Music as a career in Kenya has always been looked at with more than a little skepticism. The misconception that going down the path of a career in music is quite literally throwing your life away has stuck with most of us for a long time and in many cases hindered a lot of us from going down that path. This however is a changing trend that has seen a lot more people take on music as a career with great returns. There are returns not only among the musicians, but also in other fields that are directly related to jazz.

Let’s take a look of Ghetto Classics for example, where all proceeds of Safaricom Jazz Festival go. Over the years, the Korogocho based community program has been training kids to make music. The results are getting clearer and clearer as time passes and some music careers have already started coming out of that program. Last year for example, we had a look at Joseph Omondi who came from making a living from the Dandora garbage site, to being a music teacher at Ghetto Classics. He’s now earning a living teaching other kids at the center. Changing Korogocho one child at a time is something he takes a lot of pride in. You can read Joseph’s amazing story here.

Back to the music…

Jazz musicians in Kenya may not be very well known in the popular circles, but they exist and they are making great music all around us. For most people, the most well-known among them has to be, by a big margin, Joseph Hellon. This is mostly thanks to his stint as a Tusker Project Fame academy staffer, but some may have heard him on the sax even before then. If you have been living in a lost village somewhere off the beaten path, have a look at this live performance at the Galileo Lounge. Away from his other eyebrow raising shenanigans, there is no doubting the man’s talent and his prowess with a saxophone

There are other people who have made a career out of Jazz and again, to shine some sort of spotlight on their talents, I made a little list.

Chris Bittok

The first time I heard anything by Chris was when he featured on Collo’s Msichana Highclass. To this day, I listen to that song because of this guy. The sax was everything in that song and ever since, I have been youtubing things and liking them. If you have been to K1 Jazz or Tamasha in Hurlingham Jazz in your time around the city, then you have this man to thank. Turns out, he had a hand in making them happen. Here he is at the Safaricom Jazz Festival making things happen.

Aaron Rimbui
One of Kenya’s pioneers in the Jazz scene, Aaron Rimbui is revered as one of East Africa’s premier pianists. He has been doing his thing for a long time now, having started performing in 2001. That is 16 years of providing stimulating jazz, fusion and world music on the grand stage. Other than creating magic with his fingers on the keys, he is also a radio host with Capital FM on their Jazz Show the Capital Jazz Club. He is also the host of the much loved All that Jazz, a bimonthly jazz show in Nairobi.

Here he is at the Safaricom Jazz Festival in 2014.

Edward Parseen and the different faces band

Some people do not know who or what this is, but trust me, you should. Edward Parseen is an accomplished saxophone player, a vocalist and the current lead in the Different faces band. Edward and the different faces band have been wowing audiences especially with their ability to make covers sound better than the original. Their cover version of Dbanj’s Emergency and closer to home, JB’s Tiga Kumute will have you out of your chair and dancing whether you are at work or at home.

For the love of Jazz, here are two performances I am sure you will enjoy, jazz lover or not.

Different Faces Band perform Emergency D’Banj Live at the Koroga Festival

Edward Parseen & Different Faces Band (Tiga Kumute) – Safaricom Jazz Festival 2016

Eddie Grey

Ever heard of Eddie Grey? No? Well then, allow me the pleasure of introducing  you to Eddie and his beloved guitar. And no, “And his beloved guitar” is not the name of his band; it is actually the instrument he plays and makes music on.

Here he is at the Michael Joseph Center.

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