Safaricom jazz in star-studded supporting cast

Saturday February 11 2017

The Hazelnuts from Israel known for swing and

The Hazelnuts from Israel known for swing and contemporary pop music. PHOTO | COURTESY OF SAFARICOM  

By The EastAfrican Correspondent

American alto-zaxophonist and six-time Grammy Award winner David Sanborn will headline this year’s Safaricom International Jazz Festival, which will be held on Sunday February 26 at the Kasarani Training Grounds.

In the supporting act will be a star studded line-up: Taxi Wars from Belgium, all girl trio The Hazelnuts from Israel, British-Asian clarinetist Arun Ghosh, South African Bokani Dyer and Ray Lema & Saka Saka Band from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Also to feature will be Kenyan bands Shamsi Music, Nairobi Horns Project and Mwai and The Truth.

“We’re really excited about sharing a stage with David Sanborn, who happens to be one of the world’s greatest saxophone players. We’re already preparing for the show and plan to deliver our best performance yet, so fans can expect to dance to some great tunes from Victor Kinama, Rabai Mokua and I,” said Mackinlay Mutsembi of the Nairobi Horns Project.

Sanborn has released 24 albums — eight of them Gold and one Platinum. He was introduced to jazz at the age of three as part of his treatment therapy after contracting polio, and went on to release his first solo album Taking Off in 1975.

Known for his masterful blend of traditional jazz, instrumental pop and soulful R&B, he has played with such legendary musicians as the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Luther Vandross, David Bowie, Paul Simon and Stevie Wonder.

“We appreciate that Safaricom Jazz fans have varied tastes, from the purists to those who prefer something more contemporary, so we’ve made sure that our line-up caters to different preferences,” said Bob Collymore, chief executive of Safaricom.

As a result, the festival will feature pure jazz and R&B elements as expressed by David Sanborn; as well as a unique pairing of swing music and contemporary pop music from The Hazelnuts, who are known for their jazz covers of contemporary such as Beyoncé’s Single Ladies.

In a departure from previous editions of the Jazz Festival, Safaricom will this time host a VIP show, several cultural nights and a schools show targeting younger music lovers and students, all in addition to the main event.

“The Jazz Festival is growing, and we’ve received requests for us to hold more events in the week leading up to the main festival so that those who prefer a more intimate jazz experience can have that, while our partners also get a chance to showcase their music and culture through the artists they bring in for the Festival,” said Mr Collymore.

As has been the tradition, all proceeds from the event will go towards supporting Ghetto Classics, a non-profit programme that teaches music skills to youth from underprivileged backgrounds.

The programme, which supports about 650 children from several low-income neighbourhoods in Nairobi, was created to be a source of refuge from the harsh environment synonymous with urban slums.

Proceeds from the Festival since launch reached Ksh19 million ($1.9 million) in 2016, and have over the years enabled a number of older Ghetto Classics members to join university, while the younger ones and their families benefit from school fees, rent and other financial and non-financial assistance.

The proceeds have also allowed the programme to expand to Mombasa, where Ghetto Classics intends to replicate its success.