What does it mean to be a musician who is a conscious citizen of the world? It means understanding that words have power and that music is transformative. It means that you insist on originality and creativity. And this is precisely the way Jabali Afrika approaches their music.
Jabali (rock in Kiswahili) Afrika formed in the early 90’s when some young men began taking their theatre training to another level. While popular music in Nairobi mostly consisted of American R & B at the time, Jabali Afrika was nurturing an interest in a different sound. They started backing up a local Naroibi star, named Coco Malali “Zingaro” whose exotic costumes and thunderous voice made his show a must see. During those late nights and weekends in the city lounges and bars, they sang and played percussion for Coco’s breath taking act. That informal training provided an artistic foundation and greatly shaped their approach to performance in the early days.
According to some fans, their music fits in multiple genres from rock, to afropop, to world music. According to Jabali however, their music is a funky marriage between traditional instruments and contemporary rhythms and sounds. Their drum tuning technique makes the Mabumbumbu and Orutu drums sing sweetly underneath their harmonies. The acoustic guitar you hear mimics music from the western part of Kenya that gave birth to a few of their idols like George Mukabi, John Mwale and African Heritage Band.
Jabali Afrika wants you to think as well as dance. They write songs about the importance of love for family and community, the challenges of political corruption and the power that comes from people uniting. Listen for example to their ever popular Aoko (1996) that brags about the characteristics of an exceptional woman named Aoko-it’s one of the most remixed song in Kenya by the way. Or to “People’s Voice,” a musical call for democracy and justice which was banned by Kenyan radio stations in the aftermath of the 2008 election. In this respect, not much has changed- their upcoming album Nakumbuka continues to highlight the responsibility we all have to stay informed and to stay conscious.
In the early years the group landed a slot on the Emmy Award winning television show Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood (US). Soon after, Jabali Afrika began dominating the U.S college circuit performing up to 200 shows a year, conducting workshops and serving as panelists. Now, in addition to visiting college campuses and K-12 schools, they have
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