By Iminza Keboge
Published December 31, 2016
Two Kenyan bands are set to perform at the annual Sauti za Busara Music Festival in Zanzibar in February 2017.
The two are Sarabi, a group of eight young men from informal settlements in the densely-populated Eastlands area of Nairobi, and H_Art the Band that comprises three artists who specialise in acoustics, smooth vocals, poetry, spoken word, freestyle rap, drama and dance.
While Sarabi was formed in 2005 and H_Art the Band in 2014, both bands draw the inspiration for their their art from the daily happenings in their environment.
Members of Sarabi say they started playing together when they were all aged around 11 years. Their music, they say, is rooted in traditional Kenyan with a blend of Western sounds.
Sarabi released Oyaore, their debut album, in 2013. They followed up with a single titled Sheria that takes a critical look on the various scandals perpetrated against the public by politicians and politically connected individuals–irregular importation of maize, misappropriation of funds meant for Free Primary Education, Kazi kwa Vijana–in 2014.
Sarabi, who are considered as one of East Africa’s most popular live bands, performed at Sauti za Busara in 2015. They have also performed at Selam Music Festival in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa; Bayimba Festival in Kampala, Uganda; East African Vibes Concert in Tanzania’s commercial capital, Dar es Salaam; Africa Oye Festival in Liverpool, United Kingdom; Roskilde Festival and WOMEX (World Music Expo) in Budapest, Hungary.
Music is Our Weapon, a documentary film about Sarabi that talks about the power of music as a tool for social change, was released in Nairobi in February 2016.
H_Art the Band, on the other hand, comprises Mordecai Kimeu, Kenneth Muya and Wachira Gatama who say they met at Kenya National Theatre in Nairobi in 2012 and discovered “we shared a similar passion for music, spoken word/poetry, comedy, dance, fashion and generally, life.”
The three later performed together for the first time a few months after this encounter at an eatery known as Dass Ethiopian Restaurant and a band known as H_Art the Band came to be. They later joined an artist-development programme known as Sauti Academy from which they graduated in April 2014.
“Imagine acoustics, smooth vocals with a touch of poetry, spoken word, freestyle rap, drama, dance and fashion all blended into one thick pastry of art. That is what H_ART the BAND is all about,” they say. “H_ART the BAND’s music speaks to generations, it being heavily inspired by day-to-day experiences.”
By aligning their unwavering dedication to the do-it-yourself work ethic with a signature sound, this fusion creates a fresh musical style they like to call the Afro-Poetry-Experience.
H_Art the Band’s undeniable musical versatility, energy and witty nature make every performance they do a fan-magnet, giving their fans a memorable experience coupled with a feel-good vibe. This, they say, is what they look forward to serving in the Indian Ocean archipelago of Zanzibar during Sauti za Busara that runs February 9-12, 2017.