In marking International Jazz Day courtesy of the Safaricom Jazz Festival, Kenyans are in for a treat with this year’s headlining acts; jazz fusion drummer Paco Séry and arranger-cum-composer Cheick Tidiane Seck.

With an outstanding theme of celebrating African Jazz, the event line-up also features supporting international performances by South Africa’s Mandla Mlangeni and the Tune Creation Committee. Homegrown talent will include celebrated acts such as the Nairobi Horns Project, Kato & the Change band, Jacob & Kavutha Asiyo, Shamsi Music as well as the Safaricom Jazz Festival beneficiary’ Ghetto Classics.

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Paco Séry

Born in Ivory Coast into a family of 18 children, Paco is a drummer with a ‘tremendous stroke’; having made his first drum at the age of 9, and subsequently his first bass drum, it’s easy to see why the description fits to a T! His style of music – a mix of groove, funk and afrobeat – carries both his ancestral and modern influences taking delight in that the tom tom drums were calling on him. Later, Paco moved to Abidjan under the name Paco Solo, the youngest talisman to “Canne à Sucre. It was here that Eddy Louiss crossed paths with him in 1978.

Paco has numerous accolades to his name and has had exemplary performances with Jaco Pastorius, Dianne Reeves, Salif Keita, Papa Wemba, Nina Simone, Marvin Gaye, Bobby McFerrin, Angélique Kidjo, Manu Dibango, Dee Dee Bridgewater among others.

Cheick T. Seck

Cheick is one of Mali’s most prolific composer and performers. A multi-instrumentalist born in 1953 in Segou, Mali, Cheick’s love for music was inspired by his mother – who at 50 had a beautiful singing voice that he likens to Aretha Franklin’s. His career kicked off when he joined the famous Bamako Rail Band as a pianist in the 1970s playing alongside Salif Keita and Mory Kante. In 1978, he moved to Abidjan, Ivory Coast where he learnt guitar and singing. An accomplished musician by 1985, Cheick accompanied Salif Keita and the Ambassadors to Paris, blending in to the world fusion scene.

Since then, Cheick has gone on to work with world renowned musicians including Fela Kuti, Oumou Sangare, Fela Kuti, Toumani Diabate, Wayne Shorter, Jimmy Cliff, Carlos Santana, Joe Zawinul, Manu Dibango, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Hank Jones and Habib Koite among others.

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This year, the festival is honoured to partner with the Jazz Sister Cities – an organisation focused on building global cultural bridges through a connection of jazz connections and partnerships. Through the Jazz Sisters Cities, Polish saxophonist/music producer Sylwester Ostrowski & The Jazz Brigade ft Dorota Miskiewicz & Freddie Hendrix who feature in their new album ‘In Our Own Way’.

Proceeds from ticket sales go towards supporting the Ghetto Classics, a music program which has, since the inception of the Safaricom International Jazz Festival in 2014, received approximately KES 60 million. Supporting the training, schooling and basic needs for teens and pre-teens from low income neighbourhoods in Nairobi and Mombasa, Ghetto Classics is set to expand to Kisumu sometime this year.