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Atisanna, The Queen Of Nyatiti

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A middle aged woman based in Kisumu County has turned to traditional Nyatiti music and art for social change amongst the youths living within the informal settlement.

Jennifer Atieno Sanna has played Nyatiti music for now 40 years as a way of promoting Luo culture, tradition and identity amongst the current generation and taught them morals.

When she first played the eight-stringed instrument in public, male chauvinists sought to know her mental status as they complained that she had gone against Luo culture barring women from playing the Nyatiti.

But nothing could stop Jennifer Atieno Sanna. Sitting on a low traditional stool and dressed in cultural regalia, she belted one melody after another, attracting a huge crowd at Nyalenda Social Justice center.

Atieno popularly known to her fans as Atisanna, is one of the most sought after entertainers because of her unique performances and We caught up with her at the at the Justice center where she was performing as part of her campaign to preserve dying Luo music traditions.

She told Ghetto Radio that Luos are forgetting their cultures and this is the main cause of social injustices within the communities.

“Our culture is our identity and our identity makes us because that is who we are, so we should not be ignorant and shy away from it,” she said.

“You see nowadays most youths have turned to drug abuse? This is because we have forgotten our culture where youths sit down with their elders and get taught on Morals. We used to have “Siwende”which had a lot of proverbs but currently majority of youths have no knowledge concerning our cultures,” says Atisanna.


The 40-year-old Nyatiti player stands out among many other legendary songstresses like Suzanna Owiyo in embracing Luo culture through Nyatiti music.

Today’s society

“I am a cultural ambassador and my music embraces our Luo tradition; my songs entail indigenous information that has been ignored by today’s society,” said the mother of four.

“I started by doing jazz music and I can confidently say that I am able to do any genre of instrumental music and Afro fusion at large because this what I was taught by my dad since I was young,” she said.

Ati Sanna ventured into playing Nyatiti after learning from her father, her mentor.

“My father was a jazz musician, he was a saxophone singer, and my grandmother was a dodo singer. My grandfather was a horn blower. All of them motivated me to venture into traditional music,” she added.

 The folk singer mostly does live performances, and one of her outstanding songs is Bidii, meaning hard work in Swahili.

She has also trained many youths who have  ventured Nyatiti, through talent search in slums.

” Whenever I go, I remind youths on our rich culture and also train those who arw willing to join the traditional music, In slums we have Talents and that’s why,am doing this,” she added.

She has also trained her own daughter who have also won a scholarship to study abroad.

He advised youths to join locally formed organizations where they can get there daily bread than involving themselves in social injustices.



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