebrations of the city of Kisumu, that Suzanna was requested to compose a theme song for the opening ceremony. In front of a capacity crowd of 60,000 people “Kisumu 100” was born and immediate success followed; a prolonged applause and a standing ovation.

Suzanna then decided to work on an album with Kenyan music producer Tedd Josiah. The album, which received great success on the radio, won her a nomination in the Kora Music Awards 2002 in the “Most Promising Female Artist category”. The same album won her a Kisima Awards for the Most Promising Female Artist of 2003. Her new single “Sandore” and the video clip with a powerful message on child labour also met great success.

Numerous concerts in Kenya and abroad followed thereafter. In June 2003, she represented her country at the Kenyan Festival in Paris organized by Alliance Française, in August the same year she represented East Africa at the Pan-African music Festival in Brazzaville where she sang alongside Youssou N’dour, Koffi Olomide and Rebecca Malope among other African greats and in December she performed in Djibouti.

In July 2004, she performed at the “Festival Mundial” in Holland. In December 2004, Susan Owiyo beat a host of African artistes to clinch the single berth reserved for a female African artiste to perform at the Nobel Peace Concert, where she performed with her band, and also performed the song ‘imagine’ with artistes such as Cyndi Lauper, Andrea Bochelli, Chris Botti, Patti Labelle and Baba Maal. She just finished a tour of France, USA and Japan where she thrilled the worls audience with her magic voice.

Suzanna’s music is a fusion of traditional western Kenyan music and contemporary rhythms. Traditional instruments (nyatiti,orutu, etc) always feature in her songs as heard on “Janyau”, the first track of her new album Yamo Kudho (the wind is blowing). In 2005, Suzanna was the show stopper at the annual Corporate Council on Africa Summit in Baltimore, Maryland where she charmed with her voice. She also performed at the World Trade Expo in Japan, the Ziff Festival in Zanzibar.Later in December of the same year, she was invited to the jamhuri Day fete in Washington where she performed and made a series of appearances in the US states of Maryland, Washington and New York.

In 2006, she performed at both local and international arenas including a participation in the summer intensive course on Arts in Medicine in Florida USA for one month, a Jazz festival in Nairobi. In December, Suzanna performed at the street Festival in Calabar Nigeria.

2007 was promising. Just when the year began, she was amongst the artist who entertained the delegates (local and international) who attended the World Social Forum held in Nairobi. Locally, she has been involved in the corporate,NGO and Government Sponsored events-i.e She recorded and performed the Anti-corruption campaign spearheaded by the Kenya Anti-corruption Campaign steering committee. Suzanna also recorded a theme song for the Kenya Tourist Board. In the month of June,she represented Kenya at the MASA Festival that was held in Abidjan, Ivory Coast .In August, Suzanna performed at the prestigious Event called YARA PRIZE AWARDS held in Oslo. other artists who graced the occasion was non other than Papa Wemba from DRC Congo, the Brass Brothers from Oslo just to mention a few. Lastly in December, Suzanna performed at the New Years Eve Concert held in Maputo, Mozambique. She is currently working on her 3rd album which should be out in the mid of the year.She has featured Oliver Mtukudzi from Zimbabwe, Mbilia Bel from DRC Congo in the album.

Suzanna once again confirms her place amongst the very best of not only African, but also world musicians.