On Sunday 22nd Feb, Safaricom gave us a Sunday afternoon to remember with a well organized and well executed Jazz Festival that saw all roads leading to Ngong Race Course. This was the second edition of the International Jazz Festival, the first one having been held last year at Kasarani Sports Center.
The Safaricom International Jazz Festival was in support of the great course that is Ghetto classics – a community program in Korogocho slums that works to nurture youngsters through music. This they do by instilling in them the life skills that go hand in hand with the discipline of studying the art of music. This very noble course gives the children a positive outlook on life and boosts their self confidence and determination to succeed in life despite their backgrounds. Furthermore, the program also provides them with income generating opportunities. The Ghetto classics community program involves over 300 children.
This year’s lineup at Race Course saw attendees enjoy a great mix of jazz music by Ack Van Rooyen and Juraj Stanik from Netherlands, Tomer Bar Trio from Israel, Isaiah Katumwa from Uganda, Nicolas Kummert Voices from Belgium, Soweto Kinch from the UK, Swahili Jazz Band from Kenya, Jimmy DluDlu from South Africa and Jonathan Butler also from South Africa.
This lineup covered jazz in all its variants and kept the crowd engrossed and entertained with everything ranging from mellow beats from the Safaricom Youth Orchestra and other earlier performers, to an up tempo jazz/hiphop mix from Soweto Kinch, to powerful sax from Ugandan sax powerhouse Isaiah Katumwa. Swahili Jazz Band brought in an eclectic mix of contemporary and traditional coastal sounds and modern jazz elements, and upped the performance by performing together with Jimmy DluDLu. The headline artist Jonathan Butler even brought in beautiful gospel numbers that had the crowd raise their hands in worship.
The festival has come and gone, and it has left in its wake a whole lot of beneficiaries. Key among them of course is Ghetto Classics to whom all proceeds go. Then there are the performers themselves who got exposed to each other’s respective audiences. Last year for example, Swahili Jazz Band was one of the curtain raisers for Jimmy Dlu Dlu and this year, we saw the two actually performing together on stage. This year we saw Isaiah Katumwa share a stage with Jonathan Butler and I’d not be surprised if more plans are in the offing by these artists to further the new found collaborations to greater heights.
Local artists sharing the stage with international jazz maestros goes to expose their names worldwide and the same goes for the international artists getting their name into the African circles. Were it not for the jazz festivals, a lot of people may never have heard of some of the names that were in the lineup.
In the end, the performers got to demystify jazz some and get some new recruits into the music genre that has often been thought to be an acquired taste. The festival supported a great course and also raised the artists’ profiles both locally and internationally.