It was back in 2004. I was in primary school. It was the second term and music festivals were around the corner. The music teachers made efforts to train us hard. We worked under the rule of the army, ‘train hard to fight easy’. I was in the boys set piece. We were supposed to sing ‘The Riddle Song’. For those who know it, it is an English folk song with its origin being traced back to the 15th Century. I can still remember those practice moments like it was just yesterday. The lyrics to the song went like:
”I gave my love a cherry that had no stone
I gave my love a chicken that had no bones
I gave my love a ring that had no end
I gave my love a baby thats no cryen
How can there be a cherry that has no stone?
How can there be a chicken that has no bones?
How can there be a ring that has no end?
How can there be a baby thats no cryen?
A cherry when it’s blooming it has no stone
A chicken when it’s pipping, it has no bones
A ring when it’s rolling, it has no end
A baby when it’s sleeping, has no cryen”.
I was on a transition from childhood to adolescence. I was still unaware of the changes to expect. During our time, adolescence and puberty as a topic was being taught in Class 6. In 2004 I was not in Class 6 and so I could not understand the changes that were going on in me. I remember the first session when we started practising The Riddle Song. We were called in twos and asked to sing the whole song so that our trainers could determine to which voice we belonged. To my surprise, I was the only boy in our classroom who was grouped in the tenor voice. The rest of the boys were grouped in either soprano or alto. in the tenor group, I found myself alongside Class 7 and Class 8 boys.
As boys sang The Riddle Song, girls sang Flora Gave Me Fairest Flowers. Their angelic voices could easily soothe a crying child to sleep. It could provide a man deep in debt with a brief moment of ecstasy where he would feel like he owns the whole world. Nonetheless, the harmony in their voices served as a catalyst to the boys who eventually took their game to the next level knowing that there is a she out there watching them.
In as much as I believed that my voice could not be found on the keyboard, I knew it was somewhere between soprano and alto. But alas! To my surprise, it was categorized as a tenor. For the coming weeks, Mr. Makongele and his elder brother were involved in training us. His elder brother was an army man on a break from a mission in Burundi. Mr. Makongele was a Kiswahili, Science, and Creative Arts (quite a tricky combination) teacher at our school. Their passion for music could be seen in the way they were able to sing out the lyrics to the song in all the four voices. Mr. Makongele was involved in training the soprano and alto ‘boys’ while his elder brother was involved in training the tenor and bass ‘men’.The training sessions were from 3.10pm to 5.00pm, a period when all the learning activity for the day had been exhausted and all that remained were games before we all attended an evening assembly for dismissal back to our homes.
I was in denial. How could I be the only one with the tenor voice in our classroom? Why were the rest of the boys different from me? How comes I am the only one practising alongside the mature Class 7 and Class 8 boys with deep voices? Rather than appreciating this uniqueness, I kept on looking at myself as having a ‘disability’. The first few training sessions were a success as I always made the cut. The trainers were looking to have the final 42 set piece members. In as much as I kept on making the cut, I still lived in denial. I longed for those moments where I could train with the rest of my classmates. Most of the times I felt out of place as I trained with the tenor ‘men’. It reached a point where I contemplated making a switch to training with the rest of my classmates. I settled on soprano since alto was very competitive. Moreover, a large number of Class 6 boys and few Class 7 boys had the alto voice. They were all qualified to sing in that voice. I knew it was close to impossible to dislodge a member of the alto ‘boys’.
The day I decided to make a switch to soprano was the day I made a very grave mistake. As a consequence of this switch and to cut the long story short, I never made it to the final 42. I carried this guilty conscience with me for a very long time simply because I missed out on a chance to represent our school in the Regional Music Competition held in Narok. When you mention Narok, Maasai Mara Game Reserve automatically comes into mind. Imagine I missed a chance to visit the game reserve. If only I had stuck to training with the tenor ‘men’ then I would have visited the park. As the wise men said, ‘If wishes were horses then beggars would ride on them’.
Sometimes in our lives, we are faced with a scenario where we feel that holding on is the dumbest thing we can ever do. We tend to overthink and this makes us imagine non-existent things and issues. In such situations, overthinking clouds our minds with thoughts which more often than not leads us into making uninformed decisions. Like in my case, I was unaware of adolescence till the day when I stepped into Class 6. If I had been aware, chances are high that I would have learned to accept myself and sing on with the tenor ‘men’. Awareness helps us understand our lives and our environment better. It assists us in making the necessary adjustments in our lives. It is, therefore, prudent that we be aware of the situation at hand before making decisions. This awareness will help us make sound judgment and in the emerge as wise decision-makers.