After the lull of the beginning of the year, which inevitably follows the festive season, the live music scene is gradually picking up with some exciting gigs to look forward to during the second half of January.
The first edition of the Afrolect Jazz and Roots festival brings together a line-up of artists across different genres on January 27 at Purdy Arms in Karen. The event is the brainchild of musician Mackinlay Mutsembi who is the trumpet player with the Nairobi Horns Project (NHP).
“There is a rapidly growing demand for live music in Nairobi with audiences seeking new experiences,” says Mackinlay.
“I have decided to curate an event that expands the music from purely jazz to also include different shades of contemporary styles,” he says. Eventually we’ll expand the line-up to include performers from across Africa and the rest of the world.
“There has been a lot of interest from artists in South Africa, parts of Europe and the US seeking opportunities to perform in Kenya,” says Mackinlay. “We hope to tap into that interest with three editions of the festival per year,” he adds.
The line-up for the first event couldn’t be more diverse and rich in talent. Idd Aziz is a multi-talented percussionist, guitarist and singer who style is a mix of traditional Coastal rhythms combined with contemporary urban grooves.
The Nairobi Horns Project are masters at combining jazz, soul, hip-hop and Latin rhythms to create a sound that is very accessible across audiences. The group earned a huge fan base in 2017, thanks to their exciting performances at events like the Safaricom International Jazz Festival and the Koroga Festival.
Tetu Shani is singer, songwriter and guitarist whose sound is influenced by rock, folk and diverse African sounds.
“It is a very eclectic mix for this show but we all appeal to the same demographic, which is fans in their late 20s to early 30s,” says Tetu Shani.
He will be introducing songs from his debut album “Back to Basics” which is currently in production.
For three days at the beginning of January, Tetu and his band were secluded at a house in Ngong Hills where they turned the living room into a studio to record the tracks.
This will be the first opportunity to showcase a new sound influenced by rock bands like Coldplay and to introduce a new addition to his band, an electric guitarist.
“The sound may have a new edge but the music remains authentically me, so it’s a just a tweak, nothing to drastic,” says Tetu.
According to him, working with the same group of musicians, a drummer, bassist and guitarist who complement his songwriting, is the way to ensure consistency in his delivery. Just before his appearance at the Afrolect festival, Tetu will be also be performing at the Thursday Night Live show at J’s Bar and Kitchen in Westlands on January 25.
The Nairobi Horns Project has also just recorded eight original tracks for their debut album following the 2016 release of their EP “Kipepeo” in 2016.
The songs recorded in September 2017 include collaborations with vocalists like Silayio who is a finalist on the current season of the Dutch reality singing competition The Voice.
The trio of Mackinlay along with saxophonist Rabai Mokua and Victor on trombone have also been working on a project called “Modern Kenyan Classics” that gives an instrumental twist to urban hits of the late 1990s and 2000s by artists like E-Sir and Kleptomaniax.
The group plans to release their debut album in April and also to take their “Modern Kenyan Classics” project on a national tour of major towns in the country.
“Giving a twist to these songs that are known and loved has become our identity so we want to take the music to different parts of the country,” says Mackinlay.
Idd Aziz is a much travelled and experienced perform who has worked alongside some of the biggest artists in the world. He played with the late Whitney Houston during her German tour in 1999, and has also supported top acts like Alpha Blondy, Youssou N’Dour and Angelique Kidjo.
Here in Kenya, he toured with Sauti Sol, as a percussionist during the “Live and Die in Africa” tour.
Aziz launched his solo career in 2016 with his debut single “Kiswahili” followed by “Tabia” and “Come Dada” a collaboration with rapper Khaligraph Jones.
This edition of Afrolect will also feature a guest appearance by the highly acclaimed guitarist Kato Change who fronts his jazz ensemble Change Experience and has been a member of the house band on Coke Studio Africa.