One of the best editions of the Safaricom Jazz Festival went down on Sunday at the Carnivore Grounds. The edition which saw jazz fans turn up to experience an afternoon filled with great music, mind-blowing performances and an ambience full of good vibes will probably go down as the best in Kenya’s social calendar so far.
The line-up which consisted of some of Kenya’s music heavyweights like Chris Bittok, Eddie Grey, Swahili Jazz Band, Gogosimo Band, Shamsi Music, Nairobi Horns Project, Kavutha, Jacob Asiyo, Edward Parseen, Afrosync and the Ghetto classics dazzled and engrossed us in an enticing afternoon jolted by performances that definitely cast a spell on the audience.
I got there just in time to find DJ D-Lite warming up the stage with some really up-beat jazz tunes of the likes like Aaron Rimbui. I love the fact that D-Lite always prepares a set that makes you appreciate the true essence of music. He always makes sure that he takes you way back, brings you back into time and almost takes you into the future with his stellar playlist!
The Ghetto Classics kids then welcomed us into what was going to be a good afternoon with their jazz renditions of infamous songs like ‘Happy’ by Pharrell Williams. They got the crowd to clap along with them and ushered in an afternoon of great music.
The fact that these kids have been taught, mentored and gathered the confidence to not just play but dazzle the thousands of people that turned up was the highlight of my day. Growing up, most of us were never taught to be good at what we do; but it’s so inspiring to see the work of Safaricom Foundation and Elizabeth Njoroge, one of the founders of the Ghetto Classics program to nurture these kids to where they are today bear many fruits. The crowd which was still warming up to the afternoon almost shared my sentiments by giving them a standing ovation five minutes into their performance.
Next on stage was James Gogo and Gogosimo Band who took us down to the Coast with a combination that brought out the afro smooth in James Gogo with various coastal sounds such as chakacha, taarab, mendiko and jazz that had us swinging our hips to their music like ‘Dawa’.
However, I think their collabo with Chris Bittok was simply sensational. I mean, what else would you expect from two musical legends? Chris Bittok did some collabos with other artists like Edward Parseen and it was just pure magic.
Mwai and the Truth were next up with what could only be described as food for the Soul with an amazing rendition of ‘Fresh’ by the iconic Kool and the Gang. What mostly impressed the crowd was the sensation solo guitar performance by the very amazing Tugi Mlamba! Boy can that guy play! The show-stopping performance of the talented Tugi as had his moment on stage, dazzled the crowd with his obvious love and passion for the guitar as he welcomed Juma Tutu who he also played with.
Eddie Grey did not disappoint the fans. He is a master of his craft and his guitar skills are on another level.
Swahili Jazz Band then brought us some Coastal vibes with ‘Ya Rabbi’, a one-of-a-kind act from one of their very own Nafsi Huru, who wowed the crowd with his rap-infused performance and of course, what would a Juma Tutu performance be without the legendary ‘Nakupenda kama sukari’ song being begged for over and over again. What would have made that song sound even better other than the crowd chanting for it was Ghetto Classics rendition of the track!
Edward Parseen and the Different faces band were next on stage and let me just say Edward is a beast on the saxophone! Very few can play with the zeal that Edward does and their performance of some local jazz renditions of songs like Mwendwa Wakwa Mariru and one with the Ghetto Classics kids of ‘What shall we do’ by the legendary Oliver Mtukudzi.
Shamsi Music didn’t fail to impress with their famous ‘Ni Murata’ and ‘Elephant Parade’. What bewitched the crowd however was their collabo with Edward Parseen on the sax! Pure magic! And Kavutha joined them for a soulful collaboration that was beautiful.
Afrosync also had some great tunes and the mellow voice of Victor Muli making it a great session. Mackinlay Mutsembi who is now part of the Nairobi Horns was back to play with his former band.
Jacob Asiyo came in with a jazzified rendition of Shape of You by Ed Sheeran, Emergency by Nigerian singer-songwriter D’Banj among others. His collabo with Kavutha on the other hand had the crowd upstanding with her dazzling voice, with Jacob Asiyo on the keys and jazzified versions of tracks like Mas Que Nada and Watch out for this by Major Lazer Let’s just say that no one wanted this moment to end.
Nairobi Horns had to sadly finish the day’s program but they did so with a bang by performing renditions of Kenyan classics like Nakuaga mi kwaheri by Sanaipei and Juacali, Boomba Train by the late E-sir, Parapanda , Kookoo by Elani and Mungu Pekee by Nyashinski.
‘We’re up all night to get lucky’ by Pharrell Williams and Daft Punk finished the celebrations with the crowd begging our lovely host Kavutha to keep the party going. Then there was an all stars jam which wrapped up the great concert to celebrate International Jazz Day. One thing’s for sure is that was one of the best events ever held in the Kenyan music industry.
It was a properly planned family event. I loved the fact that they factored in the number of kids who would be accompanying their parents and had a kids section fully catered with bouncing castles, camel rides, kids shows, face painting and so much more.
One of the other things I also loved about the festival was the fact that they are able to make their tickets affordable. Students also got a great deal with tickets for Ksh. 500 which helped as many young jazz fans were able to attent the show. Those who made the choice to attend the event last minute were still able to get them for Kshs 2000 for a real treat. This doesn’t mean that you wait untill last minute to get your tickets next time because you never know if you will get tickets before the show.
Unfortunately, the food section was a bit wanting. The organizers allowed attendees to carry their own food and drinks which was great, but the food and drinks sold at the venue were too expensive and didn’t have variety.
Safaricom Jazz Festivals keep going on a notch higher in terms of delivery and execution and it’s very safe to say that with the growing numbers of jazz enthusiasts in the country, you need to get on board the jazz train if you haven’t already!
This all Kenyan stars show was very exciting and based on the crowd excitement Safaricom should definitely think about having an all stars Kenyan show again.
I am an idealist, an emotional dreamer. A goddess encapsulated in a densely melanated work of art. On normal days, I am an environmental enthusiast, PR practitioner, Events organizer, Coffee addict, Poetry lover. I also sometimes jot down my thoughts at toashtraysandheartbreaks.wordpress.com