Hum and drum

Silence. A community wakes up. Shrugging off the darkness of the night.

And then there is the low murmur of chattering.

Outside: people slowly gather in the parking lot. Sit on the lawn, On the kerb. Waiting. Expectant. More people enter through the gate. One by one. Others are curious, craning their necks from inside their homes to see what is happening. Peeping from behind closed curtains.

Inside: a crowd of men and women. Mostly women. Dressed in skirts and trousers. Modern clothes. Bright colours. All manners of hairstyles: braids, corn rows, weaves. And some young children less than waist height, dressed in orange corduroy suits with a T shirt whose collar is soft and curled. They potter between the legs of the adults, trying to get a front row view of what is happening.

The women are singing in tandem with a leader who starts the song in a true, clear voice. Then the rest catch up in time for the chorus. Half the group stays with her into the next stanza. There is the clapping of hands and gentle stomping of feet to accompany the beats. And by the time the group has caught on, a gentle swaying begins. First the shoulders move forward and then back, starting with the right. And then there is a round circling of the hips and the buttocks in their tight cotton material. Swinging low, closer to the ground and then back up.

The multitude moves as one. Like a wave.

There is colour and music and laughter.

And then as suddenly as it started, it is over. Cars start their engines, doors close, some parting conversation, laughter of children, and then the clanging of gates as they open and close.

The mundane sounds of a Nairobi estate resume.The askari returns to his shelter. Neighbours scuttle back into their homes. Children mount their 2 and 4 wheel bicycles.

– A wedding party departs from a residential estate in Nairobi


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