by Christine Lagat
NAIROBI, July 20 (Xinhua) -- Rachael Gitau electrified the young audience who filled an auditorium on Wednesday afternoon to listen to her belt out a classical Chinese ballad that exhorted the virtues of love and human connections.
The 20-year-old female vocalist is pursuing a proficiency course in Chinese language at Kenyatta University's Confucius Institute located on the outskirts of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.
Gitau bagged cash award and a certificate of recognition after emerging the overall winner of the first Chinese singing competition held at one of Kenya's oldest university.
Speaking to Xinhua on the sidelines of the contest that attracted dozens of talented young performing artists, Gitau said her passion for Chinese music and dance has gone a notch higher thanks to rigorous practice and mentorship from her trainers.
"When I joined the Confucius Institute two years ago, I never envisaged mastering Chinese music in a relatively short span. It has been a journey of many false starts but am glad I can now stride into the stage and perform Chinese songs whose sentimentality is unrivalled," said Gitau.
Born and raised in a small town located 60 kilometers southwest of Nairobi, Gitau was lucky to have working parents who encouraged her to pursue her dreams without relenting.
Her music journey started at a tender age when she joined the school choir to perform traditional and neo-classical songs during special events like prize giving day.
Gitau's prowess in linguistics earned her a slot at the Kenyatta University's Confucius Institute where she vowed to improve her knowledge of language and culture from the Middle Kingdom.
Her quick mastery of spoken mandarin and different genres of Chinese music has earned her accolades from tutors and university administration.
Gitau's superb performance at the inaugural Chinese singing contest at Kenyatta University not only earned her cash rewards but elevated her fame inside and outside the institution of higher learning.
"I wish my parents were present to witness their daughter hit a new milestone in her musical journey. It took rigorous practice combined with confidence to scoop the first prize in the singing contest," said Gitau.
Kenyan university students showcased their mastery of traditional and classical Chinese music as well as dance during the singing competition that attracted a formidable audience.
Caleb Muthama, a 24 year old choreographer was crowned the best performer after electrifying the audience with his creative dance moves.
Muthama danced energetically as a tune dubbed "Descendants of the Dragon" played in the background.
The bubbly youth said joining Kenyatta University's Confucius Institute three years ago provided him with a platform to hone his skills in Chinese music and dance.
"Before joining the Confucius Institute, I could hardly imagine standing in front of a huge crowd and dance as Chinese music played. I look forward to mastering new songs from China and if possible perform to a bigger crowd outside the University," said Muthama.
His exemplary performance in Chinese language proficiency course earned him a six-month scholarship last year to study in one of the Asian giant's leading universities.
Kenyan youth have outshone their peers from other African countries to demonstrate a sophisticated grasp of Chinese language and culture.
The Chinese Director of Kenyatta University's Confucius Institute, Professor Li Qiang hailed the huge enthusiasm by Kenyan youth to master spoken and written Chinese.
"Kenyan youth are very talented and their adventurous spirit has exposed them to foreign languages and cultures that will ultimately enhance realization of their career dreams," remarked Professor Li.
He added that Kenyatta University's Confucius Institute is keen to create a critical mass of Kenyan youth who are proficient in Mandarin.
The youth have been at the centre of blossoming Sino-Kenya cultural ties thanks to their agility, positive energy and friendly demeanor.
Dorcas Mugure, a 20 year old Chinese language student at Kenyatta University's Confucius Institute said that learning new genres of Chinese music has been a transformative experience.
The talented singer was born in a middle class Nairobi suburb where enrolling for a foreign language or dance lessons was considered a mark of prestige.
Mugure's parents encouraged her to study Chinese language and culture with vigor when she joined Kenyatta University's Confucius Institute in January this year.
She emerged the winner of the second runners up category after belting out a lyrical tune called "Peaceful Summer" which won the hearts of judges and the audience.
"Am impressed by the positive feedback from judges and many friends who witnessed my performance," Mugure remarked adding that she intends to pursue mandarin up to post graduate level.