Interview With The Nairobi Horns Project On Their New Album #BlackInGold And The Joy Of Making Music


Nairobi Horns Project is made up of Mackinlay Mutsembi (Founder and MD), Mokua Rabai (Saxophones) and Victor Kinama (Trombone). They work as a horn section, but also as an independent act that composes original works. For their live gigs, they are backed by an additional 5 member rhythm section with Kasiva on percussions, Amani Baya on drums, Steve Mwanzia on keys, Moise Basinza on bass and Jack Muguna on guitars.

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  • You have been in the game for a while now, how has your music and process changed?

In every way I can think of, we’re in a better place than we’ve ever been. We’re closer as friends, we are more tight in our music, and we smash gig after gig because we enjoy the synergy we have, we bond more on and off stage.

Additionally, like any ordinary musician or artist, there is always a feeling of the need to grow. We are delighted that our growth can be felt. Our belief as an ensemble has always been that we have limitless possibilities. After a few years of playing an instrument or playing music as a unit, it is not uncommon to find yourself playing the same things over and over again.

The key is to get out of your comfort zone and learn something new every day and mould your sounds to the trends. The important thing we have come to embrace is to push our limits and learn something new every day.

How would you describe your current music/album? What’s (each of you) your favourite song on your new album?

(You gotta listen to the album)

What’s special about your new music?

Black In Gold is a celebration of African Privilege: the privilege of growing up, living with and interact with the rich heritage of sounds, rhythms and culture. #BlackInGold celebrates musical streets we stroll on; streets paved by African greats who have gone before us and to ears that opened and received our sound. To be African is special. It’s precious. It’s BLACK IN GOLD.

If you guys weren’t musicians, what would you be doing right now?

You know what, music is a calling. Just like a vocational work, there is the innate feeling or urge one has. This is not to forget it is a talent one has but, you can’t erase a natural feeling one can have. So we would definitely be musicians. Maybe we would be playing different instruments but as the light of day still shines upon us, we would still be musicians.

What do you feel is the best song you have ever released and why?

Here is our takeaway, tracks from Black in Gold “Muthurwa” or even “Muguna Muguna” allows each member of the ensemble to stretch out creatively with guitar, percussion and even drum solos, music compositions and give room for each member to express themselves. As a unit, we have a tendency to lean more into grooves and melodies that resonate to us (being African) than going all crazy with chops and licks.

For every track released, there is something evocative about the music. We want our fans to enjoy their heritage, their culture, their surroundings, bring them at a space of enjoying the way they dance to bop their head to every melody progression in the music curated. Maaaaaaaaaaan, it is always hard to pinpoint one particular track.

Which musicians would you like to collaborate with?

It’s natural to want to make music with the people you look up to, and each member of the band have their own music ‘idols’. But we believe that collaboration is only successful when it has a creative purpose beyond just musical respect or some commercial ‘spotlight’ mileage. We approach collaborations like a ‘chama’ investment, knowing there is something great to come out of it after a couple of rounds.

We have been meaning to make meaningful collaborations with Hip hop artists because this genre of music has had a special place in our heart. We are making a special appeal to any hip hop artist out there who would like to make electrifying music with us, so please hit us up.

How has the music industry changed from the time you started out until now? Particularly in terms of appreciation of Jazz and classical music.

Absolutely the industry has grown and changed depending on which side of the coin you want to look at the situation.

On the African continent, SA stands out as one of the countries that are globally recognised because of their strong culture in jazz. Back at home, we have seen various styles of music come and go, like a short stint of a fad. Jazz has over the years been a genre of music that is still in the background or in the shadow, but it has been a building block for most of these music genres.

Jazz and classical music in the country has gradually seen the appreciation and spotlight from various institutions, most notably Safaricom and even individual corporate like Roots international and spaces that have enabled jazz to have a space for its appreciation over time.

This is what has really propelled the music to grow beyond being a craze but a sociable music genre. As an ensemble, we identify ourselves within all those different facets of music and jazz is one of them.

How have your lives changed since you first became part of the Safaricom International Jazz Festival?

We are honored and equally thrilled to be gracing the stage yet again with one of Africa’s greats and alongside music trendsetters like Paco Sery, and Mandla Mlangeni of South Africa, who some of our members of the band – Amani Baya (drums), Moise Basinza (bass) have been able to play together with him during his earlier tour in Kenya.

Safaricom Jazz has been one of the platforms that have enabled us an ensemble to harness collaborations with artists and experience other music sounds and allow ourselves to immerse into a stage of learning as well as expressing and articulating our feelings through music to such a crowd.

What should fans expect from you at the Safaricom Jazz festival?

No spoilers! Come through and get to experience music that befits a celebration of African Jazz. Check us out here.

If you can have your fans remember one thing about you, what would it be?

We found what we liked to do, we keep perfecting it and so should you.

What got you into music?

It is an innate calling. Given any instrument, we can still harness its rules of playing and still enjoy doing music.

If you had one message to give to your fans, what would it be?

Keep the love and support coming through, we appreciate it!

If you are a musician out there, we hope we are inspiring you to create music that is organic that resonates to your own hometown people, be passionate about it. Never seize to resiliently do something that means something to you.

Find out more about The Nairobi Horns Project Band

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