They Let You Get Close to the Lions: Stephen Caldwell’s experience sharing music and making friends in Kenya.

by | Jul 25, 2018 | Blog, Field Notes, Test

This summer, Stephen Caldwell, director of choral activities at the University of Arkansas, traveled to Kenya, where he has been working with choirs, conducting at festivals, adjudicating the East African Music Festival, and guest lecturing at Mt. Kenya University. While he is there, he is collecting folk songs, instruments, and arrangements of Kenyan music to bring back to the U of A for performance. “The connections I am making will lead to concerts, cultural exchanges, and publications of authentic Kenyan folk music,” said Caldwell. Below are updates and photos from his trip.


July 11

The Precious Blood Riruta Girls Choir of Nairobi, Kenya, is an incredible group. They taught me some Kenyan music, I helped them with Paul Basler and Moses Hogan. 

July 14

With the Pumwani Boys Choir, Nairobi, Kenya. Watch a video of this choir in action.

July 15

The safety rules are different in Africa…they let you get very close to the lions. 

Today I got too close to a lion, shared a traditional Kenyan meal with the people of Athi-River, led a sacred music workshop about African-American spirituals, and became a Maasai Warrior with the Kenyan Boy Choir. 

July 16

With the Girl’s Choir of the Karibaribi School, Thika, Kenya.

July 17

From the Kenya Choral Directors Trust, an organization Caldwell worked with on his trip: Dr. Stephen Caldwell addressing choir students at Mount Kenya University Thika in a music workshop. Fostering future collaboration between Mount Kenya University and the University of Arkansas.

With the Cultural Dance Troop of the Karima Girls High School, near Ndunyu Njeru, Kenya. An amazing group of young women.

July 19

Today I got to play a little traditional music with the Luyah tribe of western Kenya, near the village of Musoli. The most amazing part was, the moment the drums started, people from all over arrived out of nowhere and started dancing. An Elder told me, “they dance because the music is in them.” 

July 20

From the Kenya Choral Directors Trust: And there was this great exchange…A singing game with these very creative the Luhya nation! I was amazed how the communication went on..English Vs Kiswahili…and occasionally Lwisukha!! Music has no language barrier.

July 21

With the Honorable Wycliffe Wangamaty, Governor of Bungoma County, Kenya. This is the equivalent of our state governors, so it was a special treat to speak with such a high-ranking government official.

July 22

From the Kenya Choral Directors Trust: Dr. Stephen Caldwell and Muyale Joseph Inzai addressed Musingu High School. Had a great session with the School choir and music students.

From the Kenya Choral Directors Trust: Our Western Kenya Cultural tour concluded with none other than the incredible Chavakali Boys High School. Great brass band ensemble, recorder ensemble and the powerful choir.

About The Author

Camilla Shumaker is the director of science and research communications. She writes about physics, chemistry, political science and other topics. Camilla can be reached at or (479) 575-7422.

University Relations Science and Research Team

University Relations Science and Research Team

Matt McGowan
science and research writer

Robert Whitby
science and research writer

Looking for an expert?

The University of Arkansas Campus Experts website is a searchable database of experts who can talk to the media on current events.

Trending Topics:
State and local economy
Environmental economics
Immigration politics

More on University of Arkansas Research

Visit the office of Research & Innovation for a complete list research awards and more information on research policies, support and analytics.

Connect with Us