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Return of live music groups

Music

Return of live music groups


Members of the Hope group. NMG PHOTO

Summary

  • Renowned Kenya-based Burundian singer Hope Irakoze, who leads the band Hope, is grateful for the cover.
  • At the height of the Covid-19 restrictions, the closure of currency events like the Koroga Festival and concerts in hotels and pubs, it seemed like the Fat Lady had finally sung.
  • The ban on rehearsing and recording meetings was yet another low note in their life.

After a long quiet year, the sound of live music can be heard across Nairobi. Restaurant meals on Saturdays and Sundays are no longer the boring business most Nairobiers had become accustomed to when the strict restrictions on movement and gathering of Covid-19 were in place.

Today, the best hotels that are on their way to recovery after being hit hard by Covid-19 lockdowns are calling back groups to perform in front of emotionally battered clientele.

Live music is a balm for their souls {clients} and musicians a bullet in the arm.

Renowned Kenya-based Burundian singer Hope Irakoze, who leads the band Hope, is grateful for the cover.

At the height of the Covid-19 restrictions, the closure of currency events like the Koroga Festival and concerts in hotels and pubs, it seemed like the Fat Lady had finally sung.

The ban on rehearsing and recording meetings was yet another low note in their life.

“When President Uhuru Kenyatta partially reopened the country and declared that hotels could now serve guests indoors, I received a call from the Sankara hotel advising me that I could return with my group. It was a ray of hope for me, ”he says.

He compares the proverbial call to light at the end of a dark tunnel that saw him greet some of his band members who were doing worse than him.

“It was difficult, some of my group had nothing {income} and I had to house them, and some had children. You can imagine how things were back then, ”says the songwriter and multi-instrument player who also won Season 6 (2013) of Tusker Project Fame (TPF).

RICKYBANDb

Michael Okinyo on keyboard (left), singer Lilian Njuguna (center) and Ricky Nanjero on bass perform at the Movenpick Hotel during brunch on Sunday August 1. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU | NMG

The band Hope plays again at Sarabi Rooftop in Sankara every Saturday.

“Things are improving although we still need more gigs,” Hope adds.

Another group, Riki Na Marafiki, performs every Sunday afternoon at the Mövenpick Hotel & Residences Nairobi.

Despite being in the industry for over a decade and with five albums, the Riki Na Marafiki trio had to adapt when the going got tough.

Lilian Njuguna who is a singer is also a designer, Michael Okinyo who plays keyboards is a pharmacist based in Narok and Ricky Nanjero who plays bass is an electrician.

Emergency package

“The good thing about us is that despite the pandemic that has taken its toll among musicians, we have had our careers to lean on. I tried to do things that could make me money, but it was not easy, it was never easy, so far some of us are still in debt ”, says Ricky. .

Last year, the government came up with a back-up plan to ease artists’ pain. But musicians say the support was barely enough to meet their basic needs and was conditioned to play to the tune of politicians.

“It’s funny that you elect leaders who are not of good character and when they promise you something, it’s a promise that a day can pass because they wanted to get something out of you. As musicians, we have to play our cards well, we cannot soil their name because we also benefit from it, ”he adds.

In the end, they each received 10,000 shillings from the government’s relief program, which was tied to performance, even though the same government had banned the gatherings, thus tying hands.

Lilian says that for over a year no opportunity has come in her way. The same was true of Michael, who said before the pandemic that music money pushed him to pursue medical education. He does, however, count his blessings.

Can finally breathe

“Today, what we gain is not what we gain before. The salary has been reduced. The rates are not the same, but we understand that hotels are not in the same financial situation as before either. Even people’s purchasing power has gone down, ”he explains, adding that he’s just happy the band is doing what they love most again.

“When we play, we are supposed to create memories and moments for people that they will remember for the rest of their lives. The kind of music we make is to bring healing to our society, ”says Ricky.

James Ayugi and Moses Nyogesa who make up Jay Sax Duet play their smooth jazz tunes every Sunday at Hemingways Nairobi. Last year has been the hardest yet.

During the lockdown, Moses, who plays the keyboard, said he could only wait with hope. “We were getting one-off gigs, for proposing people or birthdays and at that point, getting that phone call meant the world to us.”

“Now it’s better because we can finally breathe,” adds James, who plays the saxophone.

The duo added that they were delighted to be back.

“Seated concerts are something one should experience, as there is no dancing allowed. Tables fill the entire hotel from the door to the garden. It feels like a full house even though the public is spaced out. We adore it, ”notes Moïse.

They add that they love playing Hemingways because of the great sense of community that reigns there.

All groups agree that live music is vital, not only for the concert experience for the audience, but also for the income it generates for the musicians.

They only want the government to support the music industry in the same way it has supported other sectors of the economy.

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