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Famed Cellist Fulfills Vision of Playing in Kenya

Nairobi’s bustling Kenyatta market is an unlikely place to hear classical music. Yet playing in front of stalls where butchers roast meat and hairdressers compete over heads to braid was a very surprising busker: the distinguished cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Playing Over the Rainbow alongside Kenyan percussionist Kasiva Mutua, he matches his cello to her beats in a truly eclectic mix. Ma’s pop-up market performance typifies much of his visit in the city over the last week – a daring, headfirst dive into the realities of Kenyan artists. He bashfully makes occasional use of Sheng – a Nairobi slang that plays on words from English and Swahili, and he arrives at the market in a matatu – the music-blaring, graffiti-covered buses that millions in the city rely on to get around. Nairobi is Ma’s last stop of his Bach Project – a five-year, six-continent global tour. With its rising cultural and artistic scene, organisers say the city was near the top of the cellist’s list.