23 February 2008

Kenya: Taarab to Confront Ohangla at Major Show in Nairobi

Nairobi — Very rarely do you find on the same stage two musicians of different traditional genres and from different parts of the East African region.

This is what Nairobi residents are set to witness when the city hosts the second edition of the annual Shangilia Festival in two weeks.

Tanzanian songbird Ray C and Kenya's upcoming singer Onyi Papa Jay, who is threatening to dislodge his mentor, Tony Nyadundo, from his throne as the "king" of Ohangla are to share the stage in this music joint venture.

Dan Odhiambo of Events Factory, the organisers, says the festival traditionally brings together African divas and their male colleagues in a campaign to inspire, empower and celebrate the African woman.

But this year, there is a bigger focus. "The search for peace is something that is more important to all of us now, and this will be the primary role of this year's festival," he says.

The festival, to be held at The Carnivore on March 8, will coincide with the International Women's Day celebrations, and it is sponsored by, among other organisations, the German embassy.

This is the first big concert in Kenya since the post-election violence broke out after the December 27 General Election. Kenyans had a low-key festive season, especially after the cancellation of two major concerts.

Travel advisory

Senegalese-born American Akon called off his show in December after the US issued a travel advisory to its citizens intending to visit Kenya.

The situation was made worse when another concert by Cameroon's Sam Fan Thomas was also cancelled.

Although there were loud murmurs from disappointed fans, the ensuing violence has proved that the promoters had all the reasons to cancel the shows as they could not risk patrons' safety.

"As all the efforts are being made by our leaders and the international community to find a lasting solution, we want to use music to heal the nation's wounds as we strive to return to a peaceful Kenya," says Odhiambo.

Kenyans are sure to give Ray C (Rehema Chalamila) a hearty welcome. She is a fairly successful R&B and taarab musician known to be the only one in the region to accommodate bongo, bhangra, taarab and R&B in one album.

Kenyans, who are increasingly witnessing an invasion of bongo, must be familiar with her popular songs such as Na Wewe Milele, Uko Wapi, Mapenzi Yangu, Namtafuta, Wanifuata Nini, Nimezama and Sikuhitaji Tena.

Music lovers across the region must also be familiar with Ray C as a result of her TV and radio career. She worked for East African Radio before moving to the famous Cloud FM where she is well known for shows like Dr Beat and Coco Friday Disco Night.

The 24-year-old who is not always a darling of the media, consolidated her place as a darling of East Africa when she won the best female artiste accolade for Tanzania and Uganda at the fourth annual Kisima Awards ceremony in Nairobi in 2004.

This was quite a feat for an artiste who was just two years into her career after the launch of her successful debut album, Mapenzi Yangu, the same year. Her second, Na Wewe Milele, is just as infectious.

More electrifying

What makes her performance even more electrifying is the fact that she is one of the artistes who shun performances with play-back tracks; she prefers going on stage with a band.

Probably it is this that won her fans when she recently toured China for six months before travelling to the UK where she staged shows alongside compatriot Lady Jay D and an African band based there.

Kenya's Onyi Papa Jay was largely unknown to music lovers until late last year as he preferred to stay in the shadows of Tony Nyadundo as a performer in his band.

However, in October, he composed a political song that instantly catapulted him into stardom, especially in western Kenya where Ohangla is all the rage.

He has since released a number of other tracks, including Heppy Nyar Lang'o, in praise of his girlfriend.

He has a number of other tracks done in Kiswahili and English, which should give Tony and his elder brother Jack a run for their money this year.

However, this will be his first big performance this year, and he will have to seize the opportunity to excel if he hopes to worry the Nyadundo brothers.

"Onyi is a good artiste, and I will not be surprised if has played a crucial role in (Tony) Nyadundo's lyrics," says John Nyangango, one of his fans.

"But he needs to go national and this is his big opportunity." It will generally be a night when taarab-bongo takes on Ohangla, but music lovers who prefer something different will also have their appetite catered for. Kayamba Africa, the group celebrating its 10th year in the industry, will also be performing alongside Helon - one of only a few jazz artistes in Kenya.

However, as is now customary in the country, there will be no big show without the multi-award-winning Jua Cali, who will be accompanied on stage by Amani.

Amani has spent some time lately promoting her album, Tamani, in Tanzania and Uganda.

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