The Luo are a prominent Tribe in Kenya and eastern Uganda.


The Luo of Kenya

The Luo (also called Jaluo and Joluo) are an ethnic group in Kenya, eastern Uganda, and northern Tanzania. They are part of a larger group of ethno-linguistically related Luo peoples who inhabit an area including southern Sudan, northern and eastern Uganda, western Kenya, and northern Tanzania.

The Luo are the third largest ethnic group in Kenya, after the Kikuyu and the Luhya. The Luo and the Kikuyu inherited the bulk of political power in the first years following Kenya's independence in 1963.

The main Luo livelihood is fishing. Outside Luo land, the luo work in eastern Africa as tenant fishermen, small scale farmers, and urban workers.

They speak the Dholuo language, which belongs to the western Nilotic branch of the Nilo-saharan language family spoken by other Lou-speaking peoples such as the lango, Acholi, Padhol and Alur.

The Luo traditionally believed in an afterlife and a supreme creator, whom they called Nyasaye, and had a strong ancestor cult. Today most Kenya Luo’s are Christians, while some are Muslim.

The first major ritual in a Luo person's life is called juogi, the naming ceremony. Any time between birth and age two, an ancestor might appear in a dream to an adult member of the family. It is generally believed that only people who did good things when alive appear in this way and are thus "reincarnated". The child is supposed to assume some of the mannerisms of the ancestor he or she is named after.

If the ancestor was quiet, the child becomes a quiet person; if talkative, same. The so named ancestor becomes the individual's "guardian angel" throughout life. The Luo do not practice ritual circumcision of males as initiation. Instead, children are removed their six lower front teeth at an initiation. This ritual has largely fallen out of use.

When it comes to music, the Luo music is shaped by the total way of life, lifestyles, and life patterns of individuals of this community. Because of this, the music has characteristics which distinguish it from the music of other communities.

This can be seen, heard and felt in their melodies, rhythms, mode of presentation and dancing styles, movements and formations.

The melodies in the Luo music are lyrical, with a lot of vocal ornamentations. These ornaments come out clearly especially when the music carries out an important message. Their rhythms are characterized by a lot of syncopation and acrostic beginning. These songs are usually presented in solo-response style though solo performancesexist. The most common forms of solo performances are chants. These chants are recitatives with irregular rhythms and phrases which carry serious messages in them. Most of the Luo dances are introduced by these chants. For example the dudu dance.

The dance styles in the Luo folk music are elegant and graceful. It involves either the movement of one leg in the opposite direction with the waist in step with the syncopated beats of the music or the shaking of the shoulders vigorous usually to the tune of the nyatiti an eight stringed instrument.

The Luo are hospitable people and when you visit their place you are sure to be served with the delicacy of their homemade fish and ugali (mixture of maize flour and water).

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