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The Case of Local Jazz Concerts and ....The Future

There has been a lot of talk of why Kenya doesn’t attract top notch International Jazz Artists or even field a concert worth its name in terms of quality (staging, sponsorships) enough to entice fans and artists in their world tours.

The same issue was also discussed recently in the weekly radio jazz show on
Capital FM, Capital Jazz Club, by its presenter, Jack Ojiambo and a couple of other Jazz enthusiasts that were invited in the show.
Is this a case of poor promotion, lack of local quorum i.e. a good number of Jazz fans ready to pay for such shows or put simply an issue of cost (to pay for the artists) or what really?
And how come our neighbors, the Ugandans have been so successful in this?

The fans, at least from the chatter that has been on going through a number of
social networking sites, felt we have the capacity to host and field world class concerts worth rousing reviews.

And I dare say not just for the promotion and appreciate of International artists but also the local talent that we have in the country.
This is do-able and I must recognize some of the attempts that have been made towards this.

We had a while back the once-in-a-month
Cup-a-Jazz Live Performances. The Cup-a-Jazz events, hosted by Silverbird Media Store at the Nakumatt Junction branch and MC’ed by the highly acclaimed Jazz Maestro, Joseph Hellon, were a great treat. Local and visiting artists were showcased in these sessions. It also provided a platform for young, budding talent to ‘strut their stuff’ with the hope of recognition and hopefully a career in music, through their Jam Sessions. The Cup-a-Jazz sessions were great and I always looked forward to the last Tuesday of every month which by the way, were free (entry that is) and a free cocktail (Thanks to Schweppes). Silverbird management if you’re listening – please bring back our Cup-a-Jazz!

We’ve also had, in the past, a number of concerts supposedly guised as or going by the name ‘Jazz Concerts or Festivals’ but were anything but jazz. If you took a glance at the profile of the artists showcased in these events they were predominantly afro-fusion artists not jazz artists. However a few of them did get it right, case in point ‘East Meets South Jazz Festival’ which had likes of Valerie Kimani, Lira (from South Africa) among others.

In addition we’ve had Goethe-Institut or the German Cultural Centre and its French counterpart (Alliance Française) showcase local and internationally recognized artists. And this has been well received – keep up the good work Goethe and AF…looking forward for more of these.

The Future…

Something incredible happened late last year what I think, at least to my mind, means a lot to the Jazz Community in Kenya. And this was the birth of the Sierra Jazz Safari Concerts.

The idea behind Sierra Jazz Safari Concerts was first conceived a little over 2 years ago by one
TShaka Mayanja, remember him? He’s the former Tusker Project Fame Judge from Uganda and also the Bassist with band BlackRoots UNLIMITED (will be featuring them soon on this blog).The Jazz Safari had its inaugural concert in Kampala, Uganda on the 19th December 2008. The concert featured US Jazz luminaries Eric Marienthal on the Saxophone and Oscar Seaton on drums among other artists.
The following year saw a series of concerts running in various cities within the region.
Kampala kicked it off with The MTN Jazz Safari followed by another in Kigali, Rwanda, also sponsored by MTN and finally the show moved to Nairobi, sponsored by Sierra Premium Beer, with Gerald Albright headlining the show being flanked by Darlene Moreno (Guitar), Albert Burnett III (Drums), TShaka Mayanja (Bass), Arlington Jones II (Piano), Zak Amunga Omuyeshi (keys/Synths) and Wakake Otieno (Percussions).
The Sierra Jazz Safari also had several Kenyan Jazz musicians, the likes of Aaron ‘Keys’ Rimbui, Joseph Hellon, Eddie Grey and others.

This was certainly one of the, if not THE, greatest Jazz Concert we’ve had in recent times.
And it also came as a welcome surprise for Sierra Premium Beer, the sponsor, to announce that in partnership with The Jazz Safari this will be an annual fixture in the Jazz Calendar.

And true to their word this year (2010) The Jazz Safari will start off from Kampala, Uganda (The MTN Jazz Safari) on the 8th October 2010 and on the 10th October 2010 will set up camp in Nairobi for the Sierra Jazz Safari (Featuring Gerald Albright and Jonathan Butler) – can’t wait for this. Please mark it on your calendar.

The future certainly looks hopeful with more of these and other Jazz concerts, events, clinics and workshops affecting the various parties (artists, fans, media, record companies,promotion companies and corporations) across the entire ecosystem.


  1. Great review of the state of Jazz in Kenya. I didn't know Butler will be here in October. Thats great news, love his music. I will definitely be on the look out for that.


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