Hill St. Soul Rocks Nairobi into ‘Pieces’ at Zen Garden

It is 20th November and everything is set for the for the ‘Soul Lounge Unplugged’ featuring Hill St.
Soul. News of the UK based Neo Soul duo concert has been all over blogs, FB, twitter and on Capital FM, the concert hosts for the past several weeks and all Neo Soul fans from Nairobi and beyond are looking forward to the evening with much anticipation tweeting and arranging the time to hook up.

Zen Garden is where it was all happening, Many fans from even as far as Naivasha were tweeting about their plans to attend the event with others seeking last minute clarification on the venue and where tickets could be found.

The event was set to start at 6pm but knowing the trend with most concerts in Kenya,  I decided to take my time arriving there at some minutes to 8pm. (A show set to start at 6pm will actually start at 10 giving people enough time to talk, eat, booze Spend before the curtain raisers start, then the main act comes on after about 1 or 2hrs)

From the stream of cars parked just outside the Zen gate off the Lower Kabete Rd., I could tell that the place had a seizable crowd. The Concert was set at the well laid out gardens with dimmed lights, couches and cushions clearly setting the mood for the evening – ‘an intimate evening full of soulful music in a relaxed atmosphere’.

The concert kicked off at around 9pm with the evening’s hosts – Chao and Maqbul welcoming everyone and inviting the 1st act for the night, Kevin Mbugua.

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Being my first time to hear Kevin, I was quite impressed and  wondered how come I had not heard him or of him before. Apparently he has performed at Dass restraurant for Rhythm & Spoken as Naliaka, the shows organizer aptly informed me. I loved his rendition of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast car”.

Next was June Gachui whom I was also seeing perform for the first time( I am starting to wonder if I am loosing touch with new acts). I am told she has been around for quite some time now and even curtain raised for Les Nubians when they performed in Nairobi some time back.

Finally, the moment we had all been waiting for came. The MCs did not waste any time inviting the Hill St. Soul duo onto the stage as is the norm with most Kenyan MCs (Why ask if we are ready, thats why we bought the tickets, Duh!)

Dressed in an all black outfit was Hillary Mwelwa with her background vocalist and a 4 man band. She did look quite different from the images on her albums but her voice seemed to have become better with time. I found her live performance much better and richer than her recorded hits!.

She performed various songs from her 4 albums starting with ‘Don’t forget the Ghetto’, ‘For the love of you‘,  All that(+ a bag of chips), ‘Wash away‘(which she did with a reggea tune- totally awesome), and the crowd’s favourite ‘Pieces’

The crowd went mad when she performed ‘Pieces‘ with most fans singing along. This, as she later disclosed to me, really amazed her as she didn’t know that he had such a huge fanbase in Kenya let alone those who knew the words to her songs by heart. She actually had to perform ‘pieces’ again after the crowd demanded an encore after the 1hr performance.

She did manage to keep us on the dancefloor from the start of her performance till the end with her soulful voice and vibrant beats that had clearly been well rehearsed. The crowning moment for me was when she was able to fuse a lingala tune to her song ‘Don’t forget the Ghetto'(see the video below) proving that she was still in touch with her Zambian roots despite living in the UK.

Some of the familiar faces that graced the concert were, @Njukey – a good friend and great fan of Neo-soul, African & jazz Music, Naliaka(The editor of EveGal and host of RnS), Solo(Naliaka’s Boyfriend), DJ Zack(formerly of Ghetto Radio), @Thinkersroom, @Sciculturist, Mumbi Kaigwa(Actress, Film-Maker and producer of Kigezi Ndoto), Valentine Kamau(Star Newspaper), Jimmi Gathu(Royal Media Services), David Muriithi(DJ – Mercury), Sir Henry among others.

The show came to an end some time past midnight with a hint from Chao that they are planning on bringing more Neo-Soul artists. Might it be Maxwell or Jill Scott next time. Lets wait and see

A huge thumbs up to the Capital FM team for such a well organized event and for bring true soul to Nairobi.
The event was sponsored by Kiwi smiling feet and the Tribe.

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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.”