Safaricom Jazz: One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain

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“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.” Bob Marley.

Growing up I listened to a lot of Hugh Masekela music. To be honest at the time I didn’t know that it was jazz music. It was music that we listened to on KBC radio and on URTNA which showcased African music. For kids who were born in the 80s we didn’t have MTV or Channel O like 90s kids so we listened to what was available on KBC and fell in love with it.

 Hugh Masekela performs at Safaricom Jazz. Image courtesy of Safaricom.
Hugh Masekela performs at Safaricom Jazz. Image courtesy of Safaricom.

I discovered or rather realized that I loved Jazz music in my 20s. It wasn’t something we listened to as a genre at home, more like we listened to good music, and gospel music only to find out that some of it was Jazz later on. To find out that some of the musicians like Hugh Masekela I had listened to as a kid played Jazz was a great starting point for me.

The last time Hugh Masekela performed in Kenya I really wanted to attend but it wasn’t possible. You know how it is, you are working but you are a student, and finances are stretched so some things are luxuries. When I found out he was coming to Kenya for Safaricom Jazz I was excited and was like nothing will keep me away.

One of the things I love about Safaricom is that they are able to make Safaricom Jazz tickets affordable. You are able to buy tickets at a fraction of the price you would have to pay if you were paying to attend the concert through a promoter. At Ksh. 2000 for the kind of performances the show was a steal and that is probably why tickets were sold out by Friday morning. Nowadays you have to buy tickets early for shows because you never know if you will get tickets before the show.

Even before the show Safaricom was giving away Ksh. 500 worth of rides to 300 lucky people. So you could get to go to Uhuru Gardens for free if you were one of the lucky people and it would have helped because there was quite a bit of jam leading to the concert. The setup was great and there were plenty of seats for everybody. Food and drinks were there in plenty and people were in queues’ especially to get something hot because it was a cold, cold night. But everybody was in a great mood because we knew we were in for something special.

Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore at Safaricom Jazz. Image courtesy of Safaricom Jazz.
Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore at Safaricom Jazz. Image courtesy of Safaricom Jazz.

Mwai and The Truth were the opening act. They welcomed us into what was going to be a good night. I am a sucker for the guitar so I was really feeling the music and those guys teased us with some great music, at some point playing bits and pieces from different songs. They had some great numbers. They played 6 numbers; Inspired, Bali Run, Monday Morning, Pole Musa, Brazillian Stomp and African Moon.

Mwai and The Truth Band performing at Safaricom Jazz. Image courtesy of Safaricom.
Mwai and The Truth Band performing at Safaricom Jazz. Image courtesy of Safaricom.

Nairobi Horns Project literally blew me away. If you haven’t listened to them then you need to look for them. Their music is on another level. Their music was a chance for people who had been sitting down and freezing to get down and dance. And dance we did. They performed 5 songs; Da Speech (James Morrison/Simon Stockhausen), Mr. Masekela (MacKinlay Mutsembi), Mola (Mokua Rabai), Shake Your Bam Bam (Sauti Sol), and Dance Like Your Life Depends on it by (MacKinlay Mutsembi). Mr. Masekela and Dance Like Your Life Depends on it were my favourite numbers but their whole set was fantastic.  Basically The Nairobi Horns will always be on my playlist because they were smoking hot. By the time they were done people were yelling for more. They definitely brought their A+ game to the show. Thank you Safaricom Jazz for introducing me to their awesome music.

Nairobi Horns Project. Image courtesy of Safaricom.
Nairobi Horns Project. Image courtesy of Safaricom.

A friend of mine before Safaricom Jazz started asked me if I had ever seen Hugh Masekela perform live and I said no. He told me I was in for a surprise and yes Mugambi Nthiga it was all I thought it would be and more. Hugh surprised me with his energy. He would get down and dance like a spring chicken. It is hard to believe he is 77 years old. Hugh played some of his hits including Stimela, Chileshe, Grazing in the Grass among many others.

My favourite performance of the night wasn’t even one of Hugh Masekela’s own songs but Fela Kuti’s Lady. The way Hugh Masekela dramatized the song and acted it out had me in stitches. I was glued to the stage watching him perform the male and female parts complete with the mannerisms and voices. That was so entertaining. Hugh Masekela is the ultimate performer and storyteller. He knows how to capture an audience and keep them asking for more. When he was done the crowd was begging for more.

Hugh Masekela performs
Hugh Masekela performing. Image courtesy of Safaricom.

One of the things that surprised me about Hugh Masekela was how easily he curses. He does it so naturally. Like when he is talking about how Africans should be unified and not let borders which were made around 1886 to define us. “The joke is on Africa. We didn’t create the borders so we’re fighting over something we didn’t really create. Let us fucking stop acting like fools. It’s so much easier to enjoy the world together”.

It was a fantastic night. The best part is after all the fun we had, all the proceeds are going to Ghetto Classics, which supports young kids in Korogocho to be able to play instruments. 10-20 years from now we might be watching those young musicians performing on the world stage. They are already doing great things and the support they receive from Safaricom Jazz will go a long way in supporting the talents and dreams of these young kids.

Brian (left) and Erick were posing with guests at Safaricom Jazz. Image courtesy of Safaricom.
Brian (left) and Erick were posing with guests at Safaricom Jazz. Image courtesy of Safaricom.
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