Tag Archives: East Africa Arts

Blown away at Safaricom Jazz at 5 dinner

Blown away. That was my feeling after four hours of a phenomenal Safaricom Jazz gala dinner experience that was headlined by BWB, Joja Wendt and The Limericks.

JAZZ DINNER

 

The do began with speeches as is the norm for suits events. Normally I zone out or people watch but the speech by Ghetto Classics founder Elizabeth Njoroge caught my attention.

She spoke of a student who had to drop out from the Ghetto Classics classes in spite of his brilliance due to challenges at home. This got me thinking about how the Ghetto classic story can be improved.

For five years focus has been on music but there is more to life. What mentoring, financing and real-life opportunities can be availed to improve the ecosystem for the kids?

The money that caused the student to drop out is basically lunch/drink money for your average middle class Kenyan. What if I purposed to give up lunch five times a month and donated? What if I mentored a child away from the music? What if the kids would gig for pay for established musicians? What if their parents got a bit of money to start a business? The kids do not operate in a vacuum and while it is novel and great to have jazz, classical music in Korogocho it is even more necessary to try uplift entire community.

LIMERICKS

Unto the music and first on stage was Kenyan band, The Limericks. First time experiencing them and I loved the bass, the keys and the sax. The person playing with the background lighting and screens was clearly having a ball with the savanah-centric backdrops. There was a song in Luganda and also one in Malagasy which were lovely. Only drawback was the lady vocalist trying to compete with the instruments. Sounded so off. There was also a feeling of the band not have worked together on their sets. They are a work in progress I guess.

Next up was extraordinary pianist Joja Wendt who was backed by Stephie on the drums and Thomas on the bass. Wendt is also a hilarious comedian who knows how to engage and work a crowd. Loved the boogie woggie piano set derived from the spiritual to jazz which is basically three pianists in one with a dancy feel to it. His piano playing was fast and perfect with awesome skills on display to go with the dope personality.  Little wonder he got a standing ovation.

JOJA

The night’s main act was BWB a jazz band comprising guitarist Norman Brown, saxophonist Kirk Whalum and trumpeter Rick Braun.

Given how Joja had done his business they had to step up their game and they certainly did. Starting off with a Billie Jean rendition that was so energy-full. The three are individually gifted musicians whose machine-like precision in performing together was a marvel to behold. Guitar, sax and trumpet flowing in conversation blew my mind away. Their stage work and crowd mood management spoke of years of professionalism and experience.

BWB

Brown then did a guitar set that showcased his range before capping it with brilliant vocals which the crowd showed love for by giving a standing ovation.

Whalum who is a magician on the sax and who toured with Whitney Houston for close to a decade performed a heartfelt ‘I will always love you.’ He walked into the crowd and made folk so happy and moved with the personal touch. Cue a standing ovation.

Braun did a song that he wrote for his wife of 21 years and as a Hollywood resident he joked that was akin to four marriages. Song had a dancy bluesy feel to it and it got the crowd dancing.

The trio motivated by what they termed as the ‘most fun’ VIP crowd they had ever performed for then upped a gear with a Memphis Tennessee themed set and a Detroit one too. Aside from their ability on the instruments, the three also boast of amazing vocals. ‘Just call my name’ rendition took folk to church and brought curtains down on four hours of a magical experience.

MUSIC AD

Safaricom Jazz is themed as ‘music that moves you’ and I certainly was totally wholly moved.

Earlier in the week had attended British Council’s night at the Alchemist and loved the Femme Fusion celebrating women in jazz. Hat tip to the amazing Atemi, Kasiva, and new-discovery Kendi.

ALCHEMIST

Before the main Safaricom Jazz event, there are usually theme nights for every nationality that is represented. So Italian, Israeli, British, Belgian etc. It is great that Safaricom imports a lot of jazz music but it would be great if Kenyan music was also exported. Imagine if Kenyan acts got to perform abroad and get exposed to international level performing as well as market Kenya. Food for thought.

GOD BLESS KENYA!

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Films from the heart

I am more of a books than film, movies or series kinda person. However, every year for well over a decade now I attend the European Film Festival (EFF) at the Alliance Française every May.

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This year was the 26th edition of the EFF and for that I say Merci beaucoup to the French Cultural Centre in Kenya.

My plan was to watch seven films and to attend a musical performance on the week between 16th May and 20th May.

Juggling work and life managed to watch 5 films and half-attend the musical gig which I reckon is a pretty good return.

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The first movie I watched was the Tiger Theory by Czech film-maker Radek Bajgar. It was a totally awesome watch that hilariously dealt with serious life issues. Premise is a man who gets himself admitted into a mental hospital to achieve freedom.

The musical performance was spoken word artist Checkmate Mido who’s gig I have never attended. It was set up at the cafe at Alliance and 10 minutes in, I had to leave as the acoustics did not quite sound right. Hope I get to watch a Mido performance soon.

The second film I watched was Notes on Blindness a British documentary based on the life of John Hull. It was an intimate and touching insight into blindness. I wear spectacles and so the documenatry touched quite close home. What if? Then what? There is a lot we take for granted as sighted folk. Quite thought provoking.

As a prelude to the screening the country director for the British Council in Kenya did the introduction with lovely British wit and humour. Joked about UK being United Kisumu while noting that perhaps that was not the best idea with Kenyan elections upcoming. Then talked of Brexit and stated that Britain has left EU but it has not left Europe.

The country director while showing off his Kiswahili fluency also hyped up the East Africa Arts program.

Under this program and in partnership with Judy Kibinge’s Docubox two Kenyan films have been made and whose trailers were shown:

The Letter – by Chris and Maia von Lekow which is about killing of ‘witches’ at the coast which is essentially about disposing old folk of their land.

Thank you for the rain – which tackles climate change from farmer’s eyes.

Looking forward to seeing their premiers.

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On Saturday I indulged in an afternoon of film watching three films at a go.

Labyrinthus – when gaming and real life overlap, Diamantes Negros – football & human trafficking and These Daughters of Mine – family ties, how they are fragile and how easily they are stretched due to ill-health or death.

What strikes me every year is how European film makers have mastered the art of telling stories that are raw and real.

Methinks Kenyan film makers and content creators can learn a lot from EFF.

When you watch a Nigerian film or listen to Tanzanian music there is no doubt as to where the content is from, but when you watch Kenyan film or listen to  there is nothing that stands out as Kenyan.

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Kenyan film makers and content creators need to figure out what is Kenyan content. Do you know what that is? Me neither.

So maybe that is why we start…

GOD BLESS KENYA!


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