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Luhya Tribe Facts: Songs, Proverbs, Names, Greetings

Luhya Sub-Tribes and Clans

The Luhya tribe, popularly referred to as Abaluya, Baluhya, or Abaluhya has 18 sub-tribes and several clans under each subgroup. However, the dialect of all these sub-tribes varies from one group to the other. They come from the larger Bantu tribe settled in the fertile agricultural region of Western Kenya.

They are the second largest ethnic community in Kenya after the Kikuyu representing close to 14% of the total population in the country. They neighbor the Nilotic tribes such as the Iteso (Teso), Kalenjin, Luo, and Maasai.

Out of these Luhya sub-communities, the Maragoli (Avalogooli) and the Bukusu (Babukusu) form the largest in population size.

Others are the Wanga (Abawanga), Marama (Abamarama), Khayo (Abakhayo), Kabras (Abakabras), Banyore (Abanyole), Tiriki (Abatiriki), Banyala (Abanyala) also called Abanyala ba Ndombi, Marachi (Abamarachi), Tachoni (Abatachoni), Isukha (Abisukha), Idakho (Abidakho), Samia (Abasamia), Masaaba (Abasonga), Gisu (Aba, Kisa (Abashisa), and Batsotso (Abatsotso). Abanyala ba Ndombi and Abanyala.

These sub-tribes form a broad spectrum that makes one group closer to one or two other sub-tribe(s) than to the others within the larger Luhya community.

For example, when a Bukusu speaks, a Maragoli can only hear about 10% of what is said, but when a Wanga speaks, a Kabras or Marama will hear more than 50% of what is said. A Munyala comprehends more than 90% of words spoken by Abasamia. The variance in comprehension depends on how close in interaction one sub-tribe is to the other.

One more example is the Idakho and Isukha. If you are an outsider, you can’t tell the difference in language between the two sub-nations because they speak almost the same words.

But, the difference is in speed and just a few words. While the Isukha speaks faster, the Idakho are slower.

Under every Luhya sub-nations are several little sub-nations known as clans, and in total, there are about 1780 clans. Members of a clan share one ancestor and quite often, you can find women and men from one clan in other Luhya sub-tribes. It’s due to community dispersal and intermarriage before the colonial era.

The entry of colonial administration in Kenya in the late 1800s and early 1900s saw geographical boundaries imposed in the Western region of the country. As a result, there was family separation.

For example, the boundary between Kenya and Uganda saw the famous Awori family in Samia sub-nation divided into two. The former Kenyan president, Moody Awori has some of his siblings like Aggrey Awori occupying a portion in Uganda.

Luhya Names

The Luhya tribe, like any other community in Kenya, has common names. Here is a table showing some of the popular traditional names given to both men and women from this ethnic group:

Male Name Name in Feminine Form Meaning
Wekesa Nekesa Born during harvest time
Simiyu Nasimiyu Born in a drought or during a dry season
Wanjala Nanjala Born during famine
None Naliaka Born in the season of weeding
Wafula Nafula Born during rainy season
Wanyonyi None Born during weeding season
Wamalwa None Born during the brewing season
Nyongesa Nyongesa Born on Saturday

Other common Luhya names are:

  • Male Names: Musumba, Kaberenge, Maina, Likalama, Opembe, Lyesa, Masinde, Situmo, Okumu, Nalyanya, Murumba, and Makokha.
  • Female Names: Namwonyonyi, Nelima, Mutenyo, Khasundi, Makinia, Nabumbo, Nekoye, Namachanja, Nakhatandi, Natelo, Ambetsa, Nasambu, Namiranda, and Werengekha.

Luhya Women

Luhya women are known to make the best wives, and there are many reasons for that. Ladies from this region are the real essence of what is meant by the African beauty.

Although there are many reasons why women from the Luhyaland stand out amongst the Kenyan ladies, this is the most striking one:

Low Cost of Maintenance: Other than being beautiful, if you marry from the western part of Kenya, particularly from the Luhya tribe, rest assured that they will not leave you during both thin and thick moments of your life.

These women are taught by their mothers, grandmothers, and aunts how to treat their male spouses like monarchs. They have a lot of respect for their husbands regardless of their social and economic status in the society.

In fact, it’s believed that this is the primary factor contributing to Luhyas living in low-cost areas of the Capital City of Nairobi. There are many people from this tribe settled in Huruma, Kibera, Kangemi, and Kawangware slums.

Moreover, you will rarely find a man or woman from Luhyaland divorcing a wife or husband. As a result, ladies from this region of Kenya are regarded the most admired. Most people from within and outside the Luhya nation refer them as wife material.

Sources further claim that women from this area don’t mind getting a beating from the male spouses. That is because wives believe it’s through such beatings that their husbands stamp their leadership role and authority as the boss in the homestead.

Luhya Greetings

Luhya people greet people in Kiluhya language. At the core of the Luhya region, particularly in Khwisero, you will rarely find young and old men and women conversing in English or Kiswahili when exchanging greetings.

In fact, people from this part of Kenya are nicknamed people of “Mulembe,” translated as people who are peaceful. They also like making greetings.

This table illustrates some of the translated basic Luhya greeting phrases:

  • Keshitere (Good afternoon)
  • Bwakhera (Good afternoon)
  • Bushire (Good morning)
  • Mulembe (General greetings; Peace)
  • Obulayi Muno (Very good)
  • Ostitonga Hena (Where are you going)
  • Murieena (Plural for of ‘How are you’)
  • Oriena (Singular form of ‘How are you’)
  • Oliomulamu (Are you fine?)
  • Khukani Khandi (See you again or soon)
  • Khukani Mukamba (See you tomorrow)

Luhya Songs – Gospel & Traditional Music

Luhya traditional and gospel songs are many and very entertaining. They dance traditional by shaking shoulders while gospel songs are commonly heard during religious events such as funeral and other related occasions. Let’s take a look at each kind song one by one.

Luhya Traditional Songs

Traditionally, Luhya songs must be accompanied by “Isukuti,” an old-fashioned drum mostly used by the Abidakho and Abisukha Today. Each song was sung for a reason. For there were songs for funeral, harvest, and circumcision among other events.

The advent of new musical instruments has led to gradual mutilation and transformation of these songs to suit the current generation.

Although regarded traditional, the trending Luhya songs sung by modern artists or musicians seldom match the old-fashioned ones in terms of meaning and content.

Even though, these are some of the popular contemporary lyrics and musicians from this region:

Song Translation Artist
Bindu Bichenjanga Things change Amos Barasa
Jirani Kuno You neighbor Sukuma Bin Ongaro
Endika Talks about a man who eloped with another man’s wife Samuel Namatete
Mbe Omukhasi Give me my wife Steve Kay

Luhya Gospel Songs

There are numerous Luhya gospel songs, and most of them are directly translated from hymn books and other English gospel music.

Just but to mention a few, the most trending gospel songs from this region today include the Maragoli song, Ungasitse (cleanse my sins) by Francis and Margaret Nandwa.

Other popular gospel music from this place are Lisaala Lirelanga Vuyaanzi (Prayers bring love amongst people), and Musamaria (Good Samaritan). There are also songs such as Inyumba (House of God), Keserero, Yonah (Quote of the Biblical disciple, Jonah), Aveye Alpha (Good is alpha and omega), Livambwa (Jesus baptism) that are commonly sung in churches and Christian events.

Luhya Dictionary

According to Wiktionary, the dictionary of Luhya nouns does not look at all the dialects from Luhya sub-nations or the A Bantu language. The dictionary mostly mentions nouns from Maragoli or Avaloogoli.

In the phrase book, words near Luhya are arranged in this alphabetical order:

  • luhansk
  • luhith
  • luhya
  • luhyia
  • Luichow
  • Luichow Peninsula

Bibliography on Luhya Tribe Facts

  1. https://www.nation.co.ke/lifestyle/lifestyle/Just-who-are-the-Luhya/1214-2254840-w9q5rrz/index.html
  2. http://www.afropedea.org/common-luhya-names
  3. https://www.kenyandigest.com/6-reasons-why-luhya-women-make-the-best-wives-in-kenya-all-men-love-them-because-of-number-5-and-6-interesting-must-read/
  4. http://ewbmsu.wikidot.com/language-and-communication-resources

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