Watching the Ghetto classics children and young adults perform is always a pleasure for me. From the first time I saw those kids performing years ago, they captured my heart and never let go. I have the Safaricom International Jazz Festival to thank for me meeting those kids. I first saw and heard their beautiful music at one of the Safaricom Jazz events and since then I have been one of their biggest fans.
The Safaricom Jazz concerts have introduced us, music lovers, to Kenyan jazz bands we had never heard of before but who quickly became our favourites. They also introduced us to international acts who we loved but never thought we would ever be able to afford to listen to live. Oh, the memories we have created over the years, the friendships we have built and the fun we have had grooving to music from some of the best musicians both locally and internationally.
I have had a chance to interact with the Ghetto Classics kids over the years, we have done interviews and I have even gotten to go down to Kogorocho to see where their roots are. Their story is a story of resilience, of people who loved music and children so much that they were willing to put in the time to teach these kids music. A story of a corporate which also had a soft spot for these children and has also invested time and money on these kids. Did you know that all the proceeds from the Safaricom Jazz concerts go towards sponsoring the music education of the Ghetto classics kids and also funds their education?
This weekend I had the chance to watch the kids live on stage at The Carnivore. Oh, what a treat it was for my ears. The kids have grown in terms of what they can play and also they have also branched out into hip hop dancing and ballet. These kids have had to fight for the right to play. They come from disadvantaged backgrounds but they have not let that put them down. They have worked hard to become the great musicians they are now. It is no wonder that world-class musicians come to Kenya for the Safaricom International Jazz Festival and fall in love with these kids. Even when they leave, they still take time to teach them about music online and they have also sent instruments for these kids.
The Ghetto Classics entertained the crowd with some great tunes like Feeling Good, Happy, Don’t Worry Be happy and Louis Armstrong’s What A Wonderful World. There was also a mashup of some great Sauti Sol songs that excited the audience. They also played some African jazz favourites from Hugh Masekela, Miriam Makeba and a Jazz rendition of Bwana Nipe Pesa by Super Mazembe got the crowd dancing.
Pianist Bill Evans said, “I believe in things that are developed through hard work. I always like people who have developed long and hard, especially through introspection and a lot of dedication. I think what they arrive at is usually a much deeper and more beautiful thing than the person who seems to have that ability and fluidity from the beginning. I say this because it’s a good message to give to young talents who feel as I used to”.
This weekend at the family concert at the carnivore we were able to see the hard work that had been put in by the Ghetto Classics. This concert started as an idea. The concert was a way to support the members of the Ghetto Classics by putting up a show that would draw in families and jazz lovers.
“We are so glad that we survived 2020 and in some ways, we really thrived. It is our hope that in 2021, we will continue with that growth. We will find a way to show the world what we are capable of. Events like this are a way for my kids to be part of another world, a world that they are often excluded from. So, it is so important for us to be on the stage and shine. A chance for us to meet other musicians, work with them, play with them, grow ourselves and experience new things and therefore change the view of the kids, their view of the world and the world of them,” Elizabeth Njoroge of Ghetto classics. We Want To Inspire Kids – Interview With Ghetto Classics’s Elizabeth Njoroge
The Safaricom International Jazz Festival started in 2014 and was the brainchild of Bob Collymore. The festival brings together musicians from all over the world and it has also nurtured the talents of local jazz bands and young musicians. It has made jazz concerts to be affordable and inculcated a love of jazz in Kenyans who may not have listened to jazz before. Safaricom Jazz: Interview with Bob Collymore
Ghetto Classics doesn’t only teach the children music but also critical life skills that they will use in their daily life. It also provides them with a source of income, one of the offshoots made up of young adults from Ghetto Classics called Soundbuzz Rhythms is now a commercial band that can be hired to play at gigs. Listening to them, you can tell they have a bright future ahead. There is also a string quartet that is coming up known as Perfect Harmonics.
The Art of Music Foundation in partnership with Safaricom has been spreading the gospel of music to regions far and wide. The first successful program was in Korogocho slums and now there are also programs in Mombasa, Kiambu and other parts of Nairobi like Mukuru Kwa Reuben. This program is giving hope to many children and communities. The children are able to learn music, get life skills, get exposed to different environments from theirs and also give them a skill that can make them money in the future should they choose to pursue music. But even if they don’t the experience is worth it, because they make life long friendships, and also get to share their talents with the world. Some of the musicians from the Ghetto Classics have also joined the Safaricom Youth Orchestra.
On the decks supporting the Ghetto Classics was DJ D’Lite. He says, “After a pre-pandemic hiatus from Ghetto Classics (their last public show was sometime in 2019 I believe) I was excited at the prospect of not only watching them perform live once again but also the additional honour of being their event Deejay. They did not disappoint! It is obvious that they have been using their downtime to improve and even perfect their musical prowess. Having watched Ghetto Classics grow steadily from inception, under the watchful eye of founder Liz Njoroge and the team from The Art of Music, it was really refreshing to see the previously younger children now leading the pack. Some of the musicians have even branched out to form their own BIG BAND named Sound Buzz Rhythms. An additional surprise act were from their recently formed dance groups who performed some beautiful Ballet and funky Hip Hop dances. Amazing performances all round my fave being their megarendition of some of Sauti Soul’s fave songs. A most satisfying event enjoyed by all who attended.”
I would say that Ghetto Classics are a group to watch out for. You will for sure find many of them on international stages in years to come. You can support them by attending their concerts. My hope is that one day soon they will have an album that we can listen to because they have really worked on their craft and every day they are getting better at it.
In the meantime, thank you Elizabeth, and all the teachers who take the time to mentor these talented kids and thank you Safaricom for supporting these kids to become better musicians. The Ghetto Classics are the perfect example of going beyond – the spirit that is Twende Tukiuke. They have overcome so much to get to where they are and the excellence that they show in everything they do shines through. From the teachers to the students, this is a story of people coming together to do great things and changing the lives of generations through art and music.
Potentash Founder. A creative writer. The Managing Editor at Potentash. Passionate about telling African stories and stories about the inclusion of minorities. Find me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We're all stories, in the end.” ― Steven Moffat