Jazz enthusiasts in the country are in for a great treat on May 1 at the Carnivore grounds in Nairobi when a coterie of African musicians led by legendary Ivorian drummer Paco Sery take to the stage.
Also on stage for the International Jazz Day concert will be Malian pianist Cheik Tidiane Seck, Mandla Mlangeni and The Tune Creation Committee from South Africa, and Kenyan acts Nairobi Horns Project, Shamsi Music, Kato Change and the Change Experience, Jacob and Kavutha Asiyo, and the Ghetto Classics.
BLACK IN GOLD
“Over the years, Safaricom International Jazz Festival has been headlined by a stellar line-up of African musicians including Salif Keita and Fatoumata Diawara from Mali, Jimmy Dludlu and the late Hugh Masekela from South Africa, Kunle Ayo from Nigeria and New-York based Cameroonian artiste Richard Bona," Bob Collymore, the Safaricom chief executive said during the unveiling of this year's line-up.
"The Festival has become more than a music concert; it is also a platform through which Kenyan jazz artists can reach a wider audience, connect and exchange ideas with their contemporaries,” he added.
The International Jazz Day is celebrated around the globe each year in appreciation of the genre, and to highlight and appreciate the role of jazz in uniting people from all over the world.
Last year’s celebrations in Nairobi were marked with a live music extravaganza featuring Cameroon's Manu Dibango and his Soul Makossa Gang, who shared the stage with some of Kenya’s top jazz artists including Edward Parseen, Afro Sync Band, James Gogo, Shamsi Music, Eddie Grey and Chris Bittok.
“It’s great to see more Kenyans appreciating homegrown jazz talent, and we are honoured to be part of the growth of the local jazz scene," said Mr Collymore.
"Nairobi Horns Project released their debut album Black in Gold inFebruary, Shamsi Music have performed in Festival Jazzy Koum Ben in Bamako, Mali, and the number of young musicians enrolled in the Ghetto Classics music programme has grown from about 300 when we started supporting them in 2014, to about 1,500.”
JAZZ SISTER CITIES
This year’s headline act, Sery of Cote d'Ivoire, began his career in 1980 when respected French organist Eddy Loiuss sent out a call for artistes for a record he was making. Sery successfully played on the record and has been active as a musician ever since. He got a break in his career when Austrian-American synthesiser virtuoso Joe Zawinul took him under his wing.
Fellow performer Seck is a Malian composer who has written for and played with world-famous African musicians such as Fela Kuti, Salif Keita, Youssou N’Dour and American jazz maestros Dee Dee Bridgewater and the late Hank Jones.
The Safaricom International Jazz Festival is partnering with a project known as the Jazz Sister Cities. The organisation promotes jazz as a tool for building cultural bridges globally through engagement and collaboration with cities, programs, and artists. Nairobi, through the festival, will officially join the Jazz Sister Cities Network on this day and, consequently, Sylwester Ostrowski and The Jazz Brigade featuring Dorota Miskiewicz — Freddie Hendrix will perform at the International Jazz Day celebrations.
All proceeds from ticket sales will go towards supporting the Ghetto Classics music programme, which has received approximately Sh60 million since the inception of the Safaricom International Jazz Festival in 2014. These funds cater for music training, schooling and basic needs for members of the programme, most of whom are at-risk pre-teens and teenagers from low income neighbourhoods in Nairobi and Mombasa.
The programme plans to expand to Kisumu this year, where it aims to transform the lives of more youth through music.