When I got the email invite to attend the Safaricom Jazz Festival School show, I was admittedly taken a bit aback and was largely sceptical about the whole thing. I was aware that Safaricom was celebrating its fifth edition of the event, therefore, the festival was going to be a really huge deal. I was glad that the huge telecommunications company was dedicating a full day’s event, solely to school going children to share in the celebration and to have a chance to enjoy Jazz music. However, amid my gladness, I was sceptical that the event wasn’t going to be too much of a success, especially since I didn’t think the kids would appreciate the ‘complicatedness’ of Jazz music and its mature nature. Boy, was I wrong!
Everything about the event was a complete success, from the layout to the planning out of the day’s activities, to the music sets and performances, the event was a complete success. With over 20 schools in attendance, the students’ turn-out was something to write home about. The Brookhouse School, The Nairobi Academy, The Aga Khan School, Korogocho Primary School, The Mpesa Foundation Academy were just some of the notable names of schools whose students were in attendance. The Starehe Girls Centre and Dr. Ribeiro Parklands Boys’ High School were also part of the schools that represented students from the High School level section.
The event started at around midday, with students trickling in and subsequently guided by a group of the event crew staff to the main sitting area, under the stand that had been mounted just below the stage area. Once the students had settled under the mounted stand, there was a brief introductory session, where the Master of Ceremony asked the students to choose a representative from their school to come and introduce him/herself and the name of the school. This was a particularly lively session, with the most confident students from each school standing up and introducing themselves with the microphone.
Next, followed the music performances, and first in line was the Ghetto Classics group in conjunction with the Safaricom Youth Orchestra, who played intricate set pieces to which the kids responded surprisingly well too, bobbing their heads to the rhythm of the beat, and marked their approval with the occasional sporadic scream of excitement and cheer during the orchestra’s set. It was particularly refreshing to see that the kids could appreciate the beauty and delicateness of such intricate music pieces, a feat that surprised all, including the performers on stage.
The day was continually marked with electric performances from the show’s acts, with the kids, responding particularly well to the soulful, salsa-ish vibe performance from The Betty Bears Band from Israel, the slow and cavalier set performance from the band Lean from Belgium, the upbeat and groovy performance from Gloria Bosman from South Africa, which had all the kids up off the floor and on their feet, dancing and moving to the rhythm of the beat, and to the rich, soulful, bluesy performance by The Limericks Band, who did Jazzy renditions of popular local gospel hymns, which drove the kids into delirium and had them singing along.
The Co-ordination and Setup of the event.
The general set-up of the event was really good, and the general ambience of the whole day was cool, calm and collected. There was a kind of ‘kid-friendliness’ feeling to the whole event, with the absence of the liquor tents that frequently mark the Main Festival. The students also got refreshments, in the form of juice boxes courtesy of SunTop, which was also particularly thoughtful considering how hot the weather was. Also, apart from listening to and enjoying the performances, the students also got to learn a thing or two about music, with the Master of Ceremony along with some of the Acts engaging them in interactive sessions, some of which included clapping and singing exercises to teach them about the musical elements, rhythm and harmony. The students also got frequent breaks in between the set performances to walk around and explore the venue, take pictures and to interact with one another.
The Ghetto Classics Programme.
As mentioned earlier, the Ghetto Classics Orchestra was one of the Acts performing on the day, a particularly significant and intentional move, considering the band is made up of mainly youth, most of which who fall under the same category of the students in attendance. The main rationale for that was to get the students to see other children of their age, playing the jazz instruments, such as the trumpet, saxophone, violins and drums, instruments which are widely regarded as complicated, and playing in an orchestra and actually enjoying it.
Mr. Benjamin Wamocho, the Music Director at the Ghetto Classics Programme, in an interview, reiterated the importance of the event. “The main reason why we decided to do this event for the kids, is to inspire them, to give them a broader scope than the one that they already know. It doesn’t matter how many kids are inspired, but to us, even if one child is inspired to pursue music through this event, then the whole thing would have been a success,” he stated.
From our discussion, the whole point of the event seemed to be to introduce the kids to art and music, and show them that it can be fun and that they each have the capability to pursue it. The whole point of the event was tailored towards inspiring the kids and introducing them to a new world of limitless possibilities through art music.
Since its inception in 2014, the Ghetto Classics programme has grown immensely, beyond the slums of Korogocho and Huruma, where it was originally started, to Mombasa and will soon expand to other parts of the country as well. Currently, the programme has over 1400 kids whose lives are being transformed through music, education and so much more.
All in all, the event was a really huge success, and it is really admirable what Safaricom are doing in trying to teach and pass on the form of art music to the younger generation, and in the process, inspiring them to dream bigger and introducing them to a world of limitless possibilities through the power of Jazz.