It was both a launch and a trip down memory lane for jazz lovers when the inaugural Bob Collymore International Jazz Festival (BCIJF) went down at the Carnivore Grounds on Saturday July 1. An initiative of the Bob Collymore Foundation, the festival was the first in a series of events that according to the organisers will lead up to a Grand Festival in February 2024.
Whereas it was an inaugural event, for many fans it felt like the natural successor to the Safaricom International Jazz festival because the two have a history that is undeniably interwoven.
The late Bob Collymore, former CEO of Safaricom, was an arts lover, an avowed jazz enthusiast and a fine saxophonist. Part of his legacy for the arts during his time at the helm was the Safaricom Jazz Festival whose premier edition was held in February 2014, headlined by Cameroonian artiste Richard Bona. The fête quickly became a calendar event in arts and social circles with several global jazz acts such as Kato Change, Jazzrausch Bigban, Omni Mor Trio and Yazmin Lacey coming to perform in Nairobi alongside stellar homegrown talents such as AfroSync, Chris Bittok, Eddie Grey. James Gogo, Juma Tutu, Limericks, Mambo Tribe and Mwai &the Truth. Alongside the entertainment, the festival also supported flagship projects such as the Ghetto Classics and The Safaricom Youth Orchestra.
It was therefore befitting that exactly four years since his passing on and in his honour and love for the transformative power of music, the foundation named after him would hold its inaugural Jazz Festival.
The day’s line-up
On the decks: DJ D-lite: David Muriithi’s love and breadth of knowledge on matters music has earned him a seat on many tables where conversations about the creative economy are being had. For over three decades he has nurtured great talents across the region including the legendary hip-hop trio Kalamashaka, Hardstone, Necessary Noize, Atemi, Nameless, Suzanna Owiyo, Gidi Gidi Maji Maji and Warner/Gallo-signed Valerie Kimani He has sat as a board member on The Kenya Copyright Board (Kecobo) for six years and was also the agent for South Africa’s Afro-Jazz legend Hugh Masekela. On this day though, he had turned up as his alter-ego, the popular DJ D-Lite, the Festival DJ.
The Nairobi Horns Project (NHP): With Mackinlay Mutsembi on the trumpet, Mokua Rabai on the saxophone and Victor Kinama on the trombone, NHP started off as a commercial for-hire horn section working on TV shows, concerts, recordings and tours. They use music as a platform to engage young people in conversations and activities geared towards curating skills and knowledge, influencing opinions and nurturing values.
Jacob Asiyo: A multi-faceted musician and arranger in both jazz and popular mainstream musical genres. He has been at the forefront of exposing the Kenyan market to the tradition of jazz with his vast repertoire of jazz standards. His compositions are a merger of Kenyan melodies and rhythms with complex chordal and rhythmic jazz arrangements.
Shamsi Music: This recording and performing afro-jazz fusion band was formed in 2014. Shamsi is Arabic for ‘Sun’ and they desire to be a light to the world and the music industry.
Edward Parseen & Different Faces: Formed in 2008, they combine afro-jazz with contemporary inspirations from funk, soul, blues, R&B, reggae and benga tunes. The band is made up of Edward Parseen (tenor, saxophone, trumpet and vocals), Moses Njoroge (pianist), Isaac Kimetto (bass) and Shabaan Musyoka (drums).
Jack Muguna is a jazz guitarist, composer, songwriter and arranger. A co-founder of the Sarabi band and Muguna Music Group, Jack has been the guitarist on a number of other jazz bands such as NHP and released his debut album as a front man, Journey of the Soul in March 2021.
Part of the proceeds from the day’s ticket sales were donated to Ghetto Classics. Ghetto Classics is a community programme that involves over 3,000 children in Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu and run by the Art of Music Foundation. Started in 2008 with just 14 children from the Korogocho informal settlements in Nairobi, the programme leverages music education to provide the youth with opportunities to better themselves and their community. The project instils life skills that come with the discipline, hard work, commitment, teamwork, focus and self-belief of studying music, while enabling income generating opportunities. For others it provides a much-needed sense of family and community support, making music a safe haven for the challenges they face at home. Over the years, Ghetto Classics has performed at various events including for President Obama, at State House Kenya.
Another community-driven partner of the BCIJF is The Safaricom Youth Orchestra, made up of young musicians aged between 10 to 17 years whose talent spun across four groups of musical instruments; woodwinds, brass, percussion, and strings. Under the guidance of Duncan Wambugu, Levi Wataka and qualified tutors, the members have also performed at various high-profile events.
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