The live music scene in Nairobi has, in the last two months, received a shot in the arm with the introduction of a new event that combines the best of niche entertainment, a jetset urban crowd and a very exclusive setting.
The Tusker Malt Lager 100 Club was inaugurated in September last year at an event that featured performances by Nigerian artiste Bez along with Kenyan singer Sarah Mitaru.
Organisers describe TML 100 Club as an event that brings together a community who share a love for the same brand of malt beer and want to an opportunity to interact as some of Africa’s brightest new stars play their music.
The second edition held on last Thursday night was markedly different from the first event that had taken place in the rather staid atmosphere of the National Museums.
This time, the show moved to the Arboretum grounds, under a massive tent, huge stage, and more importantly for the audience, a cozy comfortable setting complete with leather sofas and lots of room to enjoy the music.
Even the surprise downpour in Nairobi and some over-enthusiastic guards at the gate could not dampen the mood of the invitation-only crowd who turned up at the venue.
The night’s opening performance was by Kenyan jazz guitarist, Eddie Grey playing his trademark improvisation of jazz with an African twist.
His repertoire included a jazzed up version of “Malaika” featuring vocals by Nicole Mwala before he recalled the old Tusker beer TV advert with Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five.”
Grey and his five-piece ensemble treated the crowd to a unique interpretation of that jazz standard, by infusing elements of rumba into the music.
The choice of South African singer and songwriter Zonke as the headline act of the evening was a particularly interesting one. While she is one of the hottest new names in SA, she hasn’t quite registered on the musical radar in Kenya yet.
Those who thought her looks reminded them of her more familiar compatriot, Lira, who has performed in Kenya on several occasions, were not entirely off the mark.
In fact, the resemblance between the two extends beyond just the physical to the soulful, jazzy musical stirrings of their music.
Dressed in jeans and a gold coloured top, Zonke wasted no time in getting into her stride as she and her band performed most of the songs on her new album “Ina Ethe” (Xhosa for “give and take”) with the class that showed why she is such a highly-rated artiste.
There was a huge cheer when she introduced “Viva, The legend,” a song dedicated to her late father who was also a musician, for his part in making her the woman she is today.
The delightful “Ngomso” in a mix of English and Xhosa went down so well on the night that Zonke took the opportunity to teach the audience a few phrases from her language.
The sweet melody and her delicate vocals telling the story of loving a stranger on “Nameless” was another highlight of the performance.
The mother of two first appeared on the South African music scene as part of the group Culture Clan in 2007 before the release of her first album Life, love ‘N Music in 2008.
She also wrote and recorded songs with other South African musicians like Don Laka and Theo Kgosinkwe who is best known as a member of the Mafikizolo duo.
It has been a year since her highly acclaimed follow up, “Ina Ethe”, hit the market earning her five nominations, the second highest for this year’s South Africa Music Awards including Album of the Year and Best Female Artiste of the year.
Born and raised in the Eastern Cape, Zonke Dikana also serves as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations that she says is the perfect way for her to help, share and empower the society.
As the curtains came down on the event close to midnight, members of the club must have felt a general satisfaction about the high standards of organisation and the night’s performances.