INTERVIEW WITH REUBEN KIGAME ON SIFA VOICES
WHEN WAS THE IDEA OF THE GROUP BORN?
Kigame & Sifa Voices
After about ten years of solo recordings during which I shared music that highlighted my testimony, doctrine, beliefs, laments and other forms of celebration, I still found my musical journey incomplete. I was turning out album after album of life stories and evangelistic messages, but deep inside I felt there was still a musical vacuum. I wrote a few songs around this time somewhat raising this cry to the Lord. At this time, I mostly wrote these songs for my own worship or for use on other people’s projects when they asked me to write something for their albums. When I wrote “Blessed” for Kenya Youth For Christ from Psalm 32 and “Help Me To Be Holy” for Barnabas Otieno’s project, “Shine your Light” I began to notice I was connecting with something deep inside the music and the lyrics which seemed to explain the hunger I had deep within. I was to notice with great delight that the Lord was leading me gradually towards writing worship songs. There are many definitions of worship music, but for me a simple definition would be music whose theme, sound and intent is the one and only God, revealed to us in the pages of Scripture and in His creation. It is music that engages with Him, His attributes and His overall character and person. It speaks of His power, His love, His grace, His beauty, His justice, His holiness, His dependability, etc. I noticed that was what I had been looking for without knowing.
I began to write more of these songs in the mid 1990’s and noticed I had so much joy and fulfillment doing this. It was different. I was no longer writing music for others to consume. I was writing music that incorporated me as its consumer as well.
For anyone to really understand how Sifa Voices comes about in this picture, I would need to explain that this corporate or participatory music meant that I move from self-backups and solo arrangements to involving more people. My music at this point began to shift towards the Church as the recipient of the music and I asked more and more, how might we use the songs more in the worship services.
This led me to the hand—picking of several of my close Christian friends like Cyprian and Jayne Yobera (very close family friends) and who had supported the growth of the gift in me right from Kenya Youth For Christ days, Esther and Philip Nthiwa with whom we had been involved in music ministry for years including the TV series, Joy Bringers and Sing and Shine on KBC; my sister-in-law, Charity Mwangi (now Charity Mwendwa) and her sister Mercy who was then my wife (now with the Lord); Dorcas Karanja another family and ministry friend (now Dorcas Bobo); Sammy Waithaka, Margaret Chacha, Debbie Musilwa, James Kahero Karanja. At this time, I just referred to them as my friends – and they really were my closest musical and family friends. The first worship music, therefore, came with the label, “Reuben Kigame and Friends.” Within two years or so, I found the need to give a name to this circle of friends since they kept increasing or shifting residence due to work or marriage.
Thus, was born the name “Sifa Voices” early 1999. We have been known as Sifa Voices since then.
WHY THE NAME SIFA VOICES?
The one thing that seemed to characterize our initial songs together was singing from the Psalms. As we shared our worship through the Psalms, we recognized more and more that our songs were dominated by celebrating God for who He is and what He had done. We were literally just pouring out praise and more praise as individuals and as a group. We also began to realize that the more we praised God, the more those who heard the songs were able to make this something of their own. It was no longer “our music.” It was becoming more and more the Church’s family music. Because praise to God seemed to characterize most of the music, I think it was almost natural when looking for a name early 1999 to pick out the word “praise” as a characteristic definition of what we wanted to do. It was clear we wanted God to be seen as big, great, powerful, at work, in control, in a world that seemed to suggest otherwise. It was like saying: “Praise the Lord and let the earth hear His voice!” or, as the Psalmist put it in Psalm 97 verse 1, “Let the distant shores rejoice.” Yes, God had put a new song in us and this song was making people hear Him and love Him and worship Him more. The word “praise” is rendered as “Sifa” in the Swahili language.
WHAT ARE THE MAIN OBJECTIVES OF SIFA VOICES?
Sifa Voices aims to:
- Encourage the development of a worship culture that is based on the Word of God as revealed in the Bible
- Write, record and distribute worship songs to build the faith of the Church in Africa and the world at large.
- Mentor upcoming Christian musicians in the writing of songs that glorify God and nourishes the hearts of the members of the Church.
- Encourage excellence, clarity and spiritual responsibility in Christian music.
- Reach out to those who do not believe in Jesus with the Gospel through music and the Word with particular emphasis on the youth in High Schools and College.
- Provide deep and lasting fellowship and support among members of the Sifa family and those related to them,ensuring that they grow whollistically in Christ.
- Provide training in music and worship for Church leaders including music directors for the purpose of ensuring quality corporate worship in the Church.
- Mentor the youth in spiritual disciplines and life skills and provide counseling for them whenever needed.
WHO CAN JOIN SIFA VOICES?
Someone who is born again, musically gifted, at least a school leaver, social, able to read and write in English and Kiswahili, at least 18 years and above. We are interdenominational and travel to many parts of the country and beyond, hence, anyone who joins must have consent from both family and their individual Church families.