The impact of the Safaricom Jazz series on the Kenyan Jazz scene

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The Safaricom Jazz series celebrated its 5 anniversary this year. It all started back in  2013 when the Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore asked Elizabeth Njoroge the founder of Ghetto Classics to form the Safaricom Youth Orchestra. The orchestra was meant to bring together kids from privileged backgrounds with those from the Ghetto Classics. The following year Safaricom started the Safaricom International Jazz Festival in which all proceeds from the ticket sales were to be donated to the Ghetto Classics programme.

Before jazz became mainstream in Kenya courtesy of Safaricom Jazz, there used to be a small audience for this genre of music. What this meant was that the few jazz artistes  who were brave enough to take on this genre had few gigs which were far in between. When Safaricom Jazz came into being, it gave these artistes a big platform from which they could showcase their talent to Kenyans. The artistes also got to interact with the best jazz artistes in the world which helped them up their game to international standards. I have had the opportunity to attend the Safaricom Jazz Festivals since the beginning and I can tell you that the standards have improved by a great deal over the years.

Jazz artists who were largely unknown a few years back have now become household names courtesy of Safaricom Jazz. These are the like of Edward Parseen and the Many Faces Band, Nairobi Horns Project among others. Nowadays it is common for jazz bands to sell out their shows a situation which would not have been possible before the advent of the Safaricom Jazz. Actually, back in 2017, Safaricom held a jazz festival with an all Kenyan assemble. This was the first time that they were doing this and I can imagine when they were planning the concert, they had their doubts. However, the turn out for the festival surprised many as Kenyans came all out to appreciate their own. This appreciation of jazz a large section of the population has meant more money in the pockets of the jazz artistes enabling them to monetize their passion.

Another major beneficiary of Safaricom Jazz is the Ghetto Classics programme. Ghetto Classics came into being when Elizabeth Njoroge the founder of the programme was asked to teach music at a community center in Korogocho back in 2008. This community project is what eventually became Ghetto Classics which is a music education program that benefits youth in the poor areas. The effect that the programme has had on the kids from underprivileged areas is just phenomenal to say the least. These kids were able to move from a point of hopelessness to performing for the likes of President Uhuru Kenyatta and Pope Francis. They have also gotten lessons from international musicians like Branford Marsalis, Kirk Whalum and Salif Keïta among others. So far Ghetto Classics has received over Ksh.  60 Million and has been able to benefit over 1,400 kids in Mombasa and Nairobi. Proceeds from the 2018/2019 edition will see the programme extended to Kisumu.

Other than just entertainment, it is clear to see that the Safaricom Jazz series has had such great impact on both the Jazz scene as well as uplifting the lives of underprivileged kids. So make a point to attend the Safaricom Jazz Lounge going down on the 18th of October 2018 at the Uhuru Gardens. Come have fun for a worthy cause.

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