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Musician sets the tone for Kenyan style of jazz

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Christine Kamau is a Kenyan Afro-Jazz trumpeter and composer. Photo/Courtesy

Christine Kamau is a Kenyan Afro-Jazz trumpeter and composer. Photo/Courtesy 

By Mwikali Lati

Posted  Wednesday, January 23   2013 at  16:55

In Summary

  • Her desire is to grow a local appreciation for this music genre and prove to the sceptics that women can do jazz.
  • In April 2012, she released her first album This is for You, an eight-track and purely instrumental jazz. It took one and half years to put the band together, record and master to get it ready.
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Christine Kamau is part of the wave of Kenyan musicians dedicating themselves to playing jazz. In the last three years, she has been on stage playing for a growing number of Kenyan jazz enthusiasts.

“I am a vibrant young Kenyan who is enjoying life and doing what I love most. As a musician, I am an instrumentalist. I play the trumpet, the saxophone and a bit of keyboard,” she says.

Her desire is to grow a local appreciation for this music genre and prove to the sceptics that women can do jazz.

In April 2012, she released her first album This is for You, an eight-track and purely instrumental jazz. It took one and half years to put the band together, record and master to get it ready.

Recorded at the Rafiki Studios, mixed and mastered by Romeo Kouemeni and with her mother as co-executive producer, the album “offers an easy listening experience the music being a fusion of jazz with elements of benga and rhumba.”

“Now that I have done my album, I want to expose more people to it and instrumental jazz music. I found that people who listen to jazz are open to things that are different and new.”

One of the tracks, Conversations, was inspired by the busy bus stops in the evening when Nairobi workers are rushing back home.

The noise, car horns and raving engines made her write a piece of work that is calming, relaxing and can help them to listen and think.
“It is meant to inspire you and relax your nerves,” says Ms Kamau.

Since its release, she has done concerts including Blankets and Wine, Jazz Under the Stars, Sierra Ladies of Jazz and the Afro-jazz Concert Series. 

Conversations and This is for You are getting local radio airplay, which, she says, is helping to change Kenyans’ perceptions about jazz.

Ms Kamau says when people think of jazz they assume the hotel or bar music playing in background. They also do not expect jazz written in a Kenyan style.

“It’s growing. In the beginning, I could count maybe five people who are really serious jazz players but last year, I got to meet new people, like Kato, who is only 22 on the guitar and he is really good. There is even a group called Jazz Girls that started last year and they had a concert,” she says.

She performs with other people to be exposed to other musical talents.

Isaac Khakula (bass guitar), Ken Simiyu (keyboard), Daniel Macharia (drums), Emmanuel Kute (flute and alto saxophone) and Matthew Makumi (guitar) make her team.

Ms Kamau grew up in Nakuru and when she showed interest in music, her parents enrolled her in the then Real Music School at 11 years to study music theory and classical piano.

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