In Summary
  • The modernisation of ohangla tunes has led to the creation of music loved by people of all ages, and its dancing style changed.
  • According to Simon Ndirangu, a local music producer, the current ohangla music is a sharp contrast from the code that guided it before its modernisation.

Ohangla artistes have been striving to change the face of the once traditional musical genre. Since the days when instruments like the drum, flute and lyres were the main ohangla accompaniments, digital emancipation has transformed the age old genre popular on the shores of Lake Victoria.

The coming of Elisha Okuku, best known with his stage name as ‘Mtoto wa Shule,’ has given ohangla rhythm a touch of rhumba, a move permitting a fresh allure that attracts young people to enjoy a genre that originally had a fast tempo enjoyed by the aged.

Okuku, who has released his third album, says his new style is meant to attract young fans who have broken away from the past in terms of listenership. “I wanted to break from the normal in the ohangla genre because our audience is growing younger and restless at heart,” says Okuku.

While the traditional system of the music had an ensemble that consisted of a drummer with eight cowhide drums, another with a shoulder-slung monitor lizard-skin drum, a flute player and a nyatiti player, the modern ensemble has guitars, keyboards and other electric musical accompaniments.

“In the traditional beats, the dancers vigorously gyrated their hips to the fast tempo, while the modern beat has three phases comprising a slower paced session like the rumba rhythm,” explains Okuku.

Technology has enabled musicians to fuse instruments like the synthesiser and guitars into ohangla, and basically doing away with its traditional element.


In an interview with the Weekend, Okuku said he started his musical career in 2002 with ohangla star Odosh Jasuba before moving on to join another artist, Wanga Jakolando of the Ohangla Challenge Band. When he moved to Likoni at the Coast in 2013, he first became a pianist in a nightclub band before going solo.

His current album is doing well on the market, courtesy of a blend of rhumba and ohangla genres. The album, titled Kapesa Orumo (when you run out of money) has songs such as Nyiri Lore, Princess Jano, Toti Aluongi, Okech Mwalimu and Nyasego.

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