If you could not make it to the Safaricom Jazz festival this past Sunday for one reason or another, I am sorry to inform you that you missed quite a show. It was a coming together of great music, beautiful people and good food. People came to relax and it was evident in the way they carried themselves and the way they dressed. Of course people were looking beautiful as always, but you could tell that there was none of that pressure to outshine each other in fashion or flamboyance. Everyone was in a mellow, happy mood and this made the atmosphere really cool.
The headliner was of course Grammy Award winning saxophonist David Sanborn, but before he took to the stage, there were a couple of acts that played. Taxi Wars from Belgium brought a laid back atmosphere to the place with their set which got everyone in the mood for a great show. The Bokani Dyer Trio from South Africa also extended the relaxed atmosphere with their set whose centrepiece was some great keyboard jazz. Arun Gosh also dazzled people with his skills on the Clarinet. My pick of the foreign bands on show for the festival were The Hazelnuts from Israel, who brought a very unique 1930’s feel to the show with their music. The three ladies had beautiful voices and they made the crowd just want to dance.
My picks of the day however, were local bands Shamsi Music and Nairobi Horns and Ray Lema from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Shamsi Music was the first band on stage to get everyone on their feet and their rapport with the crowd went on for their entire set. They were also the only band to get the crowd yelling for more when their set ended. Ray Lema brought a certain blend of Jazz and Rhumba that seemed to activate the parts of our African DNA that makes us a very rhythmcentric people. People were swaying and shaking their bodies to his music all thorough. Shamsi Music and Nairobi Horns treated us to jazz versions of certain Kenyan songs including Boomba train and Elani’s Kookoo which got the crowd hyped.
David Sanborn the headlining act wowed everyone with his incredible skills on the saxophone. Even though most people, I included, wished his performance had lasted longer, it was incredible while it did.
Apart from the great music and beautiful atmosphere, I was also impressed by the organisation at the event. The transition between performers was managed a lot better this year, which meant that the event ended in good time. People were able to enjoy the show without being worried about keeping time, especially if they had brought their children with them. People also enjoyed freebies, especially those with 4G capable phones and 4G enabled SIM cards who got free airtime worth KES 1500/-to use on internet bundles. People that visited some of the stands at the event were also given items; for example, KLM were giving away notebooks and the Belgian embassy was giving away flash disks. The level of security, that atmosphere and the general civility of the crowd meant that people enjoyed themselves and there were no incidents at the event.
There are a couple of minor things that stood out that I did not like. The free promo code on the little cab app that was supposed to give you 500/- off your ride did not work for quite a number of people. The portable toilets could also have used some maintenance during the event, as at some point they got so dirty they were practically unusable (which I suppose should be expected in an event with that many people).
Overall, the Safaricom Jazz Festival was a beautiful place to be. The music was incredible, the people awesome and oh so friendly. It was fun for everyone that made it and if you were not able to, it should be prioritized very high in your calendar for the lounges later this year and the main festival next year. I certainly am looking forward to showing up and having as much of a ball.