“Playing music makes them temporarily forget their problems. It has also brought back a hope they maybe didn’t know they had. I see it in their eyes every day” – these are the proud words of Alex Kimathi, who goes by the moniker Kimah Kay, a classical music tutor and an admin at Ghetto classics.
Born and bred in Meru, Kimathi found himself coming to Nairobi to learn more about his long life passion music, and as it happened he ended up knocking on the doors of the Art of Music office in Korogocho. His experience so far, from 2015, has been nothing short of magical as he continuously works with the kids.
Music at a young age
“The first instrument I learnt was the recorder in class 5. It was easily accessible since it was in the curriculum but as I continually listened to artists like Prezzo, my yearn for music went from wanting to play instruments and arranging and recording music.
By playing and performing on stage at school – both in primary and high school – including singing for the President, my music skills got better and better and I found that I was gaining self-confidence and a deeper interest to know music more.
I got to learn about the Ghetto Classics in 2015 after finishing my music course at the Technical University of Kenya. As much as I wanted to continue pursuing music, I also wanted to make an impact with what I had learnt so far. I learnt that music is meant to be shared, to be loved, to set people free; and that’s what I found at Ghetto Classics.
Looking at what the kids go through and they still find time to come and practice inspires me every day. Sometimes we practice till 9 pm and they’re in school the next morning, that’s some crazy dedication.
Most people think that Safaricom Jazz only helps the kids with music, what they don’t know is that through the networks of the Festival, well wishers also come in to pay school fees and help the kids’ families financially. It also helps in their self discipline. Knowing where they’ve come from and what they’ve gone through, they grab any opportunity to thrive with open arms and they ensure they work to see better versions of themselves.
The learning process
We see new students every weekend. We don’t charge any fee and we’re open to seeing more and more kids learn music so we’re always seeing new curious kids all the time.
We always start with simple instruments, I.e the recorder. It’s pretty easy to learn and the theory part is also easy to grasp. We then move to other instruments but because we want balance in the teams, we usually encourage them to perfect their craft in specific instruments – i.e, instead of letting them all try the trumpet, we encourage them to also take up the violin or the cello.
Those who haven’t been to Safaricom Jazz should make an effort to do so. Apart from seeing the work that’s been put in by the kids, they can also learn something new and they can be challenged to do more for themselves. I’m 26 years old and these kids challenge me on a daily basis. They push me, they encourage me and they show me that there’s life beyond their problems. The music might not necessarily erase what’s currently going on in their lives, but it does give them a moment to enjoy something beautiful.