When was the last time you heard a song on the radio or in a matatu only to somehow be reminded of a feeling you felt years ago when you last heard it? Sometimes, you’re not even sure when you last heard it, or who you were with when it was playing, but that feeling from when you heard it remains. The power of music is ubiquitous.
Music is a uniting platform. It’s one of the world most preserved treasures owing to the fact that it unites people no matter their background, financial status, political affiliation, race etc. Jazz is one of those mediums that have really brought out how we unite in music and it’s euphoric to see how Nairobi is growing its taste for jazz thanks to platforms such as Safaricom International Jazz Festival.
Whether you’re a long-time jazz enthusiast or a newbie to the Kenyan jazz circuit, the growing live music scene in our exotic city always has something for everyone’s palette. You get so much exposure to new music, new artists and most of all, a new culture.
To say that jazz music is important to us would be an understatement. It’s had the ability to not just unite us and heal us, it has also empowered very many artists in many aspects in their lives. One such example is the Limericks Band from Kenya.
They’re nicknamed the ‘United Nations of Jazz Bands’ because of their beautiful collection of cultures and their different jazz and cultural orientation as well which make them a music powerhouse.
The band is made up of:
1. Ken Mwara – Pianist and Music Director from Kenya
2. Fafa – Lead Vocalist who is a Madagscar Jazz born singer
3. Radanz Nirina – Self taught Bass Player from Madagascar
4. Brian “Buula” Mugenyi – Saxophone and Vocals from Uganda
5. Richie Rich – Drums and Percussion is from Kenya.
I spoke to Ken Mwara to get his view on how they as Limericks have had their future slated for greatness thanks to the platfrom given to them by Safaricom Jazz.
“I met Fafa when she came down from Madagascar 11 years ago. We were introduced by a mutual friend and immediately I heard her I knew this was it. We started with her, Danz came 2 years later, then we were joined by Richie and in 2015 Brian moved from Uganda and joined us.
For more than 3 years (2014-2016) we played at Capital Club’s Thursday Jazz Night. We also played at various Jazz Lounges in hotels, including the Intercontinental Hotel where we played one of our first gigs and restaurants across the country. We have also played for numerous clients including some of the embassies in Nairobi, UNEP and at state functions
How we got to go for the Safaricom Jazz auditions was purely by accident. Jacob Asiyo had always been on my case about it, but I never really thought much about it. In 2016, we finally went down there and the rest is sweet history. What’s also really amazing is how we and other Kenyan artists have grown.
The Kenyan Jazz scene has grown tremendously in great leaps bounds from the days when Jacob Asiyo, Mwai Lawrence and Chris Bittok started it all to the Safaricom International Jazz Festival platform.”
Safaricom Jazz is always a huge platform for artists.
“Anyone who plays at the Safaricom Jazz stage gets a lot of exposure. Through the festival, we’ve been able to raise our bar higher, we have a bigger following, more people want to see us perform not just at concerts but in hotels and parties as well. We blew up as a band after we performed for the first time last year. A couple of people knew who we were, but not as much as after our first act.
In terms of music, we’ve been inspired to work harder on it. There’s a lot that goes on in the backend in terms of making our music what it is. There’s countless hours of practice – can you imagine making blunders on stage or not being prepared enough then going to perform for thousands of people?
What’s more is we’re also sharing the stage with international greatness and we cant be less than great when we get up on that stage.
There’s also countless many times when we believed in ourselves more than others did. One of those people is obviously Safaricom. For them to entrust us with carrying their name and reputation is a big deal. When we were slated to perform last year, it also meant that we would be invited to perform for some of their corporate gigs. To be put as one of the acts again this year is another testament to their faith in us and we will never take that for granted.
Looking at how our fellow artists have grown as well bevaise if this platform is heart-warming. Look at Nairobi Horns project; they performed for the first time last year and they’ve BLOWN up! I remember how everyone kept commenting on their rendition of ‘Boomba Train‘ by the late E-sir after the Kenyan All Stars performance late last year. No one expected jazz to be fused with local tracks but since then it’s been amazing performance after amazing performance.
Shamsi Music have also been great thus far. They released an album last year and they’re constantly playing at events, hotels and corporate gigs. AfroSync band is doing tremendously well! I can’t tell you how excited I am to play next to Mambo tribe again this year, they really brought the house down last year with their Swahili fusion!!
There is huge potential and a bright future at that worth Jazz music in Kenya. First, the locals have become greatly sensitized to it and also, a lot of foreign Jazz musicians have been here on tour thus putting Kenya on the International Jazz Map. Getting to sit and listen to maestros like Richard Sanborn, the late Hugh Masekela, Richard Bona, Bokani Dyer, Alune Wade, Kavita Shah, Kirk Whalum, Norman Brown – man this list is endless!
The work that Safaricom are doing in getting these guys here is immense and we are forever grateful as artists and as jazz enthusiasts to have such talent year after year!”
Don’t miss the Limericks, Mambo Tribe and many other great artists playing at the #SafaricomJazzAt5 celebrations this Sunday. Tickets are available by dialing 1511 or at select Safaricom shops at The Junction, The Hub, Sarit Centre, Two Rivers, I&M, TRM, Village Market, Galleria and Garden City.
See you there!!