Nairobi is earning its credentials as a destination for top international jazz performers. This weekend presents an opportunity to watch another world-class artist alongside some of Kenya’s brightest musical talents.
The Senegalese guitarist and vocalist Alune Wade is the headline act for this Saturday’s Safaricom International Jazz Lounge with supporting acts from Kenyan bands the Limericks and Mambo Tribe.
‘‘It is a real honour for me to come and play in this wonderful event where great artists have already performed,” says Wade in an e-mail interview ahead of his arrival in the country. This is the bassist’s first time to perform with his own group in Kenya, though he has been here before, as a member of his compatriot Ismael Lo’s band.
Senegalese and Cuban
Wade combines his rich Senegalese musical roots with diverse global influences notably Afro beat and Cuban jazz. This electric sound can be traced to a childhood spent in the cosmopolitan city of Dakar where he was surrounded with lots of rhythm, percussion, melodies. His father who was a musician in the army orchestra introduced him to instruments as a young boy and by 13 he had settled on the bass. “At home, we listened to different kinds of music, from classical Malian to rhumba to southern African mbaqanga,” he recalls.
He became bass player for Isamel Lo at just 18 since then has played with other top musicians like Cuban pianist Harold Lopez-Nussa, the late Austrian jazz keyboardist Joe Zawinul and American bassist Marcus Miller.
“I learn from all of them; they are all different, so it is never the same experience,” he says.
“It is a constant learning experience, what remains the same is the love to play music, learn more and share with everyone.”
Wade has assembled a international band of ‘friends and very special musicians’ for his Nairobi concert including saxophonist Dan Blake from the US, trumpeter Renaud Gensane from Madagascar and Reda Samba from France on drums. Others are Adriano “DD” Tenerio from Brazil on percussionist, Argentinian pianist Leo Genovese and special guest vocalist Kavita Shah from the US.
The repertoire for tomorrow’s performance will mainly feature songs from Wade’s new project, “African Fast Food”, a mix of Afrobeat and Jazz, which is set for worldwide release in February 2018.
“I am sure the people will like the musical fusion,” he says.
“But I will also play music from my first and second albums.”
Meanwhile, the Limericks Band are highly anticipating the chance to showcase their performance at one of the biggest music events in East Africa. The group comprising a diverse group of musicians from across Africa was founded in 2007 by Kenyan keyboardist and Music Director Ken Mwara, and vocalist Fafa Rabodo, who’s originally from Madagascar.
The duo was then joined by bassist Radanz “Danz” Nirina also from Madagascar, Ugandan saxophonist Brian “Buula” Mugenyi and Kenyan drummer/percussionist Richie “Rich” Wandati.
“The different cultures represented in the Limericks is what makes us stand out at an event such as the jazz festival,” says Mwara. “Our music is based on the distinct African rhythms with the soul and sweetness of our chords.”
For three years, 2014 to 2016, the Limericks played a Thursday Night gig at the plush Capital Club in Nairobi. They are now a familiar name on Nairobi’s jazz circuit, playing at numerous corporate and diplomatic events, besides a weekly Sunday afternoon gig at the Intercontinental Hotel.
The band is currently working on their first album together, although the members are all established as individual acts. Radanz has released two solo albums “Afro-gasy” in 2015 and his latest “A point of view” both containing a fusion of jazz and traditional Malagasy rhythms. Fafa’s debut album came out in 2010 and “Take Time” by Mugenyi was released in 2013.
The Limericks’ set at the Safaricom International Jazz Lounge will include reworked versions of songs by the band’s members including “Jambotonga” and “Salsagassy” by Radanz. The band will also play “Walking down Jinja Road” and a rendition of the popular gospel song “Baraka za Mungu” both arranged by Mugenyi.
All proceeds from the Safaricom International Jazz Festival support the Ghetto Classics, a music education project for hundreds of children in Korogocho and surrounding areas. “If I can help some of those students learn a few chords, and inspire them to continue their journey in music, I will be very pleased,” says Wade.