Kenyan Singer Nina Ogot Inspired by Nairobi Youth

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Originally broadcasted by The World on June 18, 2012

Kenyan singer Nina Ogot tells reporter Mary Stucky about her new musical inspiration: working with young people who live on the streets of Nairobi.

The following is a transcript. To listen to this broadcast, please click on the link above.

[MUSIC PLAYS]

Introduction: Kenyan singer Nina Ogot wrote this song while she was studying in Paris and longing for home. Now Ogot is back in Nairobi singing in French, English, Lingala, Luo and Swahili. And she’s found new musical inspiration with young people who live on the street. Mary Stucky brings us tonight’s Global Hit.

[“CHOKORAA” BY NINA OGOT PLAYS]

Mary Stucky: The song is called Chokoraa, the Swahili word for street kids or scavengers, and it’s become something of an anthem for Nina Ogot.

[“CHOKORAA” BY NINA OGOT PLAYS]

Stucky: Ogot’s song describes a child living on the street — alone, unloved and uncared for. Nina Ogot recorded this song on her first album, never thinking that one day she’d actually be working with young people who live on the street.

[SOUNDS OF REHEARSING]

Stucky: On this day, some young performers are rehearsing a dance mus ical — all are, or have been, homeless. Every day they show up at the Go Down Arts Center — a hub for non-profit arts organizations in an industrial part of Nairobi –

[SOUNDS OF REHEARSING]

Stucky: They spend the day learning and practicing dance routines and acrobatics.

[TALKING BETWEEN NINA AND A DRUMMER]

Stucky: Ogot is here, too, composing the music that tells their stories.

Nina Ogot: They’re not just people scrounging every day looking for a living. Their talent is amazing.

Stucky: Kevin Ogutu – now 22 – was only 12 when he ended up on the street, digging in trash cans for food and sniffing glue. One day, Ogutu heard about the Go Down Art Center. He showed up and now he’s performing in the musical.

Kevin Ogutu: It changed me a lot because at first if you want to be a good artist you need to have the discipline and you are responsible for your life because art is all about spreading love and sharing and responsibility.

Ogot: The interesting thing, they’re artists. People think that street kids are just hardcore people from the ghetto, but these are people that they have talents just like everybody else, and all they need is a platform to express their talents.

Stucky: Last year Ogot won best original score from the Kenyan Film Board for a movie about a child who loses his grandfather.

Ogot: And that song, the title that I wrote is called Champion.

[“I AM A CHAMPION” BY NINA OGOT PLAYS]

Ogot: The film is about a child who is trying to find himself. And I chose the name Champion because it’s not easy to find who you are.

Stucky: Ogot used to be a radio and TV host in Nairobi. Now she says she’s happy to focus entirely on her music. For the World, I’m Mary Stucky, Nairobi, Kenya.

Kenya reporter Sarah Ooko contributed to this story. You can check out a trailer for the musical online and visit Nina Ogot’s website. See “More about this story” (on the right side of this page).