A group of young singers that has become a sensation in the last one year for their choral versions of pop and gospel songs is finally ready to step on stage with their first major public concerts this weekend.
The Redfourth Chorus first caught the attention of fans with their recording of the gospel song “Kuliko Jana” originally by Sauti Sol and Aaron Rimbui. Arranged by the group’s founder Philip “Filah” Tuju, the song was first entered for the Kenya Music Festival.
But Filah was not satisfied with merely performing the song; he wanted a recording of the song.
“I texted the members of Sauti Sol for their permission to record it and also asked them for the instrumental of the song,” he says.
The song became a sensation on the Internet, and the Redfourth Chorus soon after recorded an official release alongside Sauti Sol.
As students at Upper Hill, the members of Sauti Sol had been in Filah’s music class when he volunteered as a music teacher at his alma mater.
Upper Hill was the birthplace for the Redfourth Chorus but the membership has now been extended even to singers in other schools, boys and girls, and those who are post-secondary school. The current group consists of singers between 14-25 with a plan for a choir of singers under age 13 years taking shape.
The Redfourth Chorus, will be performing three concerts dubbed “Totally Aloud” from today till Sunday at the Kenya National Theatre.
While the group has so far only released choral renditions of songs, their concerts will be a new experience with original songs, and a lively mix of African rhythms and drums.
Tha Movement, a six-piece band, will be on hand to add instrumentation to the harmonies.
The concert repertoire is rich in diversity, from Kenyan folk songs, arrangements of zilizopendwa, to excerpts from upcoming musicals that have been written by music director Andrew Tumbo.
These are excerpts from “Sarafina” and “Moon dancer Chronicles” a story of resistance against colonial rule by a combined force of freedom fighters from various communities in Kenya.
Started by Filah who wanted to create a choir that was representative of the diversity of Kenya, the Redfourth Chorus and Music Academy is guided by the motto “In the spirit of music”.
Andrew who joined the choir in August last year has been working on African arrangements for the group while Filah does the writing and composition of the music.
Among the songs they have recorded is ‘‘Kutembea Nawe” by Rebekah Dawn.
“A normal choir has four voices but this arrangement by Filah has as many as 12 voices and still sounds so beautiful is incredible,” says Andrew.
The joint Upper Hill and State House Girls choir sang “Mungu Pekee” by Nyashinski while their version of “Baadaye” by Amos and Josh features Flora Mutia (Flo) who was previously a student at Redfourth Academy.
One of the songs Andrew has been arranging is “Lem Na” a song in Dholuo that was written and recorded by Filah as a contestant on TV show Maisha Superstar.
Their most recent cover version was “Ananijali” by Andrew Mburu that only features the male section of the choir.
Filah chose the song because it easily relates to any young man who is on the grind every day and counting on God to guide and sustain him through life’s challenges. He adds that the next release, which is an original song, will be purely for the girls and will also mark the first of the choir’s original songs.
“We focus on songs whose lyrics speak to people,” explains Filah about the music selection. The quality of their work and the resulting success means it is now easier to obtain permission from artists to re-do their songs.
“In Nyashinski’s case, he said he was excited that we asked to do his song.”
The choir does not earn royalties from any of the songs because copyright is handed back to the original composer of the songs.
The production of their debut album of original songs and arrangements of traditional songs is in progress with a tentative date of July set for the official release.
Meanwhile, the Redfourth Chorus will keep expanding into new artistic ventures including opera.
“We are aiming for a 1,000 strong choir by Christmas 2017,” says music director Andrew.