Chemirocha

In the village of Kapkatet, Kenya in the early 1950′s, members of the Kipsigi tribe somehow came across a few 78 records of Jimmie Rodgers’ Blue Yodels. Convinced that such strange sounds could not come from a human, the voice was attributed to a centaur-like spirit they called Chemirocha. This half-man half-antelope is honored in fertility rites where young Kipsigi maidens dance seductively to the Jimmie Rodgers records, begging him to join them in a leaping dance in hopes that Chemirocha will jump completely out of his clothes.

The Kipsigi villagers also sing various songs to celebrate Chemirocha. One of the only recorded instances of these hymns is this gorgeous, haunting version played on a pentatonic wishbone lyre and accompanied by a pair of Kipsigis girls.

Chemutoi Ketienya & Girls – “Chemirocha” (1950)

Earlier this year, during a live performance on East Village Radio in New York, Icelandic musician Kría Brekkan covered this Chemirocha hymn in a way that only adds to the sacred mystery of the original.

Kría Brekkan – “Chemirocha” (2008)

Video of Brekkan’s preformance:

The story of “Chemirocha” reminds us that the raw power of music will never be cordoned by national borders or language barriers.

7 responses to “Chemirocha

  1. brad, I can see you, and i like what i see.

  2. holy wow! this is so raw! nice one brad.

  3. i yam moved. love this chemirocha, i can’t believe the story about kipsigis… and jimmie rodgers

  4. Berkel Berkel Californicus

    oh my fucking god! that’s the most mindblowing idea I’ve heard for weeks! Jimmie Rodgers became a half antelope centaur god of fertility Chemirocha?!!!!!

    holler woah!

    best shit ever!

  5. Don’t you believe that “Chemirocha” is a mispronunciation of “JimmieRodger” (with a sort of half British accent)?

  6. Kipkorir Pius Cheruiyot

    Im proud to be from Kapkatet.actually chemirocha is a mispronunciation of Jimmy Rodgers.

  7. So so glad to have come across your post. I first heard this through the incredibly excellent “Secret Museum of the Air” page over at WFMU. http://wfmu.org/playlists/SM
    It was taken down and I feared I’d never hear it again. That version had a spoken word intro. Anybody heard that before?
    Thank you, thank you!

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