|The Moipei Sisters|
The sisters musically speaking
Triplets Mary, Martha, Magdalene and sister Seraphine Setoon are the youngest professional musicians to be awarded the 2011 4th SABC Crown Gospel Musical Award. The sensational Moipei Quartet have received special commendation by the President and even earned a partial scholarship to the prestigious Brookhouse School in Kenya
The sisters began their musical journey when their parents, Nicholas and Christine Moipei recognized their talent at a young age. Mr. Moipei, who has groomed artists in schools across Kenya, knew the girls had talent worth nurturing when they belted out a ‘Hallelujah’ chorus in perfect pitch!
The Moipei family was later blessed with another daughter, Seraphine and she too joined the ‘sister act’ to make the famed Moipei Quartet. Their very first performance was at a church service during their first holy communion. They sung the melodious tune ‘Teach me your Way Oh Lord’. Their father then entered the eight-year-old triplets into the Kenya Music Festival (KMF) 2002. They excelled and held onto the trophy for the next three years.
A typical day for the Moipei quartet is not complete without at least one hour of music practice.
BINGWA Magazine correspondent Kabeeria M’mbogori spoke to the triplets Magdalene, Marta and Mary
Tell us about being sisters, specifically triplets.
Magdalene: It is really fun, first because no one knows who’s who. People always get shocked when they see us together.
Marta: Yeah, even your response is fun! (She says of the writer’s reaction when he first met them.)
Mary: It’s nice. Sometimes, I can call my sisters silently, from a distance away and get their attention, without saying their names out loud.
Magdalene: Yes, sometimes we can start singing the same song at the same pitch, just like that. Like there is an unspoken connection, we are all so close.
Who’s the most calm and most cheeky of you?
Magdalene: Its Marta! Once she put salt and periperi in Mary’s tea! Mary can be cheeky sometimes too.
Mary: True. I know Sera (Seraphine) is the is the most calm, the most angelic of the ‘angels’, She has been incredibly strong through the pain (she had an operation to remove a tumor and is now okay)
Marta: The experience brought us much closer together. We would spend nights in hospital with her. Mum stopped working to support us.
Talk about your group dynamics, who leads and so on?
Mary: For the pop music, usually Maggie or Sera lead.
Magdalene: Yeah, often Marta likes being in the background but she leads the classical pieces very well. Actually we performed our first Opera just last year, it was really fun.
Marta: Our part in the opera was small, but big enough to give us a taste of opera. It was Hansel and Gretel by 19th Century Composer Engelbert Humperdinck, who described it as a Märchenoper (fairy tale opera).
Wow, you guys are really seasoned musicians, in almost every genre?
Marta: Almost. We perform African, Classical, Gospel and Pop. Actually in year 10, we did some Hiphop. Mary was ‘beat-boxing’ then the rest of us mixed in parts of songs by Brandy, Enrique Iglesias and Frenzy. It was fantastic, plus really fresh and different from the classical that our audience was used to.
Mary: Yes we strive to be spontaneous.
Take us through your musical journey...
Magdalene: Music is a universal language, beyond actual languages we can speak or sing. So learning a song in any language is a challenge we readily take up.
Mary: Right now we are learning a beautiful Spanish song, we have sang in Maa, Italian, English even Russian and Scandinavian languages; which are harder to get right.
Marta: In the musical process, at times Sera or Maggie will get a tune. Then find a way to fit the right lyrics. So we record it quickly on the phone so as not to forget.
Please tell us about some of the cultures you have interacted with owing to your talent
Magdalene: We have visited all (continents) except Australia and Antarctic. But the biggest stage was in South Africa at the Crown Awards. We did an Acappella in a huge arena with hundreds in attendance. We never imagined getting an award but we did. Being applauded by major artists and guests was very humbling.
Mary: It was great! I also enjoyed singing in Venezuela. We performed their national song in Kiswahili and they were so receptive. Venezuela is full of colour! It felt very much like being in Kenya because they love song and dance. I think they are truly patriotic people. We were served a tasty dish only to be told later it had octopus! Mum cringed at the thought but we actually enjoyed it!
Marta: We visited South Korea for the Young Peoples Music Festival. It was quite a different culture. The food was especially hard to stomach, so we survived on bread!
We congratulate you on doing your parents, Kenya and yourselves very proud. Tell us what it means to be awarded in all the ways that you have
Marta: Thank you. It is really humbling. From competing at the KMF, we started out stiff and nervous. We needed to hear the judge’s comments, and learn from more experienced performers in the competition. So every year we would learn and get better through the criticism.
Magdalene: It was also really special receiving a Head of State Commendation from the president himself in 2007.
Mary: We have also performed in support of various initiatives. Like the Christmas Craft fair which supports children in need of cancer treatment. This is so important to us because we strongly believe no person should suffer.
What advice do you have for BINGWA readers inspired to do what you have?
Marta: First be yourself. Then step out because you will never know how well you can do until you try. Take time to develop your gift.
Mary: That’s true. God created you unique. Like Beyonce says, ‘You live, you do, you’re here.’ Also learn to stay humble, when people appreciate what you do.
Magdalene: Sure, Mum and Dad say, ‘Start from the grassroots. You can only build a house from the foundation up. When you succeed, remember where you are from and where you are headed.’
What should we expect next?
Marta: We just finished our A-level exams, so we have more time to compose music and put out more albums. We want to be better ambassadors for Kenya. We want to emulate Milkah Chemos or David Rudisha through music in the ways they have made Kenya shine through athletics.
Magdalene: Expect more concerts, new compositions. We would love also to collaborate with groups like The Kenya Boys Choir and Sauti Sol.
Mary: The biggest collabo would be the Moipei quartet, Canadian tenors, Kenya Boys choir and Il divo!
What you should know about the Mopei's
Music albums: Their 2009 album ‘Land of the lions’ won the SABC Crown Music Awards. Moipei Quarter’s second album ‘Touching in the Vale’ (Christmas Carols) will be out soon.
Favorite artists: Canadian tenors, Kenyan Boys Choir, Il Divo, Andrea Boceli and Eric Wainaina.
Hobbies: Singing and dancing, watching movies and serving the community.
Seraphine: Loves yellow, her best fruit is the banana and she plays the flute, violin and the piano. Her best film is the Avengers.
Magdalene: Really likes high-heeled shoes and pretty dresses. She plays the flute, piccolo and violin.
Mary: Loves colour green, plays the clarinet and the saxophone. She loves Marvel comics, with characters like Incredible Hulk, Captain America and Thor.
Marta: Loves colour blue likes to wear army prints. She plays the trumpet and the euphonium. Her choice treat is chocolate with nuts.
Parents: Their father is a singer to, music teacher and chairman of the Kenya Music and Cultural Festival.
Their mother is a career banker, who left work for ten years to care for the girls.
Hood: They live in Lavington, Msongari but are originally from Mara in Narok County.
-First published in BINGWA Magazine Issue 9 2012