Every other Thursday we feature a musician in our Mics And Beats segment. Today’s Mics And Beats artist is Aaron (Krucial Keys) Rimbui. Aaron Rimbui is a Kenyan Jazz pianist, recording and performing artist. He is also a producer and a musical director. Aaron have played professionally for 17 years. He is also a radio presenter on 98.4 Capital FM, a festival curator and artistic director.
Let’s find out something about his background.
Aaron Rimbui is a jazz keyboardist, composer and performing artiste. His ear for music was spotted while he was a toddler. He started out by playing drums. In his teenage years at The Nairobi School he began his love affair with the piano and developed his skill further at St. Mary’s School when he went to do his I.B (International Baccalaureate). After high school Aaron got accepted to the Musicians Institute in California. He later auditioned and won a partial scholarship to Berklee College of Music, Boston, M.A.
Aaron started off his performance career in 2001 and he has 3 albums to his credit. His first album “Keys to life” was released in 2005. The second “Alfajiri” was released in June 2009 and “Simplified” was released in 2013. He is currently working on his fourth album which should be coming out early this year.
Aaron has performed with various artists including Eric Wainaina, Emmanuel Jal, Lionel Loueke, Suzanne Owiyo, Morris ‘Mo’ Pleasure, Maurice Kirya, Moussa Diallo among many others. He has also opened for world famous musicians like Hugh Masekela, Kirk Franklin, Gerald Albright and Richard Bona.
Aaron hs been the band director for Tusker Project fame from 2009 to date, with the last show being in 2013. Aaron has also co-written and co-produced the theme song and music score for BBC’s Tinga Tinga tales together with Eric Wainaina.
Aaron hosts two highly successful jazz concerts in Nairobi – All That Jazz and Piano & Voice. He has also performed at prestigious festivals including the Jahazi Jazz Festival, Zanzibar as well as Safaricom International Jazz Festival, Nairobi.
When and why did you start playing?
I started by playing drums as a kid, when I was probably a year old. I switched to keyboards/piano when I was 17.
Which instruments do you play?
I’m a pianist/keyboardist and occasional drummer.
Do you have a formal musical education?
No. I had a general music education in high school. I’m self-taught on piano.
Thinking back to early childhood what was your experience with music like?
My dad is a music lover and he has a collection of music records. He introduced me to music. We also lived not too far from a restaurant club called Bombax which was situated at what is presently Nakumatt Junction. Les Wanyika & Maroon Commandos often played there. I was surrounded by music.
What song do you remember most from when you were a child?
Amka Kumekucha by Maroon Commandos
How has your family supported your talent and your career as a musician?
My parents got me instruments (drums & a keyboard) when I was really young. They were very encouraging when I told them I wanted to pursue music. My brother and sister are in the music business.
How is the music different from what you listen to now?
About 20 years ago while in high school I got drawn to instrumental music. It was when I picked up the piano. I started collecting jazz music. Over the years I’ve gravitated towards African musicians who have successfully blended their own indigenous sounds to what is formally known as American jazz. At first all the music I had was American. I now have a huge collection of African music-pop, traditional and jazz.
What made you first realize that you wanted to pursue a career in music?
The gift that I discovered that I had. The reaction people had when I played. I was really moved. I think was convinced it what I wanted to do the rest of my life.
Who are your favourite musicians or groups right now?
Wow… they are many… Sauti Sol, Blinky Bill, Nduduzo Makhathini, Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner, Miles Davis, Eric Wainaina, Kendrick Lamar…. They’re many. It also depends on the creative space I’m in at a particular time.
How do you handle mistakes during a performance?
I cleverly cover them up! However, since my art has improvising as its core, there are no mistakes. Everything can and will happen on stage!
What advice would you give to beginners who are nervous?
It’s normal. The best way to overcome it is to be sure of what you’re coming to offer. Preparation has a direct impact on the nerves. I tend to be more nervous when I’m less prepared.
How often and for how long do you practice?
I try to put in 10 hours a week.
Do you teach music?
I only give workshops and master classes.
How would you describe your music to somebody who has never heard you play before?
I’m a Kenyan musician who serves African music in a jazz platter.
What can people expect to see at your live performance?
Absolute fun by serious musicians!!!
What have been your biggest breaks so far in your musical career?
Recording my 1st album in 2005: running 14 successful All That Jazz Concerts; being the musical and artistic director for the first Safaricom Jazz Festival: 4 Seasons of Tusker Project Fame and Hosting the Capital Jazz Club on 98.4 Capital FM.
How much creative control do you have over what you play?
It depends on the setting. If it’s my shows I direct all the music. If I’m a sideman the artist does have all the control.
If you had a chance to change something in the music industry what would it be?
More avenues for performances – jazz clubs and performance arenas.
Did you play for other bands before you started playing for yourself? How was it?
My first major gig was as Eric Wainaina’s keyboardist and later on I was his musical director.
What are the lessons you have learnt being part of a band?
It is through him (Eric) that I learnt how to manage and run a band and put up shows.
Also how is it being the front man of the band?
The big change is that the buck stops with you. There’s no one to throw under the bus! You have to be aware of everything that happens but still have the focus and presence of mind to play well.