The inaugural Safaricom Jazz Festival was in February 2014 with headliner Cameroon Jazz Bassist Richard Bona. The week long festival ended with a family extravaganza at the Ngong Racecourse that featured performances from international and local artists such as Richard Bona, Rhythm Junks, Yuval Cohen, The Nile Project, Aaron Rimbui, Jacob and Kavutha Asiyo, Chris Bitok, and Eddie Grey.
Answering the cry of help that jazz enthusiasts in Nairobi were hoping for, Safaricom International Jazz Festival was set to be the first of its kind Jazz festival in Kenya at an affordable cost that would give Kenyans from all walks of life an opportunity to sample the beautiful and timeless music that is Jazz.
The Richard Bona’s headline performance raised a total of Sh4.5 million – with all of its proceeds going to the Ghetto Classics programme. This money enabled Ghetto Classics to give their main tutor and organizer a year’s contract so that he can concentrate full-time on Ghetto Classics.
Thus began the journey that has now seen hundreds of thousands eagerly awaiting for every year for past 5 years.
Safaricom Jazz Festival Musical Impact
I remember my first Safaricom Jazz experience when Salif Keita was live in 2015 at the Bomas of Kenya for the Safaricom Jazz Lounge. It was a night filled with food, drink, exposure to new artists and most of all, I experiences the real power of music. I mean from the moment Gogo Simo got on stage to the time they transitioned to Salif, I finally understood why Safaricom Jazz describes it as #MusicThatMovesYou.
There’s something so ethereal and transcendent about a performer who can move an entire audience with a language that they do not understand.
What excites and puzzles me the most is how jazz as a form of art can be a bit obscure to understand the first time but once you open up to it, it becomes one of your greatest forms of self expression.
From Jimmy Dludlu to Hugh Masekela to Richard Sanborn to Alune Wade, they have all been able to tell beautiful stories of their lives, their view of African culture and the way the world has made them feel all through music and the best part is that they have all made sense to someone.
Coming back home, Safaricom Jazz has created an amazing platform for Kenyan artists to thrive and push themselves out of their previous limits to be the best they can be. Some of the artists whose music I enjoy today has been because of the exposure from #SafaricomJazz festivals. Favourites like Nairobi Horns Project, Juma Tutu, Edward Parseen and Different Faces Band, Shamsi Music, Limericks Band and so many others have had the great honour of sharing the stage with some of the world’s greatest artists as well as play in front of such large crowds.
A favourite of mine will always be the Kenyan All Stars Concert which consisted of Kenyan artists all who were able to wow the crowd with their music.
and This? 😎
At #SafaricomJazz you see a lot of people coming in with worries and complaints and problems and when they leave they feel lighter. This is a music that actually frees you. It opens up your heart and soul.
A growing tradition
We’ve also seen a growing number of live performances in the city, with some of them happening concurrently. There’s a growing passion for live musical experiences and we are definitely here for it!
Speaking on this, Safaricom Limited CEO Bob Collymore said: “This edition of the Safaricom International Jazz Festival has a special place in our hearts for many reasons. Not only are we celebrating five years of great live jazz performances from world renown and locally admired musicians, we are also celebrating the social impact we’ve created through funds raised from the Festival. The whole idea of the festival is to make jazz music more accessible and inclusive, and to use this to break down barriers and create opportunities for talented Kenyan artistes to play alongside international stars and appeal to a larger local audience,” added Mr. Collymore.
Jazz may not be the style of music that most Kenyans appreciate or understand. They don’t necessarily ‘get’ that Jazz is actually an African creation!
Kenyans tend to like either local music, hip-hop, rhumba or reggae but the number of people getting interested in jazz, swing and classical music – from the numbers seen in the last five years – highlights how the power of jazz as a force for freedom and creativity can bring people together from different parts of the country and the world.
Another amazing thing about the artists who perform at Safaricom Jazz is that they can ‘switch’ up their acts to fuse Jazz with contemporary African music has redefined the entire culture and experience attracting more crowds than before due to the versatility of the music. Jazzist’s have adopted this as a way to deliver to their audience at the same time appeal to more which has turned out to be a success.
A clear example of this this performance of Polish producer Jimek and the Ghetto Classics. Jimek is best known for his Hip-hop History Orchestra
JIMEK touched down in the 254 and has already began working his magic with the @GhettoClassicsK & @Saf_Orchestra in readiness for #SafaricomJazzAt5. If you know your hip hop, what song is this? https://t.co/0sjbOhLvH9 pic.twitter.com/lpLtBrYPwo
— Safaricom Limited (@SafaricomLtd) February 17, 2018
The Safaricom Jazz festival has proven over 4 years that it is a ‘must see’ event, and this weekend’s celebration will highlight some exceptional unique voices, jazz, soul and funk.
Get your ticket by dialing 1511 or getting them at select Safaricom shops and see you on Sunday as we party and celebrate five years of unforgettable Safaricom Jazz moments!