Jennifer Sanna

Jennifer Atieno Sanna, or Atisanna, to use her stage name, is Kenya’s first professional female nyatiti player. The nyatiti, an eight-stringed harp, was traditionally played only by men among the Luo. She learned how to play this instrument under the tutelage of accomplished nyatiti players, later training further at the Kenya National Theatre. She sometimes still has to contend with those who feel nyatiti should be played exclusively by men.

Sanna combines the use of both traditional and Western musical instruments to accompany her performances – a mix of afro-fusion, modern jazz, RnB and benga.

In 2011, she was ranked top at a Kenya Music and Cultural Festival event organised by the Ministry of National Heritage and Culture.  Born into a musical family, Sanna started out as a backup singer for her father’s Sanna Jazz Band. She learned how to play the guitar as a pupil in Kileleshwa Primary. She also sang alongside her musical grandmother, a prolific Dodo singer. Dodo is a Luo musical style. Her contemporary musical influences are artists Suzanna Owiyo and Miriam Makeba. The Ngara Girls alumna, who had her début performance on stage at Nairobi’s Goethe Institute in May 2011 with the legendary Ayub Ogada, is looking forward to seeing music grow to levels where it can be a sustainable source of income. The vibrant musician has a number of upcoming singles and albums in the pipeline.

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