A highly rated Afro-jazz band on the same stage with two of Kenya’s finest musicians for two concerts provides the highlight of the live music scene in Nairobi this weekend.
The Afro Synthesis Experience is the brainchild of the band Shamsi Music who will use the concerts to showcase the style they have developed over the last four years along with guest performers, June Gachui and Chris Adwar.
The concerts are themed around an artistic celebration of the contemporary musical identity amongst a generation of Kenyans that has grown up in the era of mobile phones, social media and globalisation. Shamsi Music has curated a show that celebrates a fusion of jazz with African styled rhythms set against the backdrop of urban trends like the Nairobi nightlife, local cuisine, Matatu culture and Sheng.
Shamsi Music is a six-piece band of young musicians that was formed just four years ago but has performed at some high profile events and earned the respect of fellow musicians and fans. Their highlights include playing alongside giants like Cameroonian icon Manu Dibango and Grammy Award winning saxophonist David Sanborn.
They have also ventured onto the music festival circuit in Africa. In April this year, they were among a host of international acts at the Jazzy Koum Ben Festival in Mali. They performed at the East African Performing Arts Market Doadoa in Uganda in May and straight after this weekend’s concerts they return to Kampala for the Bayimba Music Festival in August.
It is exactly a year since Shamsi Music launched its debut album “The Audition” with a series of concerts known as “Dawn to Dusk” at the Kenya National Theatre. Their second album “AfroSynthesis” is in production and some of the recordings from this weekend’s shows will appear on it. While some of the new songs may be styled differently from their previous recordings the band has been keen to retain the identity they developed from “The Audition”.
‘‘We have several composers in the band and the writing process is inclusive which makes the music very dynamic,” says drummer Ken ‘Biggie’ Njoroge. The music of the group reflects the diverse influences of its members, from their roots singing church music to African and Cuban rhythms fused with contemporary jazz, pop and rock. They play keyboard, and guitars combined with drums, marimba and other percussions, plus a horn section led by saxophonist Waithaka ‘Laka’ Nyaga.
Their play-list this weekend will also include some of the songs that have become crowd favourites from their first album, including “Kipepeo” with its funky African dance groove. Working with singer, songwriter and keyboardist Chris Adwar was not a random choice. Adwar is best known as the front-man of the Villagers Band and plays a fusion of House and Pop with Benga.
Last year, Shamsi decided to re-imagine one of their instrumental songs with lyrics and it was Adwar they turned to for the collaboration.
“We like his song-writing technique and when we reached out to him he liked the idea and a new song was recorded,” says Njoroge.
AfroSynthesis will be the first opportunity to sample out the new song and gauge reaction from fans.
Singer and actress June is another experienced hand who has jammed with Shamsi Music at different gigs and she was an obvious choice as the band sought collaborations this year.
June has also used her legal background in helping the band sort out copyright and other administrative issues related to their music. The Afro Synthesis is a weekend of two concerts on Saturday from 7pm and Sunday from 2pm at the Nyama Mama Delta Towers in Westlands. Tickets are available online at mymookh.com.