By John Wesley Reed Jr.
It is essential to say, Jazz is a universal language. Jazz virtuosos will be enthused that Kenya will present The Safaricom International Jazz Festival, their first ever Jazz Festival on February 23, 2014.
The Safaricom International Jazz Festival premier event will feature international and local artists such as Richard Bona, Rhythm Junks, Yuval Cohen, The Nile Project, Aaron Rimbui, Jacob and Kavutha Asiyo, Chris Bitok, and Eddie Grey in a weeklong set of concerts.
Safaricom International Jazz Festival" will be the first of a kind Jazz festival in Kenya at an affordable cost that will give Kenyans from all walks of life an opportunity to sample a timeless music called Jazz. A weeklong of exciting multi-venue music and cultural festival is exactly what Jazz enthusiasts have been asking for. With Kenya's Jazz loving culture, This year the Jazz festival is dedicated to Miles Davis, American Jazz Legend.
While making the announcement Bob Collymore, Safaricom CEO said, Safaricom is committed to making the arts industry in Kenya more inclusive and accessible to all by providing a platform for different music genres including Jazz." The Safaricom Jazz festival will travel the success of Safaricom Kenya Classical Fusion and the Niko Na Safaricom Live concerts.
From its origin in New Orleans, Jazz has traversed continents and has drawn from different national and regional cultures to give rise to many distinctive styles. The Festival will be a chance to showcase the best in emerging and acclaimed talent from Africa and beyond.
While Africa has been home to many Jazz festivals, Kenyan Jazz fans have long awaited the day such an event will come to their homeland. Over the last few years, Jazz has slowly gained popularity. Even though there have been a few Jazz events in Kenya; the Nile Gold Sierra Jazz Safari was the only one event considered a festival which presented Gerald Albright, Uganda's TShaka Mayanja, Valerie Kimani, Kanjii Mbugua, Incognito, and Jonathan Butler.
Before now, the Kenyan Jazz community have had to visit other Jazz events for example, The North Sea Jazz Festival, an annual Jazz festival held each second weekend of July in the Netherlands, and the Nile Gold Sierra Jazz Safari which partnered with United Against Malaria to raise awareness about Malaria, thus rallying the private sector to support all efforts towards reforming Malaria in Nairobi Kenya.
Due to lesser known artists, The North Sea Jazz Festival did not particularly meet the expectations of many Jazz fans; however, the Nile Gold Sierra Jazz Safari, backed by the makers of Sierra premium beer gained much notoriety. The purpose of Sierra Jazz Safari introduced selected Kenyan artists as Valerie Kimani and Viola Kimani, who performed with Jazz Greats, Gerald Albright, and Jonathan Butler. In 2012, the event held its last affair.
Supporters hope Safaricom, Kenya's first Jazz festival will evolve into a venue as large as The Cape Town International Jazz Festival which has grown into a hugely successful International event. Since the inception of South Africa's Cape Town International Jazz Festival in 2000, attendance grew from 14,000 to 34,000 in the last 14 years. This South African event is No.4 in the world.
The Montreux Jazz Festival, formerly Festival de Jazz Montreux and Festival International de Jazz Montreux, annually held annually in early July in Montreux, Switzerland, is the second largest annual Jazz festival in the world, following Canada's Montreal International Jazz Festival.
The Safaricom International Jazz Festival is a benefit concert with all ticket proceeds going to the purchase of music instruments for the Ghetto Classics Program, a community program in Korogocho that teaches classical music to over 300 children.