As with music, stories too command attention; but too often, we let ourselves down with the lack of it. Let us think for a minute, shall we? When was the last time you had a pining to dig into a book or article about Kenyan history? While chances are that it has been quite some time now, I have a better answer; some time soon!

August 2019 marked what would have been Thomas Joseph Odhiambo Mboya’s 89th birthday. To celebrate this anniversary, we will be benefiting from a stage production by Too Early for Birds; a powerful production that has a great deal to say about their art of storytelling. Perhaps the greatest they can say is that it permits us to learn about a history misrepresented or otherwise dismissed.

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So far, the success of Too Early for Birds has been a matter of daring and dedication much more than money and fame. So, why not show up in support and appreciation of all that and more? For details about this year’s show, refer to poster below.

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.

Memory is a strange thing; and now the ambivalence of expanding what Aretha’s music and alchemy was about is upon us. A tribute concert has been planned for Saturday 15th September at the Braeburn Theatre.

Dubbed “An Evening Remembering Aretha” the event will see a community of Nairobi musicians coming together to honor and celebrate the life of the irreplaceable Queen of Soul.

Tickets are now selling at: https://bit.ly/2BUBNar

A symbol of identity galvanizing pop, soul, jazz, blues and opera, her voice is a divine gift from God. Even in her 70s, the Queen of Soul still carried a rare enthusiasm for music with her final public performance materializing in November 2017 at an Elton John AIDS foundation gala. Sadly, at 9:50 am thereabouts yesterday, Aretha Franklin passed away due to advanced pancreatic cancer.

Over the course of a career that spanned more than 6 decades, Aretha was far more than impressive with as many as 100+ songs going onto the Billboard Charts. In addition 44 nominations and 18 Grammy wins, Aretha Franklin became the first woman inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. 7 years later, owing to her artistic markedness, she was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

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Good music is always unfinished business. Aretha Franklin made a difference; Aretha Franklin lives on.

My theory that it is impossible to leave a Too Early for Birds performance without either donning a smile on your face or having learnt something new still stands. I have just now purchased my ticket to this month’s TEFB dubbed The Brazen Edition – a show that will feature an all women crew broadcasting untold stories of brazen women past.

The Brazen Edition is about the unapologetic existence; space taking, opportunity seizing, ceiling shattering, mind blowing women. They are you. They are me. They are us.

History has at any time been what it is now – writing, publishing and archiving with a particular gloss over women. So, what is it about women that attracts such intensive diminution despite their being so powerful beings?

In this derisive world, it is all too easy to diminish and erase other people simply because they are audacious. This kind of erasure is exactly what happened to Kenyan women whose vast contributions in the fight towards many freedoms we enjoy today has, for many years during and after the colonial era, been largely erased.

I will suppose that the answer to my question above is based on the fear of what they could and can accomplish and I will also suppose that history isn’t the demon per se. For the patriarchal, this will be an adventure outside of their comfort zone.

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Date: 27th to 29th July 2018

Time: 7-9 pm (Friday); 2-4 pm and 7-9 pm (Saturday and Sunday)

Venue: Kenya National Theatre

Tickets: *KES 1,000/- (Advance) and KES 1,500/- (Gate)

*To be purchased via M-Pesa Till Number: 734196