Guest post by Lolyne Ongeri

I had never attended a jazz anything before. Any mention of it by my friends was met with skepticism, a frown and for the most part, a no. For me, jazz was the kind of music that old people listened to. So, when they would suggest we go to a jazz club, I would be like, “Do I look 60 to you?” little did I know, my perspective would change completely, just because one person believed in the power of jazz to move you and groove you. If there was any doubt in your love for jazz, I can tell you first hand. It is the kind of music that seeps through your pores and into your soul.

So, this past Sunday, my friends decide I have had enough of lazing around the house over the weekends and invited me to the picnic styled Safaricom Jazz in Kasarani.

We were there soon as gates opened and once we completed our security checks and registration, we were ushered into a van that would take us to the training grounds where the concert was taking place. Thanks for that by the way. Kasarani is big and all that walking would have been terrible!. The ride lasted for all but a minute; but before we reached, the strains of jazz music could be heard. What I came to learn were Ghetto Classics were just performing with Polish musician Jimek.

Excitement was already building and I all but run to the huge dome. People were seated on gorgeous Ankara and Maasai fabrics, some already digging into their picnic baskets.  We were early enough to be very near the front and all along the music by Ghetto Classics held my attention.

Ghetto Classics is a community flagship programme that involves more than 650 children in one of the biggest slums in Kenya-Korogocho. The concept of Ghetto classics is to use music to provide the youth with opportunities to better themselves, by instilling in them the life skills that come with the discipline of studying music. Seeing them up there, organized, committed, and making music with an international star made me realize that it is the small things in life that really matter. The ripple effects of what Safaricom jazz has done for the community at Korogocho and beyond will be felt for years to come.

The next band on stage were The Betty Bears, a group comprising of 8 talented musicians from Israel. The lead vocalist is the very dixie Ella Daniels who along with her band transported us right back into the 30s. She was fun, funky and colourful and was just the one to introduce us to the realness of the upcoming acts.

Next up was Lean who I loved, but I thought their music was too slow for my taste. Their music appealed your emotion, and the kind that you can listen to in a quiet classy pub while drowning your sorrows. The kind that made you remember a past love that didn’t last or wasn’t reciprocated. But, if you love Latin-American composition with a twist of Jazzy double bass and subtle hand percussion, then you should check out some of their albums especially Pangea.

The band that was without a doubt my favourite, and the first one to get me up on my feet was Kenyan band, The Limericks. Theirs was a jazz rendition of the songs that we know and can relate to. For example, the one they performed, ‘Baraka za Mungu ni za ajabu’ had the audience singing and dancing. It was disappointing that their time was short though. We could have done with a couple more songs but it was understandable since there were so many more acts lined up.

What also impressed me at Kasarani was the fact that there were also other activities one could occupy themselves with between performances. For instance, we got to learn more about Belgium, Germany and Israel, as their embassies had stands where one could visit and interact. The children had a chance to enjoy themselves with some face painting and bouncing castles while adults had their caricatures done. Safaricom even gave free goodies like hats, earphones, massages and pedicures curtesy of the Safaricom Platinum and their new music app, Songa.

The downer though was that the highlight band of the show, Braun-Whalum-Brown commonly known as BWB, performed a little late when people were tired and others had already left for one reason or the other. All in all it was a beautiful day and next time I’ll not need any cajoling to go to Safaricom Jazz. I was happy to be part of the 5th Anniversary of Safaricom Jazz and I look forward to more.

As we were going back home, I thanked my friends for making my day, having forgotten all my earlier skepticism. One thing is for sure, Jazz has changed my approach to music, and I’m plus one genre that was alien to be before.

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