The Safaricom International Jazz Festival is undoubtedly one of the most coveted periodical events among Jazz enthusiasts in Kenya. The festival seeks to provide a source of entertainment to those in attendance as well as give local and international acts a platform to showcase their talents and scale to higher heights. All roads led to the Bomas of Kenya on the 29th of August 2015, which played host to the long awaited performance by Salif Keita, curtain raised by the acclaimed Gogo Simo Band.
Ahead of the festival, Salif Keita had promised to use music to communicate through all the diverse cultural and language barriers and in turn offer a valuable experience to all the guests in attendance. That is exactly what he and his band delivered at the packed Bomas of Kenya. The fact that the vast majority did not understand a word of what he was singing did not dilute the beauty and power of his music at all.
This was the first time I was watching him live on stage and I was completely taken by the power of his voice. Great sound courtesy of MoSound ensured that we got to feel the ultimate Salif Keita experience, the only problems being the lack of dancing space and for those who occupied the front seats, blinding lights that illuminated the stage from behind. These however did not dampen the spirits of the crowd as they made do with what whatever space was available. By the time Salif performed the song Africa, which was towards the end of his show, three quarters of the room was up on their feet. He left the room to the chants of ‘we want more’ and had no choice but to get back and perform one more song, towards the end of which he invited some people from the audience to join him and his band on stage.
Salif Keita who hails from Mali has in various interactions with both local and international media mentioned that he defied all odds to make a name for himself in the competitive and ever growing music industry. Despite being a person living with Albinism, which in the early years in Africa was considered a bad omen – and to some extent even today – Keita travelled far and wide in bands and as an individual as well making music as it gradually gained acceptance across the world. He however attributes his success and all his achievements to the challenges he faced while categorically stating that the challenges made him what he is today; an international public figure, inspiration and entertainer.
The Bomas event received massive attention judging from the mammoth crowd that graced it. The fact that tickets got sold out way ahead of the event is testament to its popularity among music lovers. Safaricom promises a variety of international as well as local acts in the succeeding editions of Safaricom International Jazz Festival. In December this year, there will be shows in both major cities Nairobi and Mombasa. Keep a sharp ear for this if you’re a music lover.
With the Jazz Festival being a great success since inception, all proceeds from this particular event featuring Salif Keita will go to Ghetto Classics, a talents school that majors in arts and music established in Korogocho slums which Salif Keita has been involved in it a number of occasions. This move is aimed at nurturing young talent especially in the slum where such opportunities go unnoticed and untapped. Ghetto Classics specialized in teaching the youth how to play instruments such as the violin, trumpet, piano among others. Once fully trained, the youth are able to earn their living through music rather than turning to crime or facing unemployment.