The Jazz track Feeling Good tells the story of a beautiful sunny day, a cool breeze with birds flying high all to give emphasis to a sense of joy and hope in life.
By invoking the delight of nature, the track is perhaps the ultimate feel-good song and no wonder Ghetto Classics band – a community programme of over 300 children in Korogocho slums, Nairobi, – picked it to set the mood during this year’s family jazz concert held at the Carnivore.
“We teach music to vulnerable children and provide mentorship to help them realize their dreams in life,” the Executive Director at The Art of Music Elizabeth Njoroge, told Maudhui House.
At Ghetto Classics, the young ones are also taught critical life skills that come infused with learning the art of music.
The project also provides them with income generating opportunities to keep them positively engaged in their home area where vices can easily ruin their lives.
And just like their deftly-produced, smooth, harmonic jazz melodies that were on show this year, The Art of Music Foundation is creating harmony and cooperation between communities in Korogocho slums, Nairobi, through the power of music.
Korogocho slums is home to about 300,000 urban poor people. Under its Link up Programme, the foundation is also reaching out through the binding power of music to other vulnerable children in Mombasa where they teach music in three schools; Kiambu, and other parts of Nairobi such as Mukuru kwa Reuben, said Ms Njoroge.
From the moment the MC introduces the Ghetto Classics band to the last wave of applause from the crowd, one learns that there is something reassuringly familiar about the band’s confidence, skills and harmony in how they perform.
From Louis Armstrong’s 1968 single, What a wonderful world, to Jazz renditions of popular songs from our African roots by music greats Miriam Makeba and South African trumpeter, Hugh Masekela, it looks like there is a light at the end of the tunnel if you have just been losing hope with live music, bands and concerts.
The band left everyone on their feet with a smashing jazz rendition of “Sura Yako (Your Face),” a 2015 hit single from Kenyan music group, Sauti Sol’s third album, Live and Die in Africa.
The jazz show’s penultimate rendition of, “Bwana Nipe Pesa sung by Super Mazembe with Lo Six Orchestra,” featured nostalgic ascending chord progressions and sparkling piano flourishes that created an atmosphere of magic, reminding one of the imagination of childhood when this track was very popular in Kenya’s radio airwaves.
Some of the children, who have actively participated in the Ghetto Classics music program have managed to secure positions in the Safaricom Youth Orchestra, which helps provide them with basic needs such as food, housing, fees and clothing.
Jazz musicians usually put together thrilling tunes from a complex language of sound into coherent pieces. At Safaricom Youth Ochestra, the young music learners are specially trained on the use of solo instruments such as the violin, the flute, tenor sax, alto sax, and the trumpet.
Since its launch in 2014, the Safaricom International Jazz Festival brings together talented musicians from around the world and has plays a critical role in helping appreciate Jazz music in Kenya.
Safaricom also hosts smaller Jazz concerts, allowing fans to enjoy Jazz music. All proceeds from such shows help positively impact the youth in Korogocho, Nairobi, through the Ghetto Classics project.
The Australia Music Society, Carnegie Hall Link Up, The Concordia Foundation, The Opus 1 Foundation have also been partnering with Ghetto Classics in their journey to empower children through music, a note from their website states.
And in a year that has been marked by the loss of daily interaction and simple music concerts to shake a leg, this year’s Ghetto Classics Jazz Festival managed to bring smiles on faces of people through the common language of music while also demonstrating the power of talent, creativity and improvisation.
One thing about the band’s performance is certain: these budding musicians were skillfully speaking a language of their own. They are a team that is simply going beyond the norm.