Some of the biggest African contemporary music stars along with a select group of top Jamaican artists will perform in Nairobi this weekend for a project that supports youth and leadership programmes in the continent.
The “Tomorrow Leaders Festival” at the Kasarani Stadium Festival is the brainchild of the Grammy Award winning group Morgan Heritage who have spent the last few months shuttling between Kenya, the US and their native Jamaica recording a new album and working out the logistics of the concert. “We have been travelling across Africa and Kenya is the leading country in Africa,” says Peetah Morgan, lead singer of Morgan Heritage.
“We have to use music to shine a light on Kenya to the world and to put the youth at the forefront of that movement.”
He explains that the younger generation in Africa feel disconnected from the decision making process in their countries and there is an urgent need to use music as a spark that creates an interest in leadership among youth
“The overriding theme of the event is that the leaders of tomorrow are among us and that leader could come from the slums,” says Gramps Morgan singer and keyboardist of the group.
Popularly known as “Reggae’s Royal Family” Morgan Heritage started as eight members, the children of the legendary singer Denroy Morgan, who became a global star with the song “I’ll Do Anything For You” an R & B hit in the US in 1981.
The children were born in Brooklyn, New York, where their father had emigrated in 1965. They were educated in Springfield, Massachusetts and after school they moved to Jamaica in the mid 1990s.
Their first recording contract was with the global giant MCA Records, which was later bought by Universal Group. In Jamaica, the group linked up with top producers on the island, King Jammys and Bobby Digital resulting in the albums “Protect Us Jah” (1997) and “One Calling” (1998). “We didn’t pretend to be like artists born in Jamaica. We know we are Jamaican by way of our parents so we went back to our roots as Jamaicans born in America,” explains rapper Mr Mojo.
Subsequently there were several albums by Morgan Heritage released by the Jamaican imprint VP Records including “More Teachings” “Three In One” and Mission in Progress”.
In 2015, they launched their independent label, Cool To Be Conscious Music Group (CTBC Music Group) with the album “Strictly Roots” which won the group their first Grammy Award and earned a nomination for the same award for the album “Abrakedabra” in 2017. They went on the tour Catch a Fire with Damian ad Stephen Marley, the sons of Bob Marley.
“Our music is about all aspects of life, love, relationships, unity, humanity, social issues, the injustice, but also just about having a good time, “ says Mr. Mojo.
Morgan Heritage now comprises the three brothers, Peetah, Mojo and Gramps while their sister Una has been recovering from a stroke. The fourth brother Lukes is involved in music management
In recent years, they have turned their attention to Africa through their collaborations with the continent’s leading contemporary music stars including Youssou N’Dour, Timaya, Stonebwoy, Wyre who was the first East African artists to record with the group.
They have recently completed their new album “Loyalty” led by the single “Africa Jamaica” featuring Diamond Platnumz and Stonebwoy whose video was filmed in Ghana. The video for the second single off the album “Pay Attention” featuring Nigerian dancehall Pato Ranking was shot in Nairobi and the Maasai Mara at the end of 2018.
Among the producers on the upcoming album is the veteran Kenyan urban music hit maker, Eric Musyoka of Decimal Records “We see the rise of Afrobeat around the world and being passionate about living in Africa we identified the current artists on the continent who are successful or on their way to success,” says Mr Mojo.
Morgan Heritage will headline the Tomorrow Leaders Festival along with fellow Jamaican artist Alaine and Samoan performer J-Boog and African stars like Yemi Alde from Nigeria, Stonebwoy from Ghana, Tanzanian Diamond Platnumz and Jose Chameleone from Uganda. The Kenyan acts on the bill are Wyre and Naiboi; the latter has been tipped by Morgan heritage as the next big thing in Kenyan music.
“Every artist is excited to come and they are going to give their best to inspire the youth that they too can succeed like the artists they admire,” says Peetah.
“This is a music festival, not a reggae festival,” says Gramps Morgan. “We don’t want to have segregated stage shows because every type of music has its fans and we want to bring them all together,” adds Peetah.