Weekend Rendezvous with the Benin Brass Band, Ugomatic(Nairobi Now) and Lira

My weekend was an eventful one artistically, There were 4 events in total in the different areas of Nairobi with some, next door to each other.

Gangbe Brass Band
Gangbe, a 10-member Beninese musical ensemble founded in 1994 was at the Alliance Francaise for a night of voodoo filled Jazz. The word “gangbe” means “sound of metal” in the Fon language.

Their unusual instrumentation—trumpet, trombone, and tuba, along with West African percussion and vocals is, to some extent, part of West Africa’s colonial legacy; French colonial officers imported brass instruments and trained local musicians to play European-style military and dance hall music.

Despite this Millitary kind of Jazz, their performance was not the least bit military like as the songs  were easy to dance to. Most of their songs were mostly instrumental jazz with a few vocal ones which elicited call and response between the revelers and the band.

Gangbe has released three albums: Gangbe (1998), Togbe (2001), and Whendo (2004), and tours extensively in Europe and North America.

Celebrating 2 years of Nairobi Now Blog
Next door from Alliance, a party was set to kick off at the Goethe Institute hosted by Ugo of Nairobi Now.
Ugo who is also a part time Techno DJ had invited his blog followers to a celebration of Nairobi Now blog that had just turned 2 years.

Needless to say, most of us who were at Alliance, just crossed the road over to Goethe where the party was just beginning.

The Goethe auditorium that is usually serene had turned into a fully blown discotheque complete with lights, smoke and surround sound. There was merchandise in form of ‘Nairobi Now’ T-shirts for sale which was a great idea although it did not have the blog url for more mobile marketing of the blog.

Although the event was set to have various DJs to cater for the various musical tastes, I ended up listening to so much Trance/Techno (am not a great fan of either) at some point, it become some torturous.
It was however a great initiative and it gave me a few ideas. Watch this space.

‘South meets East’ Jazz Festival

The much hyped and sponsored jazz festival organized by the South African High Commission to Kenya was on this Saturday at the National Museums of Kenya.

At some point I almost changed my mind as I will still tied up at 7pm(the event was starting at 6pm) but knowing Kenyan events, they normally start an hr or two later. I missed the curtain raisers, Muthoni Donga and caught up with Sauti Soul towards the end of their performance.

The festival was well attended. At some point, tickets at the door ran out temporarily locking out those who wait till last minute to purchase tickets. It was later decided that they can just pay and go in as the place was not fully packed.

Valerie Kimani was up next on the stage with songs from her debut album, Baisikeli. She sounded great but comparing her with the final act for the night, me thinks she has a long way to go in command of stage and in working up a crowd ( I guess it comes with years of experience)

Eric Wainana, it seems, was the crowd puller ( I think most had decided to attend the event coz Eric would Perform, I say this because, like many Kenyans, I only got to know about Lira a few weeks ago)

His new album, Love and Protest is set for release in June, by sampling some of this songs he performed off this album, I could tell, it will have a very different feel from his previous ones. He has done a song in the 20s and 40s style of Swing as a dedication to his father.

The highlight for the evening, Lira, was definitely the show stopper. Standing almost 6 feet tall, slender with short hair and an almost high pitched voice, once would mistake her for a neo soul artist with a cross of Vivian Green and Erykah Badu style.

What impressed me most about her performance is how even the words she spoke while talking to the crowd were all musical. Now that is master of one’s voice and music. At times I even thought she was starting to sing another of her songs only to realize that she was actually talking to the crowd. It was amazing.

She made sure that everyone danced by giving quick lessons on various dancing styles that she learnt while growing up and some that she was taught during her 3 day stay in Kenya.

The rain disappointed many of those in the VIP area as it did not have a tent subjecting those who had paid more than twice the normal ticket fee to the same ‘blessing’ as those who couldn’t afford the VIP section. The MC for the night, Marcus of Classic Radio also kept mocking and challenging the VIPs as they remained seated despite the efforts by the various performing artists to get people dancing.

I could not help but notice that, a show that was marketed as a Jazz festival by Kenyan and South African Jazz Artists was not a full Jazz experience, something that I have also noted in all events under the Jazz banner in Kenya.

I would have expected artists like Aaron Rimbui and Hellon to be among those performing as they are the known Kenyan Jazz artists. But I guess the organizers had other things in mind.

The Museum should consider hosting many such events as the venue is quite ideal and full of inspiration.

Renaissance Fair at the International School of Kenya

Had been invited by Phillda of Paa ya Paa for this first ever event at the ISK grounds organised by the American Women’s Association(AWA). I performed ‘Digital Hearts’ and ’10th Daughter of Gikuyu and Mumbi’. Grand Master was also there with his band and so was the Story Moja Crew.

Not even a cold could keep me down on such an ‘artventful’ weekend!

About Kenyan Poet

Showcasing the best in Kenyan Arts;Music,writing,Poetry,fine art and art reviews as well as info on emerging art trends. “Art is not about thinking something up. It is the opposite…getting something down.”