Prior to attending the Safaricom Jazz Festival 2016, I wouldn’t say that i ever cared much for Jazz. Mainly because Jazz to me was a man in a suit playing a saxophone donning a fedora and a nice three piece suit. He probably has his eyes closed as he passionately blow away on his saxophone. In the audience a man smokes a cigar in the already cloudy cafe and next to him a lady with big hair and lots of fur. Blame my misconstrued perception of Jazz on movies.

All roads led to the Safaricom Stadium Kasarani for the Jazz lovers, the curious and those who did not have Sunday afternoon plots. Having stated that the first act would begin at 12pm noon I thought it was a trick to have us there early only to start an hour later. However at 12.30pm the set up was ready and the Safaricom Youth Orchestra had the crowd all warmed up for the performing acts of the day.


One thing the organizers got right was the location. There was enough room for children to enjoy themselves in the kids zone and the rest of us to waltz around during the interludes. It was like  having many villages in one space. By afternoon however, there were so many people seated on the floor that one had to remove the shoes to make their way around. Whether you toes had just been manicured and you had claws, no one cared for them , even the man in torn socks did not seem bothered.


Good food, music and alcohol is the recipe to a successful event. The revelers were allowed to carry their own food and drinks so there was no limitation to in terms of the menu. The food vendors did well by offering a variety ranging from Pizza , fries ,pork, chicken and even salads; vegetarians and carnivores were well taken care of. There was wine, though the crowd seemed to prefer beer. Other beer brands need to come on board because people had to go the nearest supermarket to get their preferred drink. The Kingdom of Belgium was kind enough to allow for chocolate tasting. That was too much chocolate for any human being but will be worth the tooth cavities.


First timers like myself were in for a treat as they sampled the different types of Jazz. There was the hypnotizing jazz by Maya Belsitxman and Matan Ephrat  while Jef Neve Trio was a bit soothing. Siya Makuzeni engaged in what seemed like a tribal dance all that was missing was a bonfire and feathers on our heads. Sons of Kemet had people dancing the whole time they performed. The most interesting thing was how people balanced tweeting and dancing. Later on as Kunle Ayo, who is no stranger to Safaricom Jazz Festivals, engaged the audience with his moves and happy aura.

One let down though was that the event ended three hours late and some families left before the headliner Brandford Marsalis took the stage. Granted, there were some children who had been up from morning, had too much sugar during the day to run around with painted faces only to pass out in the evening prompting their parents to leave. Marsalis did not disappoint though one felt the shift in energy because he is more of more laid back but intense. Branford Marsalis did not have to be the last performer because he was the headliner. He would have simply been between acts and still stand out. Better yet, if the set ups took a shorter time, the delay would have been avoided.

Safaricom Jazz Festival is one of the few events that a family can enjoy together and they should keep it up. It was good to see five year old’s actually enjoying Jazz music knowing how hard it is to hold a child’s attention. All those in attendance had a good time though I wonder whether the bar being open early had something to do with it. I would attend this event any day . Not only did they widen our knowledge of music but the proceeds from the event continue to support the Ghetto Classic programme. If you did not make it this time around, plan to attend the next one.


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