Nairobi is set for its first multicultural Jazz event with a series of concerts spread over the next one week. “Cocktail of Jazz” kicks off this Sunday with two different gigs taking place within a few hours of each other at the same venue.
The shows are targeted at lovers of Jazz and alternative music, with performances by top musicians from diverse parts of the world. Dugald McDonald is a leading guitarist from Australia; Nathan Okite is a Kenyan Jazz guitarist.
Aaron Colverson is a Jazz violinist from Florida and Bionic Ngalu is guitarist of Kenyan and Congolese origin.
The headline act is Ugandan Brian Mugenyi Seremba, one of the fastest rising saxophone players from Kampala who has been in Nairobi since April jamming and playing with a variety of bands including The Outlaws.
Brian is no stranger to the live music scene in the city having already performed at “Sax Upon A Time” at Langi Langi in Hurlingham in April and early this month at the “Thursday Night Live” at Choices Club.
The 25-year-old is also a professional pianist, an instrument he has played since he was 10, when he joined the band in church before enrolling at the African Institute of Music, Kampala, where he is currently studying for his Bachelor’s Degree in Music, majoring in classical piano. He started learning the saxophone in 2008 and the following year, spent six weeks training in South Korea.
Back home, Mugenyi is also a member of the Code 9 Band, a loose group of nine musicians who are otherwise solo artists in their own right. He has also recorded songs with fellow Ugandan jazz artists like Tshaka Mayanja (TSBR), Qwela Band and Michael Ouma.
The diminutive performer’s towering presence on stage has won the admiration of many critics.
“His interpolation of original melodies over pre-existing jazz forms and standards shows that his music is beyond just rhythms and pitches,” wrote a reviewer in the New Vision daily in Kampala recently.
Mugenyi draws his musical influences from modern American Jazz saxophonists like Kirk Whalum and Gerald Albright as well as legendary R & B vocalists such as Luther Vandross and Peabo Bryson.
The “Cocktail of Jazz” will be an opportunity to sample some of the songs from his forthcoming 12-track album including “Kamungolo” and “Ntambula Nga Sitya” which have already made him a household name in Uganda.
The concerts will also feature Aaron Colverson who is a violinist with Afro-Soul instrumental band Kabon and a graduate of Music Performance from Berklee College of Music in Boston.
The musician who has been called a “cultural initiator between Kenya and the U.S “ by a newspaper in his hometown of Boston, has also been learning traditional instruments from various parts of Kenya since coming to the country with a group of volunteers from Berklee in 2011.
Singer, songwriter, arranger and guitarist, Bionic Yuma Ngalu is a much sought-after figure in Africa’s fusion music circles.
The versatile musician who is currently with The Villagers Band in Nairobi has also played with some of the leading stars from his native DRC like JB Mpiana and Mbuta Likasu.
The other members of this international line-up are Australian guitarist Dugald McDonald who, by day, is a top advertising industry executive in Nairobi. Composer and guitarist Nathan Omogi Okite, returned to Kenya a few years ago after nearly two decades studying music in the U.S.
His mission is to develop an indigenous jazz tradition using melodies and rhythms of East Africa while dipping into the music across the Diaspora.
Okite often performs as a member of Maia von Lekow’s band and has also been involved in collaborations with diverse bands playing Jazz, Funk, Afro Beat and Latin sounds.
This second edition of “Cocktail of Jazz” is organised by 1 Music, an initiative that offers a platform for musicians to showcase their music without the burden of costs that come with holding live concerts.
The first show is at the Phoenix Theatre on Sunday from 3pm while the second concert starts at 6 pm at the same venue.
Next week, Mugenyi will be at Tamambo, Village Market on Madaraka Day, and at the new Saturday Night Jazz at Psyz Club, Westlands